A 2-Minute Drill for Community Awareness
April 01, 2016
Appears in April 2016: School Administrator.
Focus: Public Relations
As the superintendent of one of the fastest-growing school districts in Texas, I have found that getting out the most accurate information is our greatest challenge and a top priority. During my 14 years leading Prosper ISD, the district has grown from
just under 1,000 students to 8,400, and we project enrollment will reach 17,800 in the next five years, so communication is vital to our successful growth.
I have found that parents and community members often want to hear important information from the horse’s mouth, a/k/a the superintendent. In earlier years, I would post a monthly video message titled “Prosper LIVE.” This was a scripted exercise of 10-15 minutes that outlined events of the coming month. It was well received, but a month is an eternity in the age of instantaneous communication through handheld technology, so the information being conveyed was not so timely.
Last fall, I began recording a weekly unscripted message that I call the “PISD 2-Minute Drill.” It is pushed out via Twitter and Facebook, posted on the district website and included in the superintendent’s weekly newsletter, The Eagle Express, while being played in classrooms all over the district.
The reception has been enormously positive. While my topics vary, I try to address the issues of the moment as well as rumor mill mumblings. Recently I’ve focused my message on timelines for attendance zoning along with updates on current and future capital projects. I have found it is also a great way to celebrate student accomplishments.
Parents stop me regularly around the community with comments such as “Thank you for taking the time each week to catch us up — it is good to hear it from the superintendent” or “Your 2-Minute Drill is my primary source of information so don’t stop!” Needless to say, I unwittingly happened upon an inexpensive way to create “face time” with parents and others.
A Simple Process
As a rapidly growing district, we are continuously building schools and realigning student attendance zones, so this has been useful for keeping parents in the loop about all the moving parts.
We are fortunate in Prosper to have a broadcast studio that our students use in our media courses. However, all I really need for this mode of communication is a digital recording device (smartphone, iPad, etc.). I know this to be true because we have produced a 2-minute drill on my iPhone whenever there is a problem with the camera.
This is not an expensive approach. Anyone can download a $5 app to a smart device, enabling edits and enhancements to a recorded message. We archive the “PISD 2-Minute Drill” on our website and post it on the district’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
In other words, this is truly one of those rare tasks that requires almost no money and little technical expertise. The bang absolutely outweighs the buck.
It is important to note that consistent communication is required. We post a new message every Wednesday during the school year without exception, setting the expectation for our community. Moreover, it is important to stick to what you promise —
two minutes! I actually display a timer on the screen to hold me accountable to stay within the allotted time. A couple of times I initiated “overtime” because of the detailed information I was sharing, but that is a rarity.
Just as a 2-minute drill in a football game is fast-paced with no wasted time, so should be your 2-minute communication. Your community will feel better informed about the happenings around your district. Even if you are in a small, rural school district with stable enrollment, this approach will serve any superintendent well who is striving to keep his or her community abreast of district developments.