School board members perform many functions. They’re in school board public meetings, committee meetings and out in the community at various school-related events. To do their work well, school board communication needs to be solid.
Every day, school boards make decisions that affect important aspects of public education. Not everyone agrees with those decisions, and many school boards find themselves negatively represented in the media or by parents in the district. Stories about dysfunctional school boards and failing schools abound. Citizens advocate for school closures, charter schools, vouchers and critics say your school system should “run more like a business”. Parents are gathering with burning torches to march on the school administration building to protest test scores.
Don’t let the media or parents on Facebook tell your story. Don’t let others define your agenda for public education. After all, it is what you were elected or appointed to do. Being effective at telling your story can change these mantras and public perception about how you operate.
Tell stories about how important public education is in your community. Talk about how kids are so much more than just a test score. Highlight business partnerships and community volunteers in and for the schools. Talk about how you are improving student achievement. Definitely tell the stories about how your school board is making a difference.
Boards operate according to corporate and parliamentary rules. There are meeting agendas, numerous issues to be voted on, priorities, goals and strategic plans. While all of these are certainly necessary and appropriate, they don’t particularly interest the public, and they certainly don’t interest the media or your harshest critics. In short, these are not your stories.
Instead, translate how board goals or priorities are improving the district and student achievement. Give concrete examples. In one district, the school board partnered with local businesses to build an accessible baseball field so students of all physical abilities could play ball, just like their peers. Now, the district could have just put the new facility as an agenda item, announced it to the public, and that would have been the end.
Instead, they had a ribbon-cutting ceremony to invite the community to the new field. They also made videos of students playing ball and advertised those on social media. Finally, the school board established public hours for field use when students were not using the facility, to give the community at large who were not students an opportunity to use the field. That’s how you do it. This district effectively told its story, and so should you! Done right, school board communication is compelling and natural.
Who is the school board communicating with? Keep in mind that the United States population is older than it has ever been. That means fewer people who pay property taxes within your district actually have school-age children. Therefore, just communicating with parents will miss about 70% of the people who actually support your district. It is a surprising but true statistic. If these citizens don’t get news from you, they will have to rely on the news media and neighborhood gossip. They may be on social media, which traditionally is a forum for parents to gripe about, not praise, the district and the school board.
School boards do a good job, but that is no longer good enough. School board communication must now emphasize the good job you are doing. Tell the public about it, and tell it early and often. Tell your story to a wide audience, too. Parents and taxpayers need to hear it, but so do business leaders and your local government leaders. Show them the great things you are doing every day, and show them how your board decisions today are setting the stage for future student achievement.
It’s time to step up your game by telling your school board story with superior school board communication.
Want to know how your educational board and staff can focus more on teaching and less on chasing emails, hunting for documents, and waiting for board members to respond to discussions? With Boardable’s board portal, you can centralize board information and communications, where everything (and everyone) is just a couple of clicks away. Click below to get started with Boardable.