The Board of Education has created and approved a strategic plan with four areas of focus: fiscal responsibility, community engagement, academic achievement, and technology. The second area of the strategic plan, community engagement, is highlighted in today’s column.

When hired as superintendent almost five years ago a large concern conveyed through the interview process was the need for better communication and more transparency. To meet this strategic objective of the Board of Education, the District developed and implemented goals to improve the overall school climate allowing for better feedback and solutions to problems. The hiring of a Communications Director in October 2014 was one catalyst that enhanced communications as evidenced by an award winning social media site, an expanded print newsletter with advertising support on the rise, more consistent communications with families using the District’s email messaging system, and a more detailed School Board report to include broadcasting of the meetings on YouTube.

Progress has been made and transparency has improved. The District’s action plan recently included a satisfaction survey where it was learned 84% of people surveyed believe they are well communicated with by the school district. Recognizing community engagement is much broader than communications and transparency, additional action plans were implemented. Board members, administrators, parents, and staff now adhere to a chain of command that begins solving problems at the lowest level possible. District representatives will attempt to attend minimally one meeting every two years at various community organizations. Schools will coordinate opportunities for student service to the community by engaging students in at least one additional service project and by connecting local talents to the needs of students. School buildings are implementing action plans to work with local artisans in an effort to complete coordinated fine arts projects.

This two-way communication is embedded in the strategic plan and its importance is reported by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) that writes, “An effective two-way Communications program generates enthusiasm and energy. It is the catalyst for relevant, effective initiatives that contribute to the bottom line of student success. It builds ownership in the community for the challenges we face, and in turn, develops partners who work with the schools to meet the basic and advanced needs of kids.”

Therefore a first step to engaging the public is informing the public. Information should not happen only when there is a referendum or school board election, but rather information should be consistently telling the story of the happenings in Mineral Point Schools.

NSPRA continues, “The research clearly underscores one straightforward concept: Students simply do better when parents and the community are involved with schools. Test scores climb. Remediation rates dip. Graduation rates improve. And everyone understands and values their roles in the success of the school enterprise.”