Original Date: 08/08/1994
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Reaching Out - The Communication Process
The Stafford County Public Schools have developed a highly effective communications process that reaches out to and actively involves the broad base of stakeholders within the system and throughout the county community. This process was developed in response to the need for effective communication in conducting all aspects of the school system's operations. Decision making in the public environment can be cumbersome and slow. Typically, public hearings must be held, cognizant committees and boards must meet, and special interest and advocacy groups must be consulted. Student needs and the concerns of parents are always important considerations.
Stafford's communication process recognizes the importance of a two-way flow of information, with emphasis on listening. There are four levels of communication: School Board to stakeholders at all levels; School and Community interactions; Superintendent to Staff; and Principals and Directors to their staffs.
School Board. The School Board reaches out to groups within the school system and the community through a variety of means to assure broad participation and input in the decision making process. There are many groups that interact with the Board through roundtable discussions, committees, task forces, public meetings, and special agencies.
Roundtable discussion meetings are conducted between School Board members and teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools periodically. They are a forum for open communications, providing teachers with an opportunity to raise concerns, ask questions, and receive feedback. Although immediate resolution in many cases is not possible, a written response will be published and posted in the schools. Student roundtable meetings, held with the middle and secondary school students, maintain an informal agenda that stimulates the two-way communication process. Students not only have an opportunity to present their concerns, Board members also have the opportunity to ask students questions.
Standing Committees provide the Board with advice on health, vocational training, gifted programs, special education, and Head Start programs. Citizen task forces provide input to the Board in areas of special interest such as weapons in the schools and educational needs for the next century.
The Board conducts regular public hearings on the budget and special hearings on topics such as implementing a day-long kindergarten program or changing attendance zones. There are special meetings with concerned citizens to address high interest topics. Regular Board meetings provide opportunities for the Board to hear comments from citizens, parents, administrative staff, and support groups like PTA. The School Board has also attended a retreat with the school system leadership team to improve communications and understanding.
School and Community. School and community interactions include business partnerships, a monthly newsletter to parents, student handbooks, special presentations to parents and community groups, and student performances in the community. One unique communication program is the Homework Hotline, a popular and well-used program. Parents and students can call this hotline to verify and get help with homework assignments. Other communication mechanisms include interactions with PTA and support groups, parent participation on textbook adoption committees, open houses, and parent/teacher conferences.
Superintendent to Staff. The Superintendent and his immediate staff use a number of methods for internal communication. These include weekly meetings of the Superintendent with the Assistant Superintendents, monthly administrators meetings, the Superintendent's Teacher Advisory Group, and Superintendent's Cluster Groups for Service Personnel.
Principals and Directors to Staff. Within each school and other system facilities, the principals and directors use advisory groups, staff meetings, and leadership teams as effective means for communication. Communications is an essential element of all business processes in the Stafford system. Because of its importance, Stafford has worked to build a solid working relationship with the media. A significant amount of time and effort is devoted to providing information to the media and responding to media inquiries. Good media relations have contributed to a strong, positive image of the school system in the community and have provided an effective means for disseminating information to the public.
The Stafford County Schools have effectively applied the communication processes to assure the success of the school system though effective interaction and involvement of all stakeholders. Benefits include an informed and participative community, more efficient and effective decision making, faculty and support staff involvement, and enhanced capability to meet student and community needs. This effort translates to customer satisfaction at all levels.
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