Great participation, meaningful and relevant presentations, and the largest paid registration in NSPRA’s 80-year history all point to building momentum for the increasing need of school communication programs in our schools. The record paid attendance of 805 participants at our Nashville Seminar in July broke the record of 800 that we notched all the way back in 2006 in Chicago.
Having the larger attendance this year helps NSPRA accelerate fulfilling our mission of improving communication and building more support for our schools.
I noted in the opening general session that our education landscape continues to change by offering the sometimes controversial issues school leaders continue to deal with in the U.S. and Canada:
From NSPRA’s Catbird Seat, we see lots of controversial issues in local school districts and boards across North America. Many are handled well when reasonable people are given or make enough time to engage and communicate with one another.
Quickly, here the issues we see percolating in the U.S. and Canada:
- Common Core push back and vilification,
- Opt-out of testing of all sorts,
- One-to-one tech initiatives – with BYOD elements,
- Social media mishaps – digital tattoos,
- School choice competition,
- Charter school accountability,
- Opting out of immunizations,
- Boundary changes,
- Passing budgets and finance referendums,
- Equity for all children,
- Diversity communication and relationships,
- Length of school day and school year,
- Announcing testing results,
- Weather closings of schools, and
- School safety and gun issues.
I offered 3 maxims for school leaders when it comes today’s practice of school communication:
Getting out front means you won’t be left behind.
School leaders and public education itself got clobbered when the Common Core Standards were launched because there was no planned communication strategy with timely and continuous communication on this important topic.
What happened as a result? Critics defined it and from there the professional media and social media advocates took it away from us. Being proactive is still one of the major weaknesses of communication efforts in our schools.
Last-minute communication rarely solves a problem. It often ignites it.
We often fail because we release critical information at the very last moment. Even when we may not know what our next steps may be, we must bring our staff, parents, and others along in a transparent fashion to avoid surprising our audiences with messages that causes them to feel blind-sided by our efforts.
Communication is the traveling buddy of major change.
We have seen it happen so many times but it is still shocking. The failure to communicate change in school systems to staff and parents often kills the change initiative itself. For any major change to be successful in your system, your audiences must be fully informed and engaged.
When we at NSPRA complete communication audits for school systems, we often display a stop sign to alert the system that change will not be successful until they stop and plan how they will use communication and engagement to implement the change in their system.
As we all know, continuous learning is what is needed in our field. Competition increases and new tools continue to grow, escalating our need to communicate effectively all the time. To help you learn how to deal with changing needs, NSPRA offers professional insight on a year-round basis. Tap into our website at www.nspra.org and by all means possible, do plan to join us next July in Chicago for NSPRA 2016.
Perhaps you can make your year even better when you take part in all the networking opportunities and gather countless program insights when you interact with more than 800 professionals who understand what you do for a living. Plan to join us. And watch our website for more information. We’ll begin posting about NSPRA’s 2016 Annual Seminar this fall.
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director