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 call us and ask a specific question.
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 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 student success.
-Who has benefited from all that has accomplished so far and who will benefit from the plans you have for the future? How will they benefit – how will we know?
-Who will feel the impact if we succeed or fail? Where will opportunities be gained or lost?
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.
2. Then focus for a little while on 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 – and it seems to be what Topeka is talking about so you need to address it – but those same numbers can quickly cause someone to ‘tune out’ and miss your true message
3. End with the WHY: Focus on answering the question “what’s in it for the student – the community – our state?” Why does a strong public education system matter? (Be sure to narrow your focus to specific stories and people – try to leave spend too much time philosophizing!)
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!)
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.