Is your school communication system working? How can you tell? My guess is that if you polled 10 people at your school with this question you may get some very mixed answers. And I think that’s natural. Everyone seems to perceive school communication (any organizational communication for that matter) differently and parents, teachers and administrators can easily disagree with amount and types communication that a school should actively participate in.
I’ve gone into a number of schools over past few years to talk about…well MemberHub…BUT the conversation among the school staff or PTA almost always turns to questions about the way they communicate. And the protocols. Like who should be able to send emails to the whole school and should they be on Twitter and when do we send text messages.
In other words it’s not about software…it’s about your specific school communication system. Is…it…working?
Whether you’ve got a formal system in place or are just doing what you’ve always done, it’s an important question to ask.
Here are some key indicators you can observe:
- Do you have enough volunteers for your events and activities?
- Are there a lot of crossed wires? (for example, parents not being sure when to show up for something, or asking a lot of follow-up questions indicating that the initial message was not clear)
- Are messages being sent in a lot of different, possibly duplicative, ways?
- Are balls getting dropped entirely? One of my colleagues – an elementary school parent – recently received a cheery school-wide email about the next day being the final chance to get money in for the big raffle. This was the first she’d heard of any raffle and had no idea what the email was talking about!
- Do teachers feel connected with parents and able to easily get in touch when needed?
- Do parents feel connected with teachers? A good test: If parents surface only at parent/teacher conference time – and sometimes not even then – then the answer is probably no.
- Are students involved in sharing school news, photos, and updates? A lot of MemberHub schools have told us that their students are always telling their parents to get on MemberHub to find out the latest news – engaged students definitely lead to engaged parents!
- Is your PTO or PTA productive, inclusive, and helpful?
- Do parents know where to go for information? If you have, say, an internal website, weekly emails, and bi-weekly PDF newsletters, that’s a lot for folks to keep track of.
- Whatever your system is, is there buy-in? Do parents and teachers use it regularly?
- Is your system easy to use, with or without some initial training?
- Do you have access to support when you have problems?
- Is it cost-effective? Even a formal communication system may wind up being cheaper than no system at all when you factor in printing costs, duplicated efforts, and so on.
- Does it do what you need it to do?
The last question is probably the most important one:
Does your school communication system do what you need it to do?
If you have a small school and highly involved parents, something informal might well be plenty good enough. But if you have a lot of people and tons of moving parts, you may need more of a formal communication system.
By the same token, it doesn’t make sense to pay for more complexity than you need – especially if you wind up with something so involved that parents and teachers don’t like to use it.
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