Why Not Ask the Students?

Screenshot of "Garys Social Media Count"
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In what I think will be an interesting experiment, and perhaps a model for the rest of us, the Corning-Painted Post Area School District in New York has given its high school students the responsibility of crafting a social media policy for the District. Colleague Bill Cameron, Public Information Coordinator at Corning, contacted me about this initiative, which is already getting extensive press attention for obvious reasons. It’s important to note that the students researched the topic of social media first, submitted a research paper and conducted a Powerpoint presentation for the Board of Education.The Board recently voted to permit the students to develop the policy. Good for them. I like seeing this kind of open-mindedness and collaboration with our young people, who, after all, know the topic. It’s also a lesson. How can adults develop social media policies if they’re not using those tools? Perhaps it’s time to learn. Here’s a look at a local news station’s piece on the Corning experiment:


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Hooray! A Social Media Guide for K-12 Schools

Wisconsin Welcome Sign
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The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association has just published a “Social Media Guide” for K-12 schools. The organization, made up of school public relations professionals from one of the prettiest states I’ve ever visited, is offering the publication for $25 (non-members), plus the $5 cost of shipping.

Because there are so few such publications around, I plan to order myself a copy, just to be as up-to-date as possible. I’m also curious to see if the guide offers any wisdom about social media policies. You can order the guide here.

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We Can Do This, People…

The White House - Washington, DC
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I just presented at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, an organization just like my employer, but located in the northern suburbs. It was a presentation for the PNWBOCES administrative team, an extremely receptive audience of administrators and educators. I loved the dynamics, and what a lively bunch of people.

I know this is hard, people. But it seriously is the future. And as I say often, if the White House can do it, we can certainly begin to use social media. Even just a little bit?

Here’s where you can find the presentation.

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The Season of the Witch

Map of the Catskill Mountains, New York, USA
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The season for non-stop presentations is finally over, and I get a bit of a breather until the Spring. One more on Nov. 10, and then a bit of a break. I am excited about presenting to a group of non-profit directors in my region in the spring, and another for the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association at their annual conference. Instead, I’m spending this weekend focusing on my son’s birthday. He was born on Halloween, and turns 21. Where did that time go, anyway?

Last week, I presented at the Rondout Valley School District in the heart of the Catskill Mountains, and the people there couldn’t have been nicer (once I found them). In this small school district, a fifth-grade student created a Facebook page in the name of Rondout Valley, but forgot to put the “t” on District. It’s clearly not a good thing to have this Facebook page rolling around, largely unmonitored, without an official Rondout page. So I hope that after my presentation, they’ll get around to creating a presence on social media.

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ESchool News: Avoiding Social Media Gaffes

After having just participated in a webinar about social media policies for school districts, I was fortunate to run across this article by Nora Carr of the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina. It’s another example of how school public relations professionals are providing oars to those of us still navigating the unclear waters of social media. Among other points, Ms. Carr (who received the Presidents Award this year from the National School Public Relations Association) notes: “Legitimate concerns regarding federal e-Rate dollars and Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) regulations aside, avoiding social media isn’t the answer.”

The article also lists 11 tips to “avoid committing major social media gaffes,” including the development of guidelines, keeping your personal business private, and resisting any temptation to accept “friend requests” students and even parents on social networking sites. At the same time, while policies and procedures can help, school districts also need to teach and train employees to use social media wisely, writes Ms. Carr.

Great advice.

A Social Media Webinar

Last week, I did a training webinar with my colleague, Barbara Bradley of the New York State School Boards Association, titled “Social Media in Your School District.” We presented with Barbara in Albany and myself in White Plains with my new favorite tool, Adobe Connect. Registrants were able to listen to us speak while they followed along with our slides.

A few tips and one warning. First, the warning: This webinar is 90 minutes long, so set aside the time, if you can. If you click on the link below, you’ll be taken directly to the webinar recording.  No need for a user name or password to view it.

The file is large, so it could take a few minutes to load. There is a leader of silence lasting about 5 seconds before the audio introduction to the webinar, and about 20 seconds of silence around 6 minutes in, when microphones weren’t on.  Just wait about 20 seconds and you will hear the presenter without missing anything. If you hear audio drop for a second from time to time, that’s just a streaming issue.

You could have a problem with a firewall on your end, either on your PC or a physical firewall protecting your network.   Have your technical staff review the logs or open both fully to breeze.neric.org.

The good news is that the accompanying handouts can be downloaded from within the recording, so take advantage of those. You can just click on one of the documents in the “File Share” box and then click “save to my computer”. Have fun! I did!


Saratoga Springs

Heading to upstate New York tomorrow morning, to present to public school superintendents on two topics: budgets and social media. Yikes — I hope I don’t put them to sleep. I have a feeling they’ll be more interested in the budget presentation than in the social media presentation, and certainly the former took me a bit out of my comfort zone. I’m not exactly known for presentations about passing budgets, for a reason. Public schools passing public budgets is one of the biggest struggles we have here in the good old state of New York, and don’t let them tell you it’s a recent struggle. It’s been going on since I was a cub education reporter more than 20 years ago, covering my first school district. And what happened? The budget tanked and school opened without busing for kindergartners. At public budget hearings in that district, parents literally stood, turned to face me (representing the local newspaper), and pointed their fingers in my face. The newspaper had not endorsed the budget. On the contrary, the editorial went after the dysfunctional Board of Education with a vengeance; criticized the community for being torn down the middle, separating the African-American community from the middle-class white community.

So much for a recent challenge.

In my “how we passed our budgets” presentation, I’m going to do the best I can (comfort zone or not) to show NY’s superintendents that public education is under fire these days from every vantage point. People are downright seething about their taxes, charter schools and virtual schools are popping up everywhere, and yes — there are alternatives. We need to stop sitting on our haunches and wake up, at least from a communications standpoint. We never had to “sell” or “market” our school districts before, God forbid. Not any more.

Here’s a look at my presentation on budgets:

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