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Get Your Message Out
Get Your Message Out
Forget Pokémon and search for something really rewarding – engagement
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services
Now that the hectic early weeks of the new school year have passed, district and building leaders can shift their attention to routine functions of education: teaching and learning, transportation, food services, technology, personnel, sports – and telling people about those and many other issues.
Keeping employees, parents and the public informed may not show up in educators’ job descriptions or the “about us” webpages of schools and districts. But there is no denying the fact that “failure to communicate” regularly gets cited when school leaders and their institutions get in trouble. So now that the kiddos are in their correct classes and the attention shifts to the rest of the year, it’s a great time to take stock of practices and processes to put people in the know.
And everyone with some leadership role – superintendent, board member, principal, DPP and service unit directors alike – has her or his own avenues to examine, to contribute, to improve and to engage.
One great thing about attending meetings of the eight regional educational cooperatives is getting to hear district CEOs brag about what’s going on at home. These are outstanding forums for sharing specifics among superintendents who have the largest set of target audiences to reach. If you give an example and no one copies it, you’ve got a local success story. If others jump on the bandwagon, you’ve done a service to your peers.
How do you keep constituents in the know? With an election for nearly 500 school board seats just a few weeks away, incumbents wanting another term should be highly connected. Dip your toes into social media. Create an email list for key people in your division or district. Hold a short series of coffee talks in your home, or attend and be engaged at meetings beyond those of your board. Or just ask people what they think about your schools – before you ask them for their vote.
Often individual units within a district have creative ways of sharing information among their colleagues. The days of posting a notice on a bulletin board in a bus garage are – or at least should be – history. When midlevel managers get together or go to a training event outside the district, find out what has been effective for getting accurate information across their teams. And don’t be reluctant to push suggestions up the food chain to benefit the district as a whole.
Perhaps second only to teachers, principals have the most venues – and the most need – to get information to others, such as building staff, parents, volunteers, visitors and students. Letters sent home in student backpacks have been replaced by email distribution lists, text messaging or connections via Twitter and Facebook. And remember there is no one-size-fits-all option. What worked last school year may have been replaced by something more effective today.
Other school employees:
In a recent back-to-school seminar for a district’s school secretaries and clerks, I shared a point too often overlooked by upper management: keeping the family as fully informed as possible. Every bus driver, classroom aide, cook and custodian has her/his own circle of influence. Those who know still talk. In a lot of cases, a well-informed employee is at least a potential ally in delivering a message. But remember, the opposite often proves just as true.
The Last Word
Local news media will do education stories. People – employees, parents, taxpayers, naysayers – will talk. Announcements, explanations, clarifications and justifications about our schools and what goes on in them cannot be overlooked as partner tasks right along with the other facets of operating a successful school system.
Finding ways to enrich the quality of understanding about Kentucky’s public education system always will remain a message worth getting out.
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