Advertisement

A plan to communicate

January 12, 1999

Following a 1997 study of its operations, the Washington County Board of Education developed a strategic plan to improve everything from the way lessons are taught to the school buildings themselves.

Now the board is considering hiring a public-relations consultant to help communicate that plan to the public, with some members saying the need is so urgent there's no time for the formal bid process that's usually used. We agree that the need for better communications is urgent, which is precisely why it's necessary to hear more than one agency's proposal.

Our concern is that while it would be easy to spend $25,000 on a public-relations blitz, we've dealt to with too many complicated issues to believe that true communication with the public is achieved in a short period of time. The system itself needs to change, so that when top officials talk about the plan - and why it will take an estimated $13 million to implement it over the next five years - they sound like real people, and not like education textbooks.

Advertisement

We say that not to be critical, because every profession, including our own, develops its own language and shorthand expressions. What educators have to remember is that terms like "curriculum expectations" are unfamiliar to the average taxpayer, who may be reluctant to admit that he or she doesn't understand what they mean.

And so we'd like to see some proposals that would improve the existing staff's communication skills, perhaps by putting them in regular contact with small groups of ordinary citizens who can provide them with immediate cues - visual and otherwise - when the message isn't getting through.

Finally, here's a radical thought that might go a long way toward making this plan successful: Why not ask the Washington County Teachers' Association for a proposal? Here's a group of professionals which has to work hard every day at communicating facts to an audience that's hearing the material for the first time. If they don't have a few fresh thoughts about how to do the same thing with their students' parents, we'd be mighty surprised.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|