School Districts Can and Should Communicate with All
While school districts have methods for communicating with families through newsletters, emails, text messages, open houses and school events, it can be difficult for districts to communicate with those who don’t have a student connection. It is imperative that all residents hear from school districts throughout the year, and not just when districts are on the ballot asking for a tax renewal or increase. Investing just a little bit of time to communicate in new ways can pay huge dividends for all stakeholders.
It's a New Era
Gone are the days when local newspapers would cover local school board meetings or student award presentations. Sending district-wide newsletters through the mail can be costly. Now, school districts must be proactive in reimaging how to inform the public about what is going on inside the school buildings. If they are not controlling the message, someone else will.
Meet People Where They Are
One way to communicate the positive things happening in your district is to meet people where they are. Reach out to civic organizations and community groups to see if a staff member can speak at an upcoming event or suggest an event at their place for your district to host – and don’t forget to bring the refreshments. Get involved in those groups by having a staff member sit on their committees or boards. Also, encourage your staff members to get involved. This will open the lines of communication. By making the effort to meet people where they are, school districts can create a bond with those they do not normally interact with.
Invite Residents to Your Schools
If your theater students have an upcoming play or musical, invite the community to attend the dress rehearsal or a sample of the performance for free. And don’t forget about your bands and choirs, either. Invite the community to a performance, take the performers to a district event or develop a community program where residents can attend sporting events for a free or discounted rate.
Consider inviting civic organizations and community groups to use your building’s gym or auditorium after the regular school day ends. If you provide these groups with access, ask if you can speak to their group beforehand to talk about what is happening in the district.
School districts do not need to stop educating when the school bell rings. Think of educational programs that are of interest to the community and host a symposium, town hall or learning session. A topic that is of interest to all residents is school funding. Plan an educational event that explains how school funding works and how it impacts your budget – and theirs.
Be Community Focused
Do you have a local parade or festival? Participate in it with your staff. You can decorate a school bus and showcase veterans who work in your district during a Veteran’s Day parade. Or have a booth at a local festival to highlight a new educational program or student artwork. Is an organization holding a bike ride or race? Enter a team to participate or provide volunteers to help. Being a visible part of your community lets people know who your staff members are and builds two-way communication. You can even distribute information or include QR codes on signage that drive people back to your school district’s website to learn more about what is happening inside your buildings.
Ask For Help
Ask active parents to share your message with those outside your district. By forming a communications committee or task force, your internal cheerleaders can help spread the word. Make it easy for your supporters to communicate with their friends and neighbors by providing talking points and encouraging them to share your message on local social media platforms as well as through word of mouth.
Whatever You Do, Keep Doing It
Be sure to communicate your message during these activities and provide a mechanism so that residents can provide you with their contact information. This will allow you to continue communicating with them – just be sure that you do! Connecting with people where they are, inviting people into your buildings to showcase your schools and getting staff members involved in the community will help build relationships and trust within the district while allowing the district’s message to be heard. By continually engaging those who don’t have a connection to your school district, you are building relationships that will provide positive outcomes in the future.
If you would like more information about best communication practices for school districts, email us at email@example.com.