Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Change in Communication for School Leaders

This is my second installment in a series of blog posts on the changing nature of school administration and school leadership. This post speaks to how expectations for communication have changed.

As I write this, we are approaching the two-year anniversary since the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. Our nation was anxious for the apprehension of those responsible. As the manhunt built to its crescendo, I followed along simultaneously on television, news apps, and Twitter. On Twitter, I witnessed the emotions shared by individuals from far away and right in Boston. Our combined energies surged as our brave law officers closed the net, and we collectively cheered the outcome.

Afterward, it struck me that this was a new moment in our culture where we not only witnessed the news instantaneously but also, in some very small way, participated in it.

Much has changed in the last 100 years in the public's expectations for news and information. A century ago, news sometimes took weeks to reach its audience. In the 1930's, radio set a new standard for the immediacy of news. Television later competed and hastened the pace. But it was the modern Internet that made news instantaneous.

For years schools were largely oblivious of the need to communicate openly with their public. As the competition for students opened up between districts, schools polished their game. The usual result was a monthly newsletter. Later schools added web pages, but even this has not yet been fully supported.

However, our public is not waiting for us to catch up with modern standards for sharing information. They expect modern web sites with up-to-date news and the ability to find the information they seek. They want instant text messaging for important issues, and they want school information to come through multiple sources.

Most importantly they expect to hear the most important news immediately. Moreover, they want the news explained to them in a way that refers to them personally.

We were all shocked and saddened by the tragic news from Newtown, Connecticut, in December of 2012. But what surprised me afterwards was the way our public wanted our local school to respond to them in some way with assurances of what we were doing to keep their children safe.

This is the modern world. News is instant, and people can interact with it. If a school truly seeks to reach its public, it must share news the way the public expects it.

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