Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools

Providing Crisis Communications Counsel to Respond to District Water Crisis

The Project

Inspire PR Group’s ongoing communications work with Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools (GJPS) includes direct counsel in crisis response. When the GJPS superintendent learned that a comprehensive water quality study had never been conducted for the district, he commissioned one so that they would have accurate data as a baseline. Twelve district buildings were tested, including schools and support services, and more than 60 different locations were found to have varying levels of elevated lead.

Inspire worked with district leaders to develop and implement a swift crisis response. The district was committed to being transparent in the findings, but also recognized the reports would create a challenge for the district and cause concern among stakeholders.

Inspire guided the district through the crisis by offering sound communications counsel, promoting transparency and creating strong values-based messages to clearly communicate steps being taken. Results of water testing were shared with building leaders, teachers and staff and school families as they were available, rather than waiting for every test to be completed.

The Results

  • There was minimal media coverage, and news reports that were published continued to reinforce that GJPS was taking thorough precautions, acting swiftly and consulting the right outside experts.
  • Media outlets posted direct links to the GJPS stakeholder materials, which assured the message that was being shared was consistent and correct.
  • All stories contained positive messaging of concern, safety and prompt action by the district, and reiterated that the district’s actions were in-line with the recommendations of trusted third-party experts, including the EPA and Board of Health.
  • The district received numerous favorable emails and calls from parents and faculty. There was widespread appreciation for the district’s commitment to a transparent and consistent sharing of information about the testing, the results, the corrective actions and the long-term plans to assure water quality remains a focus.