School Communication: A Long Game of Telephone

School Deets
05/15/19 09:00 AM Comment(s)

Are your methods of sending messages to parents clogging the system?

Imagine this scenario: a school district asks one of their elementary schools to gather parent input on a particular topic by the end of the following week. What are the steps that come next?

  • The district official sends a survey link to the principal

  • The principal then forwards the survey link to the school’s family liaison to distribute to parents

  • The family liaison creates a message to accompany the survey in English and then asks a paraprofessional to translate the message into Spanish

  • The family liaison then forwards the English and Spanish messages to the secretary and asks for it be included in the next weekly e-newsletter, which has about a 40% open rate and is scheduled to be sent out two days before the requested deadline

  • The secretary adds the message and link to the newsletter, which also contains information about continuation, field day, a spring concert, and a school fundraiser.  

  • When the deadline for parent feedback arrives, 15% of parents from that school have responded to the survey in the newsletter


This scenario may sound familiar to school staff, as it’s a very common experience. It also shows the many places where breakdowns can occur; what if the message isn’t translated in time? What if the secretary inadvertently misses the request and the survey doesn’t make it into the newsletter?  The amount of information that schools need to share with parents and families can be staggering, and when you consider how many people touch each piece of information, it’s easy to see how miscommunication can happen.


Imagine the above scenario where the message rests with the family liaison, who is able to send a translated message and survey in a timely manner and as a stand-alone message from a central communication platform, rather than having it buried among overwhelming amount of additional information within a newsletter. Imagine every piece of information can be curated in the same way - sent by the person who owns it to the group of parents who they want to address.


Parent and family communication is more than simply pushing out laundry lists of information. There’s lots of important information that parents need to know throughout the year, but schools sometimes fail to streamline their systems in a way that will keep the messaging timely, specific to parent’s interests, and easy to find.


Parents and schools can be great co-collaborators in their students’ education, and it all starts with basic two-way communication. Parents have the right to ask for information, for translation, for opportunities to become involved. If you feel that you’re missing something, consider initiating a conversation with school staff. While school leaders’ priorities are understandably focused on their students and staff, it’s still worthwhile for leaders to carve out the time to examine your current communication structure and system and ask yourself whether it’s serving parents and families in its best form.


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