I recently saw a cartoon that sought to capture a picture of a family dinner in this age of electronics. Mom and Dad were seated at the table with their two teenagers. The kids were wearing ear-pieces for their iPods and Mom and Dad both had Blue-tooth attachments in place. The adults were scrolling through E-mail on their Blackberrys and the kids were lip-synching songs. The first caption was in all capital letters and read, “SON, DON’T YELL AT THE TABLE.” The second caption responded, “But Dad, I ‘texted’ you to pass the potatoes.”
While this snapshot of the electronic age causes most of us to shudder, it rings true, in part, for some. The issue of communication has always been at the center of effective relationships, regardless of whether we are talking of personal ones or institutional ones. Actually, I believe that effective communication in a personal relationship is much easier to achieve than it is in institutional settings. With this thought in mind, I want to share some of the communication avenues that have been put in place to assist the community in its understanding of our School District.
First and foremost, each of the South Brunswick Schools has an active outreach through the Principal’s office. Frequent communications are sent home to parents through an electronic Friday Folder E-mail, hand-carried memos, PTO/PTA/Site Council flyers and First-class postal mailings. In addition, each school maintains an active Web site that provides news about building events and contact information regarding staff. The Principal’s newsletters provide another avenue for gleaning school news.
Most recently, the District has successfully completed a pilot and begun a project called Family Connect. This initiative provides parents of middle school and high school students with direct electronic access to their youngster’s academic progress (individual class grades) and attendance. As we monitor the use of this system, we have noted “high traffic” and tremendously positive parental feedback.
Another recently deployed communication tool is the District’s new Auto Dialer system. Through the use of this technology, we are able to contact parents at up to six different telephone numbers to advise them of school delays and emergency closings. This high-speed electronic tool can make thousands of calls in a matter of minutes. The expandable nature of this system will allow for many building-based uses. This system is in addition to our use of radio, television, and emergency E-mail to notify parents of emergency situations.
From a Board of Education level, two public meetings are conducted each month (except for July) that provide for public comment. These public comment opportunities allow for either immediate Board response or a promise to research the issue and provide a future answer. To enhance access to the larger community, Board meetings are televised on the locally-provided cable station (Channel 28). The District also uses it as an electronic bulletin board of upcoming events and as a means of re-broadcasting special school events. These special events are created by the District’s Viking Television Network (VTN), giving students valuable hands-on productionexperience while linking school activities to our community.
The Board of Education has sought to express the importance of community connection through the creation of several activities. Every August, the Board of Education receives recommendations for Goals in order to chart the District’s direction and focus of resources. Likewise, each June, the Board examines the outcomes of the Goal work to determine District progress. Both of these sessions occur at public meetings and are televised throughout the community.
The Education Summit is a Board-created event that is publicly held each February for the purpose of examining the State-of-the-District. The information that is presented at the Summit is posted on the District’s Web site so that the public can peruse the information with convenience. The program is designed to note District strengths and acknowledge District challenges.
Each year, the District adopts a budget after conducting several budget meetings and a hearing for Board approval. These forums are open to public participation.
Presently, the District is operating under the regulations developed around the Quality Assurance Annual Report (QAAR). This requirement is met at a public meeting each October, wherein the District shares testing results in response to Federal and State mandates. This presentation is provided to the community on VTN.
Obviously, this column is not exhaustive of the many ways the District communicates. The very forum for conveying this article,Spotlight on Schools, is published five times per year and mailed to the homes of all of our community members. We annually provide parent-teacher conferences, Back-to-School nights and special open house events. In addition, we participate in South Brunswick Township’s Community Unity Day and the South Brunswick Township Police Department’s “National Night Out” event.
I hope you find new avenues for communicating with the District that allow you to be more informed and to participate more fully in District initiatives. You can contact me by phone, mail, or E-mail.