Communication with parents needs to be clear and convenient for them to want to engage. These tips will help encourage parent involvement for the...
7 Secrets to Unified District Communication
Effective communication with parents in schools is sometimes a tricky job. Explore 7 tips to unify your communication with parents, other schools in your district, and your community.
Anytown Middle School was led by a principal and a vice principal. Although both had different visions for where they wanted to take the school, they both had good intentions, and they both had faculty who loved them and followed their guidance. Spirit Week was coming up, and one principal posted the schedule for dress-up days on the school’s website while the other posted to the school’s Twitter account. Needless to say, it was quite a Monday when only half the faculty showed up in their pajamas!
There's effective communication between parents and schools, but also a type of internal communication at the school that needs attention.
What is unified school communication?
In a school or district with unified school communication, all messaging is the same no matter where families, students, faculty, or community members go to look for it. If your school or district often suffers from mixed signals and missed messaging, here are seven secrets to unify your school or district messaging - and your school community.
Secret 1: Be ADA accessible, even if your state hasn’t
How do schools communicate with parents in the easiest way? Simply make your message accessible to everyone. The foundation of unified communication is accessibility for your entire school community. means that when there’s a message to share, everyone can see even if they are using a screen reader, they’re a non-English speaker, or they aren’t viewing the message on a desktop. ADA accessibility guidelines include translations, specific devices being used, and situational limitations as well.
Secret 2: This one is for the families who have children at multiple schools.
How do schools communicate with parents who have children in more than one school? These parents have a lot to manage, and getting their engagement in school is difficult, especially when their students are younger. Make communication easier for them and your staff. When updating your district’s website, being able to send information from the district site to all school sites is very crucial in keeping information the same throughout the various schools at the district for parents who have kids at different schools. Let’s say you send an email to your web staff at all the schools with information for them to post. Everyone posts, except one school, because that day the web staff was out sick. Now the information is not consistent and can be confusing to families, especially those who have a child at more than one school in the district. Unify communication with parents by automatically cross-posting important news from your district site to school sites.
Secret 3: Be respectful of family's data plans, not everyone has unlimited texting.
Does everyone at your school have unlimited data? There are families at every school whose contact information is not reliable. This could be due to pay-as-you-go cell phone plans, or some families being in rural areas where it’s difficult to receive calls or texts. Unify communication with parents by launching a mobile app. Notifications can come from the district or school to the app with unlimited push notifications, while at the same time respecting your community's data plan. Don’t let usage charges keep you from communicating with every family in your district; use a Branded Mobile App to build digital equity for all families.
Secret 4: Push information to all communication channels.
Schools can never be too sure where families are getting their information today. They can only hope it’s from one of their direct sources, and not on a group chat of plotting moms. Reach families how they want to be reached, be it social media, through an app, an online newsletter, the school website directly, etc. For communication unification, always have the same information in all your different channels of communication. This way families, no matter where they look, will see the same things. For example, a Facebook only family will see tomorrow is picture day, as well as the App family. Even better if that announcement posts at the same time on both platforms.
Secret 5: Integrations will save you aggravations.
When possible, delegate to your technology. There’s a long-standing discussion every morning in a lot of households about whether the dishwasher ran the night before or not. There is now a dishwasher that can be programmed to run automatically every night! Imagine never having to ask, Are these clean or dirty? ever again. This type of delegation is now possible with school communication tools as well. To leverage this feature, integrate the technology on your website. A great example would be to have a calendar integration so whenever your school calendar is updated, the website calendar is updated. No more adding and changing dates in two places!. Never have to ask, did you update the website calendar as well? Calendar integrations would also be mobile responsive, and translatable to the languages your families speak at home.
Secret 6: Have all of your teachers in the same place—virtually.
Unify communication with parents by having teachers use your website’s teacher pages and LMS integration (such as Google Classroom). Families will have one place to go to look for classroom information instead of a multitude of different personal teacher websites. If there is a Google Classroom integration available for your CMS, this will allow for assignments to sync over, and of course because of the integration, everything should again be mobile responsive, and translatable. Imagine if all families could participate in a conversation about what happened at school with their children. Your website can make this possible!
Secret 7: Make payments easy and accessible.
The final piece to unified communications in schools is keeping all the payment information together. There are so many different activity fees parents need to pay for, including yearbooks, uniforms, field trips, lunch fees, etc. Having this information centralized in one place such as a store, or even a section of the website that can be shared on multiple platforms through a form, for example, would help parents keep on top of these small but important costs that help schools tremendously.
Not only will these seven techniques help unify your school communication, but they will also save your school time in fielding emails and phone calls from confused families. We know the mistakes of not unifying your communication can be far less comical as half of the faculty showing up in pajamas on a Monday, and the stakes of confusing messaging are a lot higher.