Increase the frequency and diversity of communication between the community and the Board/Administration
The foundation of any strong relationship is direct and frequent communication. Therefore, to optimize the collaboration between the community and the Board of Education/District Administration, we need to institute a wide range of engaging and creative measures to increase communication.
The benefits are overwhelming for both sides:
- The community will have a better understanding and appreciation of all of the great work currently being done by the Board of Education/District Administration. With better knowledge of how policies are created, how budgets are formulated and how initiatives are sparked, community members are more likely to take productive action to help make our great schools even better. They will also have more opportunities to express their viewpoints so as to optimize for the most thoughtful and civilized dialogue over time.
- The Board of Education/District Administration will have a better understanding of the viewpoints and priorities of the Westfield constituents that they serve. They will also have more engaging and productive conversations, as the community learns what is (and what is not) in control of policymakers at a local level. What ideally emerges is a closer collaboration and partnership within the community.
The monthly PTC meetings serve as a wonderful starting point, but when it comes to strong communication, more is better (especially to be inclusive of families with multiple working parents/caregivers). There are no “right” ways to achieve this goal, but it can be useful to sample best practices from districts around the country. Therefore, in addition to the monthly PTC meetings, I would advocate that we study the feasibility of::
- Comprehensive surveys across students, teachers and parents: Soliciting consistent feedback from students, teachers and parents is the optimal way to inform the administration of the community’s priorities. Publicly posting results would serve to strengthen transparency..
- Informal coffee/gatherings with the Superintendent : This would allow community members to engage with the Superintendent in a casual setting. This alternative setting is especially important so as we are inclusive of people who are uncomfortable speaking in public settings
- Q&A sessions with a member of the Board of Education : This would allow community members to learn more about the kind of issues Board members grapple with and give Board members constant access to diverse opinions across the community.
- Live streaming all the Board of Education meetings: Sometimes community members are unable to attend Board meetings in person (work/travel/childcare). It would be great if all interested parties could watch in real time from wherever they are. There are a number of low cost ways to achieve this initiative and I believe it could increase engagement with the community.
These are just some of the ideas that other districts around the country are pursuing that I believe could be effective in Westfield. If you have thoughts on these ideas or initiatives of your own around communication, please click over to my contact page and reach out!