0708-13 Get Your Message Out

0708-13 Get Your Message Out

Are you one of your school system’s storytellers?

By Brad Hughes
Director of Member Support/Communications Services

A recent lector training at my church began with a simple description of those being trained to offer the Bible readings at each Mass:

“The lector is the storyteller of the community. Like the elders of a tribe, the lector publicly tells the story that identifies us. As Catholics, we have far to go before we feel ourselves immersed in this story. In this, the lector is to be a leader, for before there can be a powerful telling of the story, the teller has to plunge into it, learn about it, know the characters, the times and the places.”

School board members and superintendents are the leaders of the district, the elders, if you will. They make decisions and give directions. But…

• Do you see yourself as a storyteller for your district?

• Do you seek and/or create opportunities to be a storyteller?

• Do the stories you tell create a desired image for the district?

How you answer those and related questions may say more about the kind of leader you are than just whether you are a storyteller.

Whose story is being told?
If you don’t see yourself as a storyteller for your schools, then who do you see as having that responsibility? Public taxes, parent involvement, business partnerships and community engagement all benefit from people who know about how their money and human resources are being used to educate children.

OK, let’s say you are a storyteller, because you celebrate achievement and success during your board meetings. That is indeed a wonderful way to use the meeting as a forum. But what about taking that next, more personal step? Are you in a civic club or the chamber of commerce? A regular report on the community’s school district could be done in three minutes. It would take even less time to note a special achievement on your personal Facebook or Twitter page. And who could blame a school leader for bringing up “bragging points” about students, teachers or other staff during casual conversations?

Then there is perhaps the most critical issue of whose story is being told – and for what purpose.

Hardly a week goes by without at least one story in KSBA’s eNews Service in which a board member brings up a negative issue during a meeting. Sometimes that’s necessary because some issues must be resolved by the will of the board, and that’s legally only flexed when the board is in session.

But sometimes it can appear to an outside observer that the story is being told not to resolve a situation, but instead to publicly spank the superintendent, a fellow board member or a (usually) unnamed staff person.

Can’t that be done privately? What’s the purpose of the public rebuke, not to mention the frequent just-as-public defense and debate?

A storyteller can pick and choose the settings for his or her point. It’s worth pondering before speaking whether making that point in public portrays a quality place of learning or a residence of discord.

The Last Word
A lector/storyteller in a church who plays that role only on Sunday likely is missing six more days a week of opportunities to live a life exemplified in a Biblical text. So, too, a school board member or superintendent who tells great stories only at board meetings is passing on similar chances to “spread the gospel” of academic achievement, educational excellence and able administration.

In this case, size may matter in review. It can be argued that a Jefferson County with all of its civic groups, public forums, media outlets and district resources may be a tougher place to be an effective storyteller than a Jenkins Independent with much more limited means and outlets for communication.

But the drive to tell a public school system’s story should be no less passionate – regardless of community size – for those willing to share what’s being done to give their students a quality education.

And that’s a message worth getting out.

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