School PR pros are always looking to create effective, transparent, and relevant district communications, but staff and teacher involvement are sometimes overlooked. Urgent schedule updates, publishing the latest district news, or just lacking the right communication tools make collaboration difficult when offices are understaffed and over-scheduled.
But by partnering with school district staff, you can better represent and share the important work they do to help build district-wide connections and improve community engagement. Here are 11 best practices to improve your district’s communications while enabling staff to contribute their valuable insights to the school community.
- Realize staff are essential to your district’s mission
- Spotlight staff expertise in blog posts and newsletters
- Emphasize staff achievements
- Find inspiration from other schools
- Create teacher pages
- Honor communication preferences
- Include internal communications and resources on the staff portal
- Offer two-way communications
- Involve your school’s leadership
- Feature your staff on social media
- Incorporate lessons from a post-pandemic world
1. Realize staff are essential to your district’s mission
Remember that teachers and staff are essential to your district's mission. That might seem like a given, but without the daily support from teachers and staff, there'd be no way to accomplish your district's goals. By partnering with staff and teachers and including them in more regularly in your communication efforts, you're rightly placing them as a key component of your mission.
San Luis Coastal Unified School District knows the value of a well-connected staff and teaching community. They've highlighted its employees as a major aspect of its vision, mission, and guiding principles toward creating a “Culture of Care and Safety” and “Respect and Integrity.”
2. Spotlight staff expertise in blog posts and newsletters
Teachers, school counselors, and school nurses, among others, all have unique perspectives to share with the school community. On a weekly or monthly basis, use a form or an email inquiry to ask for their insights and incorporate their wisdom into your school’s blog and newsletter content through guest posts or profiles. Sharing their voices will add to the diversity of viewpoints and expertise, increasing the likelihood of engagement from the school community. Families love to see these behind-the-scenes aspects of the classroom and the daily experience, so encourage teachers to share information about projects that are happening during the school days.
Rockford Public Schools regularly includes news updates and blog posts from their staff and teachers in its 205 Vibe blog. Including these classroom moments, special achievements, or staff updates will help share another voice with your school community.
3. Emphasize staff achievements
Just like research finds beneficial effects on student behavior when teachers use a 5:1 positive-to-negative ratio, use a similar mix of communications in your plan. Skewing toward positive material reassures constituents that communications aren’t just for bad news or crises, and that reading daily school updates is likely to be a bright spot in their day.
Ask teachers and staff to share with you inspiring moments of kindness or friendship they observed in the hallway or classroom — these stories can be featured as a regular addition to your school’s newsletters.
4. Find inspiration from other schools
Email newsletters, blog posts, and other school district communications work best when there is a predictable, consistent rhythm to their publication. That can feel like stressful pressure, though, if you aren’t sure what to say. By looking at what other schools are doing with their newsletters and blogs, you can always be confident you will have fresh, interesting ideas about what to publish and share in school-to-home communications throughout the school year.
5. Create teacher pages
As soon as your school announces teacher assignments, most families will search for information about the teacher who will become part of their family’s everyday life. You can make their exploration easier and more productive by providing teacher pages for families to review.
Many staff and teachers of Calhoun City Schools have their own teacher pages, and by utilizing Finalsite Posts, bringing in the last class news, calendars, class supply lists, and blogs to the page is a breeze. Empowering teachers to create and maintain their own pages is a great way to share their own voices and build relationships by introducing students to their new teachers during the back-to-school season and sharing class news throughout the year.
6. Honor communication preferences
Some staff may prefer to communicate in person, and some may feel “talked out” after a long school day. For staff and teachers on the go, a mobile app can provide a convenient way for teachers and staff to access school and district updates personalized for them. Staff can easily find the information, whether they're looking for specific employee calendars, schedules, athletic updates, or the latest district news, without logging into a website or social media for the latest information.
Lake Orion Community Schools’ mobile app lets users choose which schools and calenders to follow to view event details, staff directories, and more.
7. Include internal communications and resources on the staff portal
In addition to updates to the larger school community, your communications should include internal messages for school staff only. Even though school staff work together and communicate throughout the year, there are likely gaps in how much school employees know about employee resources and staff information.
Whether across single or multiple campuses, an easy-to-use and mobile-friendly staff portal or resource center, like the one offered by Jackson County Public Schools, is a great location to collect communications and resources for staff information, HR documents, district events, and new hires. Putting those employee handbooks, professional development opportunities, and staff resources in one, convenient location will be appreciated!
8. Offer two-way communications
When staff read school news and information, it will boost engagement if there is an opportunity to comment with feedback and/or ask follow-up questions. By enabling the commenting feature on some parts of the school website, like news posts and blogs, or inviting comments via online forms, two-way communications give teachers and staff to provide feedback and support them feeling heard and valued.
9. Involve your district’s leadership
Parents see your leadership team as the faces that represent the school district. When superintendents and principals communicate in a systematic and transparent way, it increases trust in the school district and helps members of the school community feel respected and valued. Establish a routine for this type of communication at a frequency greater than an annual message or recap. Weekly is fantastic, but monthly or quarterly are also options.
10. Feature your staff on social media
One of the first places families look for the latest school content is your district's social accounts. Using social media well is a proven way to increase community engagement and awareness of school news. Make sure your communication plan includes regular updates to the platforms your school community uses the most, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, or Twitter.
To give your social media updates personality and human interest, consider profiling staff, featuring Q&A “Ask Me Anything” threads, and honoring long-time staff members with Throwback Thursday threads. To ensure you always have fresh social media content, here’s a social media calendar with 120+ content ideas!
Ellington Public Schools welcomed new coaching staff to its athletics departments — a great way to introduce new staff members and create some excitement before fall sports begin!
11. Incorporate lessons from a post-pandemic world
There have been many pandemic-related challenges in schools, but some of the post-pandemic changes have facilitated communication with staff in new and helpful ways. The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research conducted focus groups, and these were some of their findings:
- Virtual meeting options provided more flexible scheduling opportunities for parents to communicate with educators.
- Mobile apps increased timely communication between parents and educators.
- Translation features in mobile apps allowed for direct communication between educators and parents who speak languages other than English.
- Schools created virtual and in-person forums where parents connected with one another and deepened their sense of community.
Think of how your school or district can incorporate these changes, and how they would affect your staff positively.
With more opportunities to partner with your staff in your district's communications, you’re giving a larger voice to a cornerstone of your community. By empowering your staff to become even more involved and showcasing those making a difference every day across your district, your communications, in turn, become more effective, more inclusive, and more engaging for all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janet Civitelli is a communications consultant and copywriter with extensive experience working with educators and school systems. Trained as a psychologist, Janet uses her understanding of human behavior and persuasion to help organizations with strategy, storytelling, and marketing. Janet lives with her husband and two children in Austin, Texas.