School Communication Series – Part 2: Audit and Prioritize

Welcome back! In our Part 1 of our summer School Communication Series, we talked about why it’s so crucial to have an effective system in place for parent/teacher and school communication. Today, we’ll look at how to start improving your current system.

Step 1: Audit

The very first step in improving your school communication is taking a close, hard look at where you are now. Decide on one official “owner” of the project, who can then enlist a few teachers, administrators, and parents to help.

This doesn’t need to be a big group (too many voices can actually be detrimental at this stage of the game), but make sure you have at least one parent, one teacher, and one administrator involved.

Next, have the group collect the following information:

General Communications

  • The current system, if any, used for parent-school communications (here are some examples of things you may already be doing)
  • The method(s) of communication used: email, blog, paper notices, list serv, intranet, etc.
  • The frequency of communication: once a week? once a month? hit or miss?
  • The system in place, if any, for emergency communications
  • List of problems/issues/complaints with the current system, according to teachers, administrators, and parents (note: each group may have wildly different input on this)
  • Pros of the current system, according to teachers, administrators, and parents (again,  input may vary depending on role)
  • Perceived ease/difficulty of use of the current system
  • Approximate cost of the current system (both time and money)
  • The environmental-friendliness (or lack thereof) of the current system
  • Communications plan in place to welcome/integrate families new to the school?
  • Additional thoughts and comments

School Website(s)

  • Are there different websites/portals for current families and prospective families?
  • Do all teachers use the same tools or does each teacher/classroom use something different?
  • When was the site created? Any major site updates since then?
  • How often is the site content updated? (e.g., weekly blog, new photos up monthly, never)
  • Is the site clear and easy to navigate?
  • Are there major typos anywhere on the site?
  • Is it easy for administrators to make site updates as needed? Or does the “web guy/web gal” need to be called in?
  • Any privacy concerns re: student photos? (e.g., photo releases absent or not current; closed or open access to current student photos)
  • Communications system integrated with school website?
  • Does the site clearly broadcast the school’s unique identity and personality?
  • Additional thoughts and comments

Step 2: Prioritize

Once you’ve collected all of the info above – and it may be more than you bargained for – the project owner should boil down the findings into a short report.

At this point, you may want to loop in your principal or head of school, the head of the PTA, and any other major influencers within your school community. Summer is an ideal time for this, when people are putting out fewer fires on a daily basis.

Now what? By now, you should have a good handle on what’s working well with your school communications and what you could be doing better.

You should also have a sense of what’s most important to address right away, given the current status of your system and the input from your team. Your top priority may be updating a painfully outdated website, or getting a reliable system in place (beyond that ancient hard copy of the school’s official telephone tree) for emergency communications.

Congratulations! You have already done more of the hard, important work relating to your school communications than 99% of the other schools out there, and you know the main “mission critical” steps you want to tackle first. Well done.

In Part 3, we’ll discuss how to approach the actual implementation of these changes, including overcoming objections and the common factors all effective school communication systems share.