As someone who has built a business around communication and relationship building, if elected to serve on the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees, I plan to take those skills and find ways to create more opportunities for the school district to reach the public.
Often times, as publisher of eastcountytoday.net, I am asked why I did not cover this school event or that student’s achievement or share how a teacher was recognized. Sadly, it typically comes down to no one from the District providing the information.
While I admit new Superintendent Stephanie Anello has done an outstanding job with media relations when compared to the outreach done by her predecessor—which I might add was like pulling teeth—she cannot go at it alone simply performing social media duties. She needs a team around her and needs additional tools.
If elected, I will make it a priority to improve communication to students, parents and the community. After all, the City of Antioch has an “image problem” and what better way to improve the overall image of the city than highlighting the many wonderful things occurring within the school district.
For example, over the summer, several Antioch students worked on a project which was so brilliant, it’s now being used by NASA after the Antioch Rotary Club helped fund the effort. This is a perfect example of the community working with students to create success–unfortunately it never hit the newspapers because no one knew about it. This is just one example of many that could begin to change the way at how the public perceives the school district.
Through improved communication, it improves the relationship between students, parents and teachers—it creates buy-in because goals can be achieved together. Thus, it brings back to the joy of teachers teaching and students learning because all parties can be on the same page.
My communication plan for the District includes the following:
Public Information Specialist
There are teachers and staff doing great things. Both parents and the community should know about it. I would like to see the District hire a public information specialist to assist the Superintendent in gathering information from all schools and showcase to the community what great schools and staff we have.
This position can also respond to issues as they come up and help improve transparency in a timely manner. There are a lot of things occurring in a school district that both parents and taxpayers may not even be aware of that can be an opportunity to shine a positive light. With this position, the District can now tell its story with better uses of press releases, photographs, social media, newsletters, announcements and other tools.
Ultimately, this position is a rather small investment cost wise for the amount of public trust that can be built if implemented correctly.
Put School Board Meetings Online
Currently, if you want to know what occurred at a school board meeting, you can view the agenda and minutes online. That is not good enough.
The District, at the very least, should place the audio from all school board meetings online—the cheapest option. I would go a step further and invest in web-only cameras to record all school board meetings and place the video online which most local governments already do. This provides much needed transparency to those in the community who seek it.
While some may argue the District should invest in “live television” of a school board meeting, that is expensive and money can be better spent elsewhere on students—especially given how the District is in deficit spending mode.
Take Advantage of the Web
Today, anyone and everyone can take advantage of the internet. The school district is no different. The district should not be forced to rely on a newspaper to tell their story; instead they should simply tell it using their own website.
As publisher of eastcountytoday.net, I’ve built a business around telling stories and providing information. The AUSD can do it too with the creation of their own “news site” to produce information for students, parents, and the community—the newspapers can even pluck stories and photographs right off the website.
Thus, this is where my goal of a public information specialist comes in to help manage this undertaking–students could even become involved in the form of internships. The goal of this effort would allow the District to stop relying on others (or social media for that matter) to distribute the Districts own information and instead take control of what goes out and how it goes out. I see this as a huge win for the entire community.
Empower Principals and Teachers
The school district has 18,000+ students; the daily face of the district is each site principal and the teachers. We must find ways to better allow them to shine whether it’s a morning breakfast with the parents on campus, hosting off-site coffee meetings, forums, etc. The goal, here is to provide staff with the ability to “do them” and interact with parents as best they know how under the Districts message.
Each school has a different culture that should be embraced, not try to force a one-culture fits all mentality.
Communication within the school district should be more than “feel good” actions; it should be real and sincere. By using a mixture of technology and empowering staff, the school district can improve its public perception. For Antioch, there can be no better way to improve its perception than showcasing its very own students and teachers.
Burkholder is a candidate for the Antioch School Board in the November election. He has a child at both Orchard Park School and Carmen Dragon Elementary School. For more information about his campaign, visit www.mikeburkholder.com or visit him on Facebook.