The Mayor and City Council included an action item in the FY18 Strategic Plan for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture. Please propose your methodology in conducting a full evaluation of determining if traditional summer camps need to be modified to address changing consumer demands, facility needs and demographics and then how you would present to the Mayor and City Council (500-word limit).
Prior to initiating an evaluation of this magnitude it is important that staff understands the goals and objectives. I would start off with forming a Summer Camp Evaluation Workgroup (SCEW) that would be made up of internal stakeholders from the department. The SCEW would need to be formed well in advance of the start of camp programs with clearly identified tasks. A well-defined action plan would be important to lay out a timeline (meeting dates) with milestones along the way and to keep the group on task. An inventory of current camps programs would be developed. The methodology should be transparent and inclusive to evaluate traditional summer camps. Of course, evaluation methods/tools would be needed for the camp participants and parents. There are a variety of methods to gather feedback from your stakeholders to include needs assessment, program surveys, focus groups, peer evaluations and virtual or online town halls such as Peak Democracy or My Sidewalk. The process should also include several steps that involve the public, interested citizens, staff, organized group leaders, community/civic associations, and schools. Analysis of demographic factors, participation levels, waitlists, fee reductions, location, facility needs and cost recovery are just some of the items that play an important role. Staff should always be cognizant of trends and patterns as it relates to potential program offerings. Aligning with the mission statement as well as the strategic plan or comprehensive plan is also something to keep in mind. By doing so it will ensure that the department continues to meet the needs of the community. As work continues it would be important to update department leadership along the way and to seek guidance/feedback from leadership. Having web presence would be highly recommended as well to keep the public updated on the progress of the workgroup. The end product will be some type of report that lays out the recommendations of the workgroup.
In presenting to elected officials I believe it would be important to be aware of protocol for such endeavors. One method would be to develop a brief PowerPoint presentation. The presentation needs to be clear and concise and provide an introduction, a body relating to main points and ideas, and a conclusion or summary as well as allowing time for questions from individuals.
Following a lengthy evaluation of the staff and associated responsibilities, how would you approach the possible restructuring of the Division, if warranted? (300-word limit).
The word “restructuring” can at times cause anxiety for staff. It would be very important to have some clear guidelines, goals and ground rules in place. Creating an efficient and effective operation is of paramount importance. Benchmarking on organizational structure with other jurisdictions of like size could be of value. I’ve been through a few restructures and from my experiences having an inclusive process where voices can be heard goes a long way in alleviating those anxieties and gaining support. Since downsizing is not a goal of the restructure making it clear that no employee will lose their job but jobs may change is also something that needs to be emphasized. I would put together a small workgroup of key players to be a part of the team to explore the feasibility of a divisional restructure. Developing an action plan so that all are aware of the timeline and tasks would be very beneficial. My first steps would be to seek feedback from staff by asking the following questions:
What is your vision for the division?
What is the primary driver for you around your vision (personal beliefs, community need, etc.)?
What is working well?
What are your concerns?
What are the major challenges?
What input would you like to share on this process?
There are a variety of ways to conduct this type of work but the main goal in to ensure a robust process that encourages staff participation. One such method would be using the Youth Services Team Responsibilities FY 18 document. I would have the specific programs/services listed on individual post-it notes for each staff member. Then in a group setting, staff can use these post-it notes and provide their input of where specific services could be placed. This would help identify groupings of services and show common themes. At the conclusion of the meeting each staff would be provided an opportunity to expand upon their placement of programs. The workgroup would then refine the post-it note work of staff and share results to see what further discussion might be needed. It is crucial to get staff buy in. Next steps in the process would be to schedule question, comment, and open dialogue sessions and interagency and inter-division briefings. Updates to the appropriate commissions and councils would also be done.
Throughout the entire process departmental leadership would be provided updates.
Given what you know about the Area Recreation Program Manager position and the Department's mission statement (indicated below), describe a recreational program that you would create to align community needs with our mission. In your response, be sure to include all the components (i.e. budget, staff resources, demographics, etc) that are necessary to ensure a successful program implementation and community outreach effort.
Prior to initiating a new program, it is important that staff takes the necessary steps to explore the need for such programs. There are a variety of methods to gather feedback from your stakeholders to include needs assessment, program surveys, focus groups and virtual or online town halls such as Peak Democracy or My Sidewalk. Civic engagement is critical to the success of parks and recreation programs. The process should include several steps that involve the public, interested citizens, staff, organized group leaders, community/civic associations, schools and an analysis of demographic factors. Staff should always be cognizant of trends and patterns as it relates to potential program offerings. Aligning with the mission statement as well as the strategic plan or comprehensive plan is also something to keep in mind. By doing so it will ensure that the department continues to meet the needs of the community. These plans typically provide a framework for implementing new programs, facilities and funding in the short term and long term.
For the purpose of this exercise we will implement a new summer camp program (ages 5-11). This is for the summer months, an 8-week program (each camp is one week) with the hours of the camp being 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (core hours). Morning extended hours 7:00 am – 9:00 am and afternoon extended hours 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm will be offered. Camps will be offered strategically throughout the County at recreation/community centers and/or schools, paying particular attention to traditionally underserved areas. For this first summer, it might be beneficial to try a limited number of camps as a pilot. Developing goals and objectives for the new program are important steps to include. Fees should not be a barrier to participate in these programs so it should be a priority to always offer and market a robust inclusive fee assistance policy that is user friendly.
In terms of the cost recovery pyramid, youth camps have more of a community benefit and usually have a cost recovery range of 25% to 100%. This can vary in different communities based on the cost recovery model in place but for this exercise the recovery rate will be established at 65% of all direct costs and an overhead of 25% of direct costs. The overhead fee helps cover some of the costs associated with registration, scheduling and marketing of the programs. Below is a breakdown of staffing, training, equipment costs and overhead along with the participant fee calculation.
The day to day administration of the camps will be conducted by temporary staff. Oversight and management of the camps will be assigned to permanent staff. Permanent staff will play an important role in the training of camp staff.
At the conclusion of the summer camp program an evaluation will be performed by staff, participants and parents of the participants. Evaluations should be done in a variety of ways to ensure a high response rate. Keep in mind that you want to evaluate according to standards, balanced scorecard, benchmarking, cost-effectiveness, cost/benefit ratio, or combinations of these.
There are many ways in which to successfully outreach for programs. The traditional ways include brochures, flyers, blast emails to program participants, public service announcements, social media, backpack mail through schools and partnering with PTA’s. Working with community leaders and civic associations is valuable. Offering a summer activity fair a few evenings could be beneficial as well. Another method would be to have staff visit communities and schools to help publicize the programs and possibly have on-site registration at these remote locations.
In summary, the program planning process involves three basic phases; preparation, implementation and evaluation. It’s critical to have a clearly defined transparent inclusive process.