Monday, August 24, 2009

School Districts Sell Trust

Today my daughter started kindergarten. It was hard for me to see her all dressed up and excited about starting at her new school. It wasn't hard because I want her to stay a little girl, but because of my irrational fear of the big world.

All that aside, today gave me a uniquely poignant opportunity to explore the transaction of trust ideals and what school districts "sell" to their communities.

School districts and the business of selling
School district administrations have many choices to make on a daily basis with far-reaching implications. As a communications and PR professional for a suburban school district, I have seen first-hand the oftentimes arduous process these decisions go through and ultimately given to the community of parents, students, staff, and public.

So how are we selling trust?

In order for a school district to have an effective relationship with its community, the district's stakeholders must trust that...
  1. the school district will provide safe learning environments;
  2. their teachers will adhere to set instructional standards and expectations;
  3. all students will be given every opportunity to succeed and achieve;
  4. parents are a wanted and integral part of the learning process;
  5. technology and instruction will not be mutually exclusive;
  6. when things go wrong, the district will be open and honest when communicating and work to mitigate future issues;
  7. tax dollars will be spent and sought with sound financial judgment;
  8. facilities will be constructed and maintained with extreme care; and
  9. ultimately, what's in the best interest of students' education will be the guide.
Are you paying attention to the details?
I asked another new kindergarten parent, Kami Huyse (a respected communications professional) of her thoughts on trust from a school. Here's what she said via Twitter:
The orderly way in which things ran today was neat, controlled chaos. Also, the "call" from the principal yesterday and today, cool | Not sure if that is selling but made me more comfortable my kid was in able and responsible hands | The key was in the details, that they pay attention to details, makes me trust them more.
The numbered list above includes what I believe to be trustworthy ideals. They are what make your community believe you have "able and responsible hands." The ideals are quite difficult to achieve all the time due to circumstances beyond the control of district. However, as school communicators, it is our job to provide counsel, explore challenges, plan sound strategy in the face of adversity, and implement tactics to help facilitate the transaction of trust.

It is also not a complete list. What other ways do school districts sell trust?