Communication: Keeping All Stakeholders Informed
The School Council is required to keep members of the school community informed about its activities. Effective communication is an essential component of a successful School Council. This communication will promote the action initiated by the Council, and seek the input of all participants in the school community. It is an ongoing process – throughout the year, every year.
What Parents Want to Know (What parents want to hear about...
- What is the school council doing?
- What is the school’s mission?
- What are the school’s goals for student achievement and well-being?
- What are the results of EQAO assessments? What actions have been/will be taken in response to the results?
- What does the school offer that is additional to curriculum?
- What community activities might engage our families?
- What parent learning opportunities are provided by the school, system and/or community?
- What can parents do at home to help their children?
An effective communication strategy supports the mandate of School Councils which includes these elements:
- To establish and maintain effective communications with all stakeholders in quality
- education, including staff, students, parents and the broader community;
- To serve as a link between the school and the community; and
- To encourage the participation of parents and other people within the community
Considerations for Communicating
To determine this….. Reason for communicating the content
Ask this……………. WHY is it being communicated?
To determine this….. Content
Ask this……………. WHAT needs to be communicated?
To determine this….. Communication vehicle
Ask this……………. HOW will it be communicated?
To determine this….. Communication process: design, development, assessment
Ask this……………. WHO will create, edit, deliver and assess the effectiveness?
To determine this….. Audience selection
Ask this……………. WHO will receive each item?
To determine this….. Timelines
Ask this……………. WHEN will the communication be delivered?
To determine this….. Audience selection
Ask this……………. WHO will receive each item?
Points to consider when determining what media you will use to distribute communication:
- Balance minimum cost against most effective communication;
- Does council have the expertise and support to maintain chosen media? (e.g., maintaining information on a page of the school website)
- Does the intended audience have the means to receive a message? (e.g., if you use an email network, who is excluded?)
- What are the predominant languages for families in your school community?
- What is the production time involved in chosen communication tool? (e.g., website information vs. sign on front door)
- What is the delivery time involved in chosen communication tool? (e.g., a phone call is quick to a few people, but prohibitive to the entire parent population)
Best Ways to Communicate
- One to one, face to face (interacting on the playground or at school events);
- Small group discussions, meetings;
- Speaking before a large group;
- Phone conversations;
- Written personal notes/letters;
- Mass produced non-personal letters; and/or
- Brochure or pamphlet.
Measuring Your Success/Feedback
Communication is a two way street. For communication to be effective, a clear and concise message needs to be SENT, and this message has to be RECEIVED. To ensure that your communication is being received, and to understand how the message is being interpreted, you should solicit feedback. This can be done formally through a survey, which asks a sample of the audience to respond to questions such as:
- Did you receive the communication about ....?
- Was the information clear?
- What can we do better?
Communication that is sent out can include a tear off and return section. This can simply check that the communication was received, or solicit specific feedback or gather information.
Ask directly for feedback. Have council members ask a selection of the parents about the communication.
How will your school council work together as a team working toward what is best for the school?
In Empowered Teams, Wellins and his colleagues define the goals of teams this way:
Highly effective teams are composed of groups of committed individuals who trust each other; have a clear sense of purpose about their work; are effective communicators within and outside the team; make sure everyone in the team is involved in decisions affecting the group; and follow a process that helps them plan, make decisions and ensure the quality of their work.
Team Building Activities
1. Each person has 4 post-it notes
2. On each post-it, each person writes one idea about:
- How they would like to be treated as a council member - or –
- How they would like the council to function
3. Pairs share their individual notes, sticking those together that are similar
4. Each pair meets with another pair, continuing the process of grouping like post-its
5. Continue the grouping process until all post-its have been reviewed
6. Label the categories created by the post-its
7. Group then develops some principles that reflect the intent of the categories
Activity #2: Getting to know you
Objectives of the activity (to be shared with the group):
- Get to know one another better;
- Practice active listening;
- Effective oral communication; and
- Share and appreciate the different interests and values of council members.
Give each participant a list of the topics below (or generate some of your own).
Read to group:
Take a few minutes to think about what you would like to share about yourself with the rest of the Council. Use the topics below to stimulate your thinking. Prepare to share information about yourself with the rest of the Council.
a. Family background
d. Current and past learning opportunities
e. Special event(s) in your life
f. Experience with personal or organizational change
g. Hopes and expectations for students in our schools
Ask Council members to select as many topics as are reasonable for the basis of a self-introduction to the Council. One or two topics for a two-minute introduction are usually adequate. Specify the number of minutes each Council member will be given to talk. Show the Council the signal you will use to let them know their time is up.
Provide three minutes of thinking and writing time. Call on each Council member to share information about him or herself. Watch the time and provide the signal for stopping. When all Council members have reported, ask members to briefly share what they remember about each one.
School councils benefit from networking with other councils to share experience, knowledge and successes. This interaction can be both formal and informal. Some methods your council might consider are:
- Have meetings with other councils in your area;
- Keep in contact with other councils through newsletter, e-mail;
- Distribute phone/address list of your council members to other interested councils;
- Hold workshops on specific topics; and
- Establish committees, with participation from several councils in your area, to address a particular objective.
The following strategies are suggestions for generating ideas:
This process is a creative technique to elicit many ideas. There are a few rules in brainstorming that provide a framework to support all members in idea creation. These are as follows:
- ensure everyone is clear on the issue;
- avoid criticism;
- list every idea;
- encourage quantity, not quality - the more ideas the better;
- modify and combine ideas;
- use visual aids; and
- allow participants to choose priorities.
This process is similar to brainstorming, however the group is subdivided into small groups of four to six people.
- Use flip charts to record all ideas;
- Give each group a time limit; and
- Record all ideas and report back to the main group.
- This is similar to the round table, with more individual participation.
- Each member has index cards and writes down one idea on each card;
- Cards are exchanged and new ideas or comments are added; and
- A facilitator records ideas.
- In this process, participants focus only on the pros and cons of an issue.
Decision Making - Consensus
The idea generating process is ofen followed by consensus decision-making to ensure that the team selects the best idea(s). Consensus is finding the highest level of agreement without dividing participants into factions. It’s an important tool, but may not be needed for all decisions.
Effective decision-making includes:
1. Clear statement of the problem
a. What are you attempting to achieve?
b. Ensure consistency with school mission/vision
3. Who will be affected? How will they be affected?
4. How can they be involved in the process? What role should they play?
5. Information gathering – ensure that you know all of the relevant information so that an “informed” decision can be made.
6. Identify possible solutions.
7. Examine solutions to determine relationship to school council goals.
8. Implement the selected solution.
9. Gather feedback and evaluate.
There are a number of ways school councils can arrive at a decision:
1. School council can make a decision after considering the possible reaction of the school community
2. The school community can be asked for guidance before the decision is made
3. The school council can actively seek ‘consensus’ from the school community and decide accordingly.
The model a school council chooses for making decisions may vary depending on the issue. The first approach saves time and is efficient for simple, straightforward issues. The second and third strategies (consensus building) may be valuable on major, more complex issues.