By Durward Narramore
Effective communication with those around us is more important today than at any time I can remember as a board member. When we explain a school situation, such as taxes, threats or closings, we must make sure that those who are listening hear what we are saying.
Communication has been put to the test during this tax rate-approval season. If you have been paying attention to the headlines that have appeared in KSBA’s eNews Headline Service, you understand that more and more districts are struggling with less state funding. Each week during the tax rate-setting time, districts across the state were setting rates that produced the same amount of revenue, a 4 percent increase in revenue or somewhere in between – some even chose rates that could be recalled. Why were these headlines important? Because they showed that the trend toward greater reliance on local funds is real and that local folks must pay more to keep their school districts alive and well. Did your district communicate the reasons effectively to your taxpayers, and did they understand?
In board service, we must be on guard to make sure that when we explain a situation, such as tax increases or a reduction in student services, that our customers hear what we are saying and understand the meaning of what is being said.
I recently gave this example at one of KSBA’s Fall Regional Meetings: We were visiting my 4-year-old granddaughter for a party. As usual, there were many sweets available that she liked to sample and during the party, even more arrived. When she began to try them, out of concern for her health, I said that maybe she should not eat any of the cookies. I was thinking “health,” but she did not hear health. She put her hands on her hips, looked me straight in the eye, and told me,
“Shame on you, pawpaw. You know that cookies and little girls go together.” This was a prime example of one thing being said and another being heard. I learned something about communication, along with realizing that I could be taken to task by a 4-year-old.
If you have problems in getting your point across, remember that KSBA has the expert staff who can provide consultation and training in your district to help ensure that what you are explaining is understood by those involved. In fact, along these lines, a new communications clinic on “Making Sense of Dollars: Presenting Financial Information to Non-financial Audiences” will be unveiled at KSBA’s Winter Symposium, Dec. 6-7 at the Louisville Marriott East (registration forms have been mailed; also register at www.ksba.org
Speaking of KSBA, I want to let you know that the executive director search process is beginning to take shape; you’ll see an advertisement on p. 11. By the time you read this article, I should have the search committee members appointed and we will have our first committee meeting at the Winter Symposium in Louisville. We hope to have the process completed and names to present to the full board this spring.
— Narramore also serves as chairman of the Jenkins Independent Board of Education