Elizabeth School District Featured In Disney Institute Case Study

ELIZABETH – Elizabeth Public Schools was recently featured in a case study published by the Disney Institute. The school district was the first to look to Disney to help change their organizational culture and accelerate student achievement by incorporating Disney’s time-tested practices into their district practices.

“We decided we had to take a page from some of the best thinkers out there and strive for excellence. We needed to change our culture,” said Don Goncalves, Elizabeth’s assistant board secretary. “So we invited Disney Institute to show us how we could go from being good, to being better, to being great.”


Within the framework of the school district, Disney Institute Consultant Susan Pearsall designed a series of three-hour programs that included classic Disney practices and principles including Leadership Excellence and Quality Service. The school system’s existing Keys to Excellence program was also incorporated into her presentations.

Over a six-month period, over 200 of the school systems’ employees took part in the Disney Institute’s tailored programs. From the start, Pearsall made it clear that she wasn’t going to tell school system staffers what to do. “Rather, I am going to show you some of the things we do well and I want you to think how you can adapt them,” explained Pearsall.

After each session, a group of Elizabeth Public Schools’ team members, known as the “Disney Excellence Team,” met to incorporate best practices and ideas into action plans for the district. Some of the initiatives to come out of the Disney Institute experience include implementation of new handbooks for teachers and principals; revamping the Keys to Excellence action plan; and implementing the Disney inspired employee and student recognition program called “Stars of Excellence.”

Since the implementation of the Disney Institute’s training series, the district has made great progress in achieving its goals. Goncalves noted, “Improvements can be seen everywhere, especially in the culture shift. Employees need to know that their jobs are vitally important whether that job is serving lunch, teaching students in the classroom, working as security guard, or speaking with students’ parents on the phone. Changing the culture doesn’t happen overnight. We are striving for excellence every day, one day at a time.”

A number of Fortune 100 companies have also adapted and incorporated Disney’s expertise into their organizations with excellent results. From Häagen-Dazs to Miami International Airport, Siemens Medical, and Volvo, a growing number of companies have enlisted the help of Disney Institute to make their good companies great, improve customer service and increase employee satisfaction.

For the complete Disney Institute Case Study: Elizabeth Public Schools, go to: www.epsnj.org

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