School board adopts communication plan

·4 min read

Aug. 27—School board members on Aug. 22 approved a five-year communication plan for the Newton Community School District, which ultimately provides a guideline to how the district distributes messages to staff, students and families for general information, emergencies and other scenarios throughout the year.

The plan was developed in part by the School Improvement Advisory Committee.

Jordan Bell, a member of SIAC, said the committee found out that there is so much communication that comes out of the school district. Although that is a good thing, she said, it can sometimes be overwhelming and cause people to miss out on crucial information.

SIAC broke down the types of communication the school district would send out, as well as the platforms in which those messages are sent. For example, the school district can communicate messages through its website, email, local media, text and voice messages and social media pages.

Depending on the type of message the district wants to get across, a different form of communication may be used. The types of messages the district deals with include: general information, emergencies, early dismissals, delayed opening, school closures, weather related, common forms and latest news.

Some less pertinent types of communication like general information, latest news or common forms will be showcased on the website or through email or social media. However, emergency information, early dismissal, delayed openings, closures and weather-related communications will be sent to all platforms.

In addition to the charting out which platforms to use for certain messages, SIAC recommended the school district also hire a communications and engagement secretary to oversee all communications and social media pages. Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger said the plan consolidates communications.

"One of the things that came up during our conversation was there was a parent in the group that had kids in more than one building. So you may get a certain type of information one way from one building and you become accustomed to that, but then it comes a completely different way from another building," he said.

The communication plan comes in and brings all that together, Messinger said. The same type of information would be delivered consistently from all sources.

Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger speaks with school board members about the district's communication plan on Aug. 22 at the E.J.H. Beard Administration Center in Newton.

As far as social media platforms go, Newton school district may think about adding TikTok to its list. Messinger said right now people who have children ages 6 and under use TikTok as their main social media source as opposed to Facebook or Twitter.

School board members Liz Hammerly and Ray Whipple sat in on the SIAC meetings that eventually led to the creation of the plan. Whipple said it was largely community driven process. Hammerly agreed and said what struck her was the amount of messaging coming from social media.

"Sometimes you have a message coming about a school that no one from the school had made, and then it was shared so many (times). So I think this is a really important piece that we need so we can efficiently use everything that the community, in terms of resources, offers," Hammerly said.

Messigner said the creation of the plan also highlighted ineffective ways of communication. Last year one of the goals that came out of SIAC was setting a priority on student-staff mental health. Administration put in place employee and student assistant programs. Some SIAC members were unaware of the program.

"So we had a program in place that came about as a result of SIAC last year but because of communication that wasn't well-orchestrated, people didn't know about it," Messinger said. "...This way we're going to be able to better get the word out on some of these things that are in place."

Eventually, the school district will distribute its communication plan to families. A digital copy of the plan is viewable in the Aug. 22 school board agenda.

Included in the physical copt of the communication plan are several QR codes that can be scanned and direct people to certain websites or social media pages. Some of the codes direct people to the board meetings website and a link where parents can apply for free and reduced lunch.

Other QR codes allow parents to download the app to access Infinite Campus and Here Comes The Bus.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com