Things change. School boards come up with new policies all the time. Once-popular programs fall by the wayside or need updating. Many of these changes are out of your control.
Even though you might not have come up with the changes, it falls to you to notify parents who might be affected or the general community as a whole. This is usually not fun. Here are some best practices:
Utilize all means of communication
The worst outcome in this situation is for a parent to assume the change hasn’t happened because they never received your message. That parent is the one that calls your office five times a day until the problem is resolved.
In a 2011 Pew Research survey, 73% of adults text and 31% would rather be notified of something via text than a phone call. In the three years since that survey, those numbers have surely gone up. Many parent outreach systems now include texts and you need to use that functionality for every message. Take an all-of-the-above approach to outreach, especially on important changes that affect parents.
Provide an alternative, even at another school
Although affected parents will usually have been keeping up with the issue, if a program is ending at your school there will inevitably be parents who are surprised when the news comes down. You can’t assume anything, including that people will make alternative arrangements themselves.
If something significantly alters the school experience for a child, like the end of a special program, you become the ambassador for the district. In your outreach, provide alternatives for affected parents—even if that alternative is relocation. You might lose that kid but goodwill and transparency goes a long way in community relations.
Utilize the teachers
No matter how helpful and personable you are, a child’s teacher will always have more contact with parents than you do. If they’re doing it right, that relationship will be a lot stronger as well. And while schoolwide news should still come from you, there’s nothing wrong with enlisting the help of teachers to smooth the process.
Start your initial outreach strategy (see above), then ask the teachers of affected families to reach out to their parents with tips and suggestions on how they can best transition to the new policy or program.
What these strategies show is that the entire school is a community invested in the welfare of every child. Although you might often be the scapegoat or the lightning rod, you can lessen the strikes with some thoughtfulness.
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