School/Home Communications Task Force (2015-16)

This task force will explore best practices in school communication with families, providing recommendations to help schools improve their communications.

Task force develops school website recommendations
May 12, 2016

At the May 12 meeting, the task force reviewed data on school websites and interests they had identified for school websites. They developed a set of recommendations for school websites from that information.

A subcommittee on school newsletter templates reported back on their work. The task force gave feedback on the subcommittee’s work and several potential template models.

Task force finalizes school newsletter recommendations; begins discussion around school websites
April 21, 2016

At the April 21 meeting, the task force returned to the preliminary recommendations developed during the March 10 meeting and finalized those recommendations. A budget request in support of the recommendations was also discussed. Kathryn Reith has submitted two relevant budget requests on behalf of the task force.

The task force began its discussion of school websites. The group reviewed the current required content for school websites. A brainstorming session developed a set of interests for school websites. This list will help inform the task force’s recommendations for current websites as well as any future project to refresh school websites.

Task force discusses goals, begins developing recommendations
March 10, 2016

At the March 10 meeting, the task force reviewed the combined results of the small group newsletter review exercise that took place during the February meeting. The most frequent types of content emerged, including calendar items, district information and school procedural information. The group discussed design concepts that emerged from reviewing the many different formats and presentations of the newsletters.

The group returned to a discussion of the goal of a school newsletter. It reached consensus around some basic conclusions on what a school newsletter should do.

The task force began developing recommendations for school newsletters, including frequency, required and recommended content types, and resources needed from the district for schools.

School/Home Communications Task Force reviews current school newsletters
February 18, 2016

At the February 18 meeting, the task force reviewed and analyzed the current newsletters from most of the district’s schools. Newsletters were divided up between small groups looking at a set of newsletters from the same level (elementary, middle or high school). The group checked for specific types of content, frequency and whether it is a school or PTSA newsletter or combined. The groups shared their observations in general on the newsletters.

The task force also discussed whether it should recommend separate or combined newsletters for schools and their PTSAs.

Task force reviews NSPRA recommendations, best practices, survey results
January 14, 2016

The task force reviewed the recommendations of the National School Public Relations Association’s communications audit for the district that pertain to school/home communications. A group discussion surfaced the most important considerations for school communication.

The group also reviewed and discussed relevant sections of the Hanover Research “Best Practices in Family and Community Engagement” report. The discussion centered around the kinds of information that should be included in school newsletters and how it can help parents. Some of the discussion centered on reaching families that do not speak English.

The task force reviewed the results of a survey of school principals concerning their school newsletters. At the next meeting, the group will review copies of newsletters from schools around the district to get a better understanding of current school newsletters.

School/Home Communications Task Force begins its work
December 10, 2015

Kathryn Reith, the LWSD director of communications, led the group through introductions. She reviewed Lake Washington School District’s mission, vision, values and goals. She noted that the work of the School/Home Communications Task Force concerns the district’s strategic goal #5: Engage our community. This Task Force is part of this year’s work around strategic goal #5.

Reith presented a draft charter to guide the work of the School/Home Communications Task Force. First, she reviewed the main purposes of the Task Force:

  • Collaborate with the district to develop recommendation for standard of mass communications for schools and families, including recommended tools, frequency, methods of communication.
  • Learn about best practices and current school practices in school/home mass communications.
  • Clarify the roles of the school and the PTSA with regard to school/home communication.
  • Provide a forum for parents to give meaningful input on the Task Force’s work.

She also presented draft norms and expectations for members of the Task Force. The task force discussed and agreed to the charter, norms and expectations.

Task Force members began their work by reviewing relevant sections of National School Public Relations (NSPRA) Rubrics of Practice and Suggested Measures. The document outlines evidence of emerging, established, and exemplary communications programs. The Task Force then broke into small groups to determine items the Task Force should keep in mind as they develop their recommendations.

The district will survey schools and collect newsletter samples before the next meeting. The Task Force discussed other information that they would like to see included in the survey. Topics included newsletter frequency, who writes and edits the newsletter, distribution methods, communications planning, audiences, and resources.