The District does very little outreach, and what is done is used to quiet discontent voices rather than provide Active Listening. At this point, what the average citizen believes about the District is mostly based on hearsay and anecdotes.
As a Board member, I will treasure opportunities to interact with parents and engage in “constituent advocacy.” I will also aggressively use available “alternative media” tools such as blogging, Twitter, and Facebook.
Moreover, I believe the District should also engage through social media, and update their website with all the information parents and citizens need to discover how the school is serving their pupils.
How can the District actively engage with citizens and taxpayers?
Bulk Email & Robocalls: This District is already using these tools to encourage participation in the PTO, the Octorara Food Cupboard, Back-to-School Nights, School Concerts, and a whole list of activities. Why are they not using these valuable tools to encourage attendance and participation at School Board and Committee Meetings?
At the end of almost every meeting someone, usually Board President Lisa Bowman, will make some statement to the effect of, “We encourage parents and citizens to attend all public meetings.” The problem is, she is saying it to the same 5-10 faces that attend month in and month out.
Bulk Email & Robocalls over time, and especially if they highlight the important topics of the month, will greatly improve parent and citizen attendance and participation. Additionally, it shows that the Board truly does want attendance and participation, and are not just making the statement to say they made the statement.
Social Media: By not having and making use of an official, active Facebook Page, Twitter account, Youtube channel, and other forms of Social Media, the District is missing the boat to actively engage with citizens and taxpayers. In today’s world, Social Media has become the most effective way to get important information out into the public, and engage the greater population.
Social Media also allows for “sharing.” Popular topics and events have the opportunity to go “viral,” and create a life of their own. Social Media is the new town-square, and failing to use it is intentionally working against active communication and access to information.
Website: There is just no doubt, the Octorara Area School District is not making full use of their website. It provides little to no information on important topics such as Audits, Committee Meeting Minutes, Contracts, Real Estate Tax Rates, Right-To-Know, Special Education Statistics, and a long list of other topics. Again, they will use it for PTO information, Back-to-School Nights and School Concerts, but are minimalist with providing information parents and citizens need to discover how the school is serving their pupils.
Snail Mail: Of course, using regular mail can be expensive. However, “postcard marketing” is a relative inexpensive and effective method of getting information out, which could be used on a limited bases. Imagine the turnout at the School Board Meeting, in which the next Preliminary Budget was to be presented, if a small postcard was mailed to everyone in the District. If they did that, the District may actually have to move the meeting from the Jr./Sr. High School Multi-Purpose Room to the Auditorium.
These are just a few examples, and there are many more ways to give access to information, actively engage, and encourage participation. The minimalist attitude that the District does enough, and the ultimate burden is on parents and citizens, needs to be replaced. The only way to truly encourage an all-inclusive school-family-community partnership is for Octorara to be an open book, accepting of all feedback, including harsh criticism.
- Timothy Alexander: Top Priorities If Elected (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- Parkesburg Today reports “Octorara’s Academic Performance Numbers Come Up Short” (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- Octorara Area School Board Regular Meeting – October 21, 2013 (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- Analyzing Octorara’s SPP Score (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- “Insiders Are Wanted” – September 16, 2013 Regular Meeting (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)