On October 16, six Lunenburg residents met to discuss how the Lunenburg Public School district can more effectively engage the community.  We spent 2 hours discussing what we ultimately want to achieve, how to get there and what next steps we need to take.

Goals:

  • Increase awareness and knowledge of District initiatives and activities for all Lunenburg residents
  • Increase reach within the community to improve overall perception of the District’s value to the community
  • Ensure parents receive timely, relevant, consistent and accurate communications about students and schools
  • Improve overall processes to reduce duplicate efforts and increase effectiveness

How can we achieve these goals?  I believe firmly that the Lunenburg Public Schools need to embrace 21st approaches to interact with the Lunenburg residents.  This means:

  • We must adopt preference based communications:  Residents should tell us how they want to hear from the schools. The District should provide as many communication vehicles as possible to ensure we are reaching the residents – print media, email, facebook, twitter, television, meetings, sporting events, other live events etc..  The schools should not arbitrarily decide what communication vehicle to use. They need to offer the parents a choice.   They should even offer a choice to “opt-out” of all communications.   Think about your bank…Banks largely offer you a choice:  do you want to get your statements online? in an email? on paper?   Why should schools treat their customers any differently?
  •  and websites:  Like it or not, , twitter and other social media platforms are here to stay.  Embrace it or be left in the dust…People have become accustomed to a top quality .  As consumer we expect to be able to use google to find what we need.  When we arrive at a website, we expect the information on that website to be customized to our needs.  This expectation is being carried over to the .
  • Online access and management of personal information:  I cannot think of the last time I had to fill out a paper form to register for something….actually, I can!  It was for school just a few weeks ago.  If I open a bank account, apply for a mortgage,  get a car insurance quote or generally want to use any service, there is invariably a website where I securely enter information as part of the application process.  If I move, I am responsible for updating this information myself.  This is not just a question ease of use but also of efficiency.  There is zero reason in today’s interconnected, instrumented world to have to duplicate data entry by filling out a paper form only to have another person enter the data into a system.

These are some of the initial ideas about how Lunenburg Public Schools could better reach and engage residents.  Contact me to find out how to get involved!

Last night the Lunenburg School Committee held a workshop to discuss how to better engage the .  This comes after a discussion about some of the challenges the District has had in consistently communicating with the community.  There is a recognition by the entire committee that the District has done some things well but also, that there is major areas for improvement.

In our discussion last night we identified several areas for improvement:

  • Preference based communications:  If the school were a private company, I would  describe our communication approach as “spray and pray’. The schools send emails, voice mails, paper forms, paper news letters, have a website,  and use verbal communication to try to reach their key target audience.  The District does not currently provide parents a mechanism to select their preferred communication channel.  In today’s era of the empowered consumer, who has access to unprecedented amounts of data to make informed decisions, must embrace a communication approach which addresses an audience of one.
  • :   We are behind the times when it comes to embracing social media.    Districts around us and across are using , , ,  and other social channels to engage communities.   Like the in ’04…why not us?  Well, we will be dipping our toes in the water over the next couple of months…stay tuned.
  • Website:  There was discussion around improving the overall customer experience with the District and school specific websites.  Several community members expressed frustration with the inconsistency across the websites stating that it can be difficult to quickly find information they need.  There are a couple of approaches we can likely recommend here:  design guidelines and policies for lay out, content management processes to ensure information is up to date.
  • Single view of the student:  Currently there are several locations parents can go to see student information and monitor progress:  Power School, school note, sneaker net (aka information sent home in backpacks).  There is a desire have a ““.  This would be one location where parents can view ALL information pertinent to their children’s world at school.  The good news is that Lunenburg owns the software to make this happen!  We need to explore how to increase adoption of the Power School solution to take advantage of all the capabilities the solution offers.

Their are some long hanging fruit here and some longer term items which will need to be addressed over time.  The most important thing Lunenburg residents need to understand: the schools want to engage the entire community.  The and Lunenburg Public Schools need residents’ help and support to make this a reality.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the following questions from Lunenburg residents:

  • When is the next meeting? (I challenge all Lunenburg residents to find the meeting agendas and minutes)
  • What are you discussing at the next school committee meeting?
  • How can I get an opportunity to speak at a school committee meeting?
  • Why don’t you just send an email, ‘” something or post an announcement to ?  (Check out or )
  • Why isn’t there a where I can watch your meetings on demand? ()

These questions really get into the tactics of how we need to communicate.  Since being elected, I have been thinking about these questions and what they are highlighting. It is time to stop thinking about it and do something.

It is clear to me, we need an up to date, 21st century approach to communicating with the residents of Lunenburg.  As I searched the web, I found many districts have taken a “If you can’t beat ‘em join” attitude to communicating, taking to the platforms to reach their audiences.

In my role as a marketer, I need to determine which I need to reach with my messages working with other marketers to choose the best channels to reach the target audience.  This is a fundamental of communication…right message, at the right place at the right time….So how do we reach our target audience…the residents of Lunenburg?

Well, this will be a topic at the Lunenburg School Committee meeting tomorrow night at TC Passios School.  Your feedback or suggestions prior to the meeting or during our discussion will help shape what gets decided and implemented. 

It is funny to me watching educators and and administrators debate how to best “teach” technology to their students at all levels, from kindergarten to senior year in . I often joke that if non-computer savvy people want to learn about computers or technology, they just need ask a 4-5 year old!

I was reminded of this by my 6 year old who grabbed and began learning on the app. No one taught her how to use technology. She just gets it and frankly, she does not think about the fact that she is using technology to learn. It is just another one of the arrows in the quiver.

As we think about teaching technology in schools who are we really teaching? Who is the student and who is the master? by Dell Inc indicates teachers believe students are more tech savvy than they are. Additionally respondents indicate that training focuses more on education practices and technology versus integrating technology into the curriculum.

I do not believe there is a debate about including technology in school. I believe the question is this: How can educators include technology in a seamless manner to facilitate the learning process?

Like it or not, there is a . Kids today have grown up with technology while many of the teachers discovered computers later in life. I relate this to learning a language…When you grow up in Germany speaking German it is second nature. If you decide to learn German when you are 30, you will never reach the same proficiency level.

So how do we overcome this digital divide?

  • Mandate technology proficiency in all new hires: Define the competencies desired and ensure all new teachers can demonstrate them.
  • Train existing teachers: Ensure there is a process for continuous improvement with formalized training for all teachers to reach a defined level of competency. Hire an “expert” to train. The key here is to focus on how to incorporate technology in the learning process.

What if educators and administrators could take advantage of the existing proficiency within their schools? Could a 6 year be the answer to closing the gap?

Let me know your thoughts!

The role of CEO (Chief Education Officer) – district superintendents

Since the post about the role of the last week, I have received several questions about the role of the .  It is important to understand how this critical role impacts the entire district and in the end, all students.

I laid out the areas of responsibility in .  As a reminder, the identifies the following areas of responsibilities: Policy, Finance, Staffing, Collective bargaining, Performance Standards, Professional development, School Councils, Advocacy, Curriculum, Governance, and Communication.

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees defines the roles and responsibilities for school superintendents in their “Charting the Course” offering:

Policy: Develops and informs committee or procedures required to implement committee policies; recommends policy options to school committee when new or ammended policies are required.

Finance: Oversees the operation of the annual budget; Provides updates to the school committee; Provides early notice of potential budget overruns or shortfalls.

Staffing: Appoints, disciplines and discharges administrators principals, and staff not assigned to particular schools. Reviews and approves principal’s hire of all teachers, athletic coaches, and other staff assigned to a particular school.

Collective bargaining: Serves as a resource in collective bargaining.  Assure adherence to all collective bargaining agreements.

Performance Standards: Assures the evaluation of personnel according to district and state standards; Develops performance standards for all staff aligned to school committee policy, contractual agreements and educational goals of the district.

Professional Development: Implements the professional development program adopted by the school committee. Ensures professional development activities are available to all school department employees.

School Councils:  Reviews with principals the role of school councils and relevant activities.

Advocacy:  Engages in advocacy on behalf of students and their schools promoting the benefits of a public school system to the community; Works with local and state officials to gain support for a fair and sound school budget aligned to district goals and objectives.

Curriculum: Recommends major adoptions of courses or text book; Ensures there is a process to develop and refine curriculum.

Governance:  Acts as the school committees chief executive officer and educational advisor in all efforts of the committee; Serves point of contact for schools’ administrative teams; Proposes and initiates a process for long range and strategic planning; Ensures school provides equal opportunity for students and staff.

Communication: Keeps all school committee members informed about school operations and programs; develops and implements a plan for working with media; shares responsibility for open communication with community.

What is the role of the school committee?

Now, isn’t that an interesting question?  What does a  do?

Before you read on, do you actually know a school committee’s responsibilities?

Since being elected to the Lunenburg School Committee, I have been asked a lot of questions which some residents expect I can answer right there and then!

I have received questions about:

  • Staffing in the schools
  • schedules and menus
  • Bus routes including lengths and timing
  • Drop off and pick up times for each of the schools
  • Budget allocations
  • Teacher contracts

So, I began to ask myself:  ”Am I really responsible for knowing all of this as a school committee member?”  As I began to educate myself and ask others their ideas about the school committee’s role, I found a wide variety of opinions and ideas.  I turned to The  for guidance. This organization has defined the following areas of responsibility: Policy, Finance, Staffing, Collective bargaining, Performance Standards, Professional development, School Councils, Advocacy, Curriculum, Governance, and Communication

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees defines the roles and responsibilities in their “Charting the Course” offering:

Policy:  The school committee establishes and periodically reviews educational goals and policies for the schools in the district. consistent with the requirements of law and the statewide goals and standards.  This is the primary role of the school committee.

Finance:   The school committee reviews and approves a budget for education in the district according to a process and timeline developed with the superintendent; works to ensure that necessary funds are appropriated for the district. oversees the operation of the annual school budget.

Staffing: Appoints the superintendent; Hires legal counsel. Sets compensation for the superintendent. Prescribes additional qualifications for educator positions beyond basic certification.; Disciplines or terminates employment of the superintendent in accordance with the terms of the contract of employment.

Collective Bargaining:  Acts as employer of the school employees for collective bargaining; designates negotiator or negotiating team and receives advice about educational consequences of bargaining positions.

Performance Standards: Establishesupon the recommendation of the superintendent, the performance standards for teachers and other employees of the ; evaluates the performance of the superintendent; conducts self-evaluation of the committee’s effectiveness in meeting its stated goals and performing its role in public school governance

Professional Development:  Adopts a professional development plan for all principals, teachers and other professional staff;  provides and encourages resources for school committee professional development programs.

School Councils: Reviews and approves an annual school improvement plan for each school in the district; provides and encourages resources for school council professional development programs.

Advocacy: Engages in advocacy on behalf of students and their schools; works closely with other governmental agencies and bodies.

Curriculum: Approves major adoption or revision of curriculum and textbooks upon recommendation of the superintendent.

Governance: Establishes educational goals and policies for schools in the district; delegates to the superintendent the responsibilities for all administrative functions; acts only as a body as prescribed by law and not as individual members.

Communication: Supports the development and promotion of vision, mission, goals and strategies of the school system; consults and confers with the superintendent of on all matters as they arise that concern the school system and on which the school committee may take action; Maintains open communication between community and the schools by scheduling public meetings on a regular basis; supports the superintendent in all matters that conform to committee policy.

So there you have it.  In a nutshell that is it……Pretty daunting scope.

I am starting this blog because I believe it is very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I am hoping the conversation generated on my blog will be helpful to me in learning community views on many issues.. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

The commentary here reflects entirely my own  views about policies and discussions occurring at  Lunenburg School Committee Meetings — it does  not represent the view of the Committees, District, or the Superintendent.