Linda Smith, Communications Coordinator for the Pine Bush Central School District, gave a presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting outlining how the district communicates and what improvements can be made.
She began with an overview of how the district disseminates information. The district contracts with the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to produce an annual communications plan. Currently, Smith maintains a website with accessible and fillable forms. She also posts and maintains district documentation such as school newsletters, board of education documents and policies.
“There is a lot going on in the schools, from new initiatives to fundraisers that bring our school community and larger Pine Bush community together,” she said.
Smith distributes information in a variety of different ways. Information is posted on the Pine Bush Central School District website. The site also contains a calendar, where events are posted. Smith also communicates through three newsletters released in the fall, winter and spring. In addition to contacting local media outlets, the district also uses the SchoolMessenger notification system for automated messages in communication with parents and guardians. These options include text messages, emails and phone calls. Pine Bush Central School District Superintendent Tim Mains’ Twitter account has also been an effective form of communication, earning more than 1,000 followers.
Though the district uses many forms of communication, Smith noted that there are opportunities to grow. She wants to be able to tell more stories about what is happening in the district and elicit positive reactions. Smith added that she wants to increase the number of accessible, fillable forms on the district’s website.
Smith added that the way to reach more people is achievable through two factors: time and tools. The district needs more time to report more stories, process more photos, take and post videos and to share with local media. Social media, specifically Facebook, is an effective tool for communication because it is portable, direct, interactive and meets the needs of younger parents. Smith proposed that a district-sanctioned Facebook be made in order to improve communication.
“I strongly believe Facebook is an important tool for most districts. My colleagues at BOCES and at most other districts, practically every one of them, says that they get much better engagement with their parents through Facebook and that’s what I think we have to build now is more engagement,” she said. “I also want to consider an app at some point but that’s later.”
Board of Education President Gretchen Meier was concerned about negative comments being posted to the Facebook page. Smith assured her that administrators can monitor what gets put on the page. Students can choose if they want to be photographed as well.