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Author Biography: Michael Waiksnis is a middle school principal in South Carolina.

He is passionate about increase school engagement with all members of the community. You can also find more information at www.3dschools.wordpress.com. If we do not tell the stories of our schools, who will? Activity Summary
Who is telling your schools story? Does your school have a public relations plan? Are your parents satisfied with communication? Social media has given schools the tools they need to tell control of their PR and increase parental communication. Class or subject area: School/Community Engagement Grade level(s): K-12 Specific learning objectives: Learn how to leverage social media to communicate with parents and promote your school and public education.

Anniversary Book Project

5th

Your School, Whose Story?


By: Michael Waiksnis Creative Commons License: CC BY-NC Author contact: @smfalcons.

Who is telling the story of your school? Does testing data provide an accurate picture of your school? Does the local media highlight all of the great things happening at your school? There are many ways to take control of your schools image and shine a light on the great things happening in our schools everyday. Schools can let the media and others outside of education shape their reputation or they can take control of their own public relations. With the explosion of free resources it is becoming easier every day to manage your schools public image. Most of the public, including politicians who make the decisions that shape our schools, have not actually been in a school in quite some time. They certainly hear about our test scores. However, we know there is so much more to our schools than test scores. How do we make sure all stakeholders understand what goes in our buildings each day? At Sullivan Middle School, we have committed to telling our story. We know we can not rely on the traditional media to tell our story or allow peoples prior experiences in school to distort our story. We have a plan in place as we are not comfortable with the publics image of public schools in general. We use several tools to increase communication with our parents and highlight the success of our students and teachers. We have a school facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7me87vp) and twitter page (@smfalcons). You may be thinking, well dont all schools have this? Actually, most do not, but many do. However, we make sure ours are updated regularly. This is the key with facebook and twitter. People using these tools are accustomed to regular updates. We make sure we do this consistently. These are popular tools that our parents and community members are already using them. Why not harness their power? They also allow us to promote our Falcon News Blog. Our school blog (http://sullivanms.edublogs.org/) allows us to post longer updates. For example, on our facebook page we might post something congratulating the recent success of our academic team. We could them place a link to our blog where we would post an article explaining it in more detail and giving specific credit to the participating students and teachers. Parents love to see their childs name listed and it tells our story even more. The blog is also a place where we can explain things in more detail. If we want our stakeholders to know why we value technology, we can post our thoughts on why it is important to us. We also do a Q and A with our new teachers to introduce them to our community. This year we have created our Student Showcase (http://tinyurl.com/86uy5mu). This is the heart of our communication and recognition plan. When was the last time someone from your community, who does not have their own children, visited your school? When was the last time a politician making decisions about public education was in a school? When was the last time some of your students parents were in a school? We knew the answer in a majority of these cases were, Not in a long time! Well, if they were not coming into schools, how would they know what is going on in our school? Were they getting an accurate picture of our school by outside resources? In response to this we created a website where we post examples of student work. We also post videos and slideshows showing what happens in our school. We decided we needed a place to publicly display our work. The best part of all of these tools is they are free. It has not cost us a cent to use them to increase

our parental communication and showcase our school to the public. We do use one paid service. We have been using the email service Constant Contact this year. It allows us to create professional looking emails and it manages the entire process. We are able to see what content interests our readers. It allows us to see if our emails are being read and if our stakeholders need more information on a particular topic. It is important for schools to tell their stories. We do not want to rely on our test scores to be the only piece of data that shapes public perception about schools. We know there is so much more to it than that alone. It is crucial for schools to have reliable communication with their parents. They want to know what is going on in school and we need to find every possible way to deliver the information. The way people receive information has changed. The question we asked ourselves was are we delivering it in a way that made an impact?