Sunday, April 13, 2014

Speak up!

A familiar buzz word these days – well, actually a buzz phrase – is ‘tell your story.’ But because we don't know where or how to start, it is easy to just move on to the next thing on our crowded 'to do' list and wait for someone to ask. 

If there was ever a time to speak up, it's now! News media, politicos, bloggers and tweeters, to name a few, are busy speaking on your behalf. There are 286 school districts in Kansas. That means there are 286 sides to the school funding story. Unless everyone contributes, the story that emerges from all this chatter will be incomplete. 

You have a huge advantage. You each have insider knowledge. You are the expert when it comes to how any change impacts your children, your classroom, your students, your school district or your community. Your community hears news reports and reads social media posts, but your perspective is critical in helping everyone gain perspective and form opinions. 

So, how best to speak up? Here are three simple steps:

1. Start with the WHAT: Provide just enough facts and numbers to give context to your story, but keep it simple. The big numbers are the 'news hook' to grab people's attention, but those same numbers can quickly cause someone to 'tune out' and miss your true message.

2. Then focus on the WHO:  You are the interpreter in the foreign land that is school finance in Kansas. Translate the dollars into people and programs that support students and academic achievement. 

-Who will feel the impact of the possible changes? 
-What is the public likely to see or not see?
-Where will opportunities be gained or lost?
-How do these changes connect to past cuts and future plans?

You don't have to answer every question. The important thing is to give your community a sense of what it all means for the children in your classrooms. 

3. The final step is simple: Just share what you know, even if you don't know much at this time. Issue a media release or statement. Read it at your next board meeting, share it with your staff, community leaders and parents, then use every tool you have at your disposal to push the information out into the community and across the state. At a bare minimum, share your story through:

-District print and/or email newsletter
-District or Superintendent's Blog (This is great reason to start one!)
-Twitter (Check out this great blog about the power of twitter:

Remember, 286 sides to the story about the impact of the new school finance plan and policy changes. Make sure your part of the story is heard.

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