Teachers, principals say student input can improve school climate
- It is important for a school or district to keep its themes, outlook and branding fresh in order to attract students and families, and it helps the school culture for students to have input into how the school is presented, according to a panel discussion between parents, students, teachers and administrators from New Jersey schools and districts at the 2017 National Principals Conference.
- The panel focused on ways to enhance K-12 climate and culture, and Pequannock Township High School Principal Dr. Alicia Scelso said buy-in from faculty and students was vital to ensuring a feeling of ownership, from staff-of-the-month celebrations to letting the students paint the walls of the school.
- Several teachers said a newsletter to parents about the progress of student achievement at schools could be a helpful conversation starter to keep all stakeholders engaged, and that administrators should not be afraid to hold events and host speakers if misguided rumors about school policy or practice gain prominence.
Teachers at the panel spoke about the importance of keeping a school’s website up-to-date, as it remains the most likely way a family seeking information about a school will search for information. The advice mirrors a growing concern about how best to “brand” a school in an environment of increased school choice for students and families. In a recent Education Dive interview, Michael Lawrence, the director of communications for Seminole County School District in Florida, spoke about how the district endeavored to allow each school to customize its own website to have some flexibility in branding itself, as well as increased efforts to make school websites mobile-friendly for parents to peruse.
Lawrence framed the new communications efforts as a means for a school and/or district to tell its own story, a point mirrored by Asbury Park, NJ, Schools Superintendent Lamont Repollet in a recent Education Dive interview. Administrators and school leaders can work on outreach as a means to detail their own stories and highlight what they want to about a school and district’s K-12 climate and culture. Without such an approach, administrators risk having their school’s stories defined in ways that may not call attention to the positive attributes of a given facility of district.
Higher ed institutions have sometimes been hesitant to invest what may be necessary into social media marketing, and K-12 schools may not consider it a priority in an environment of sparing resources, but administrators should make an effort to build and support a communications team if possible.