Sunday, June 27, 2010

MDUSD, should better communication be a goal?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This quote, from George Bernard Shaw seemed so appropriate for our district's (lack of) commmunication. It is unbelievable that regular communication was not on the job description for our new superintendent? This post is meant to be constructive, I know everyone is busy and in crisis mode, but when can we expect more? When will the storm pass enough so that we can get back to some key basics?

Do you feel communication from the district is adequate? What if the PAC (Parent Advisory Council) meetings were held online? What if the minutes were posted online so we could read what was going on? What if those meeting dates were publicized prominently and an invitation extended to all in the parent community? Hey, just had to ask. Schools, also should get better at having a person appointed to their PAC, and should be sure they're reporting back to their PFC and PTA meetings as well as providing recaps through regular communication methods (online? newsletters?)

So it brings me back to a site that "Linda" found while doing some research online (snapshot above). Wow, what would it take to get to this level of communication? This level of detail distributed to the public? Is the lack of communication that some perceive, solely due to budget cuts? Or does our district leadership really feel no need?

I'm going to cut and paste what "Linda" said in the comments, and then I invite you to look at the site yourself. At first glance, you can tell communication is key. With links to facebook, twitter, Linkedin and youtube - you can tell they want to be transparent and have employed social media to reach their stakeholders. With "quick links" to everything from strategic plans, to "state of the district" messages, budget recaps, pages for parents, employees, students, community and an entire page dedicated to news from the Superintendent's office, one may feel they have reached the holy grail of school district communication.

This district in North Carolina, is to be commended (in my opinion). Could it happen here? Anyway, back to "Linda:"

I read about a new superintendent who moved into a diverse, challenging, school district. He came to the district with a plan for what he was going to do broken down into the first three months, the second three months, and the third three. He shared that information with the community in 2008 when he came on board. He developed a comprehensive and impressive strategic plan with input from the community. He received input from 4,000 stakeholders. His budget presentation for 09-10 included a letter to the community about all of the elements in the budget and brought those element back to their relationship to the strategic plan.

Communication is huge. He does a monthly video, some highlight students other introduce new programs. He has a blog, newsletters, and most impressively an entire section of the district website is called the Superintendent's desk where all of this can be found. The district's website has tons of photos of students and exudes the notion that they are all about the students.The district has 71,000 students and a budget in the high 500 mill. About 2.25 times the size of MDUSD. They are currently facing budget cuts, admittedly not as drastic as MDUSD but they too are faced with cuts.There is not an excuse to be heard coming from that Superintendent. His motto is something along the lines of "nothing less than excellence."

This is the link for the district's main website you can find the "Superintendent's Desk" on the menu bar just below the large revolving photos.

Superintendent's Entry Plan from 2008

This district has completed an extensive strategic plan and you will see in both their 2009-10 and 2010-11 budget everything ties back to a strategic plan and goals.

2009-10 Budget (do not miss his letter on page 7)

2010-11 Budget (once again do not miss his letter on page 7)

I believe you will find this amazing and it proves that we can do better. Our board needs to understand that we are not fighting them, we are begging them for better. They are the target because they truly hold the power to begin the change.


  1. communication within MDUSD has been rather abysmal for decades and it needs to be fixed. i don't know about the school level but each principal should have a monthly newsletter posted on the schools web site (if they don't have one by now they need to get one) as well as being available in hard copy for those who have limited or no web access. each PTA/PTSA/PFC should have a monthly newsletter with a copy of the minuets of the most recent meeting and what their plans/concerns for the future might be. the district needs to have at least a once per month bulletin highlighting what's transpired at board meetings (offical minutes would be best), what's happening with state and federal laws that might/will have an impact on the district, a who's who/who's new, what's going on with the various committees that report to the board and what's been accomplished and what's on tap in reguards to bond expenditures. it should also include any and all crime related items for each school as well as any awards for teachers/administrators/student organizations. we're constantly reading about 'stuff' happening within the district either online or in the newspaper and this is wrong, we should hear it from the district. in a district this large you cannont over communicate, unfortunately this district has excelled in under communicating and it needs to be changed.

  2. It should always be a good thing to have good communication as a goal. I do wonder about what some people consider "good" communication. Even when the district/board/or unions communicate, many people do not believe what is being said.

    I for one would like to see HONEST, OPEN, and INFORMED communication.

  3. Anon 9:22,
    Most PTA's I am aware of do have websites. However, posting minutes is not recommended, as the minutes are a legal document of a member's only organization.