Update from the Superintendent - April 28, 2023

NOTE: This is Part 1 of a five-part series around MSAD #51 communication that I will be addressing in order to be as transparent as possible about why, when, and how our district communicates (or does not) around topics of importance to students, parents, and staff. It is my hope that by the end of this series, even if you may not agree with everything I have written, that at least you feel there is some measure of clarity about MSAD #51 communications.

WHY Are We Talking About Communication?

Until recently, schools were largely the sole source of information about what was happening in public education, using traditional communication tools that were mostly one-way in nature and not particularly time-sensitive. Over the last two decades, there has been an increasing reliance on diversified digital platforms, including social media, as a key source of communication and information, including news about schools and school districts. 

This can be very positive, but at times can be frustrating when inaccurate information and rumors are circulated. It also can be frustrating when stakeholders do not know why the school district or individual schools are, or are not, communicating in a way that may be expected or hoped for.

During the pandemic, it was essential for the district as a whole to communicate consistently and with one voice around health protocols, given that there were many prescriptive and fluctuating rules coming from the state level. Whether you were in agreement with these protocols or not, we were nonetheless obligated to ensure a level of general safety based on the requirements, expectations, and information available at that time. During the pandemic, communication was largely streamlined with the Board, Superintendent, and district-level notifications and updates being the main source.

In the post-pandemic era that started about a year ago, we have moved away from this district-level communication back to pre-covid times when most communication came from individual principals and teachers. However, I have noticed that there has been a continued expectation from some members of the school community, and perhaps even a comfort level, that the district as a whole keeps providing a majority of the communication to families and other stakeholders.

It is critical when incidents take place at school that could potentially cause concern for our stakeholders that we have a clearly defined communication process in place–one that demonstrates accountability, preserves trust, and builds connections. This process, though, is only as good as our clarity around it. Over the next four weeks, I will make efforts to explain our process as completely as possible in order to demonstrate our commitment to the goals stated above.

UP NEXT: Part 2 "Communication Spheres of Influence"

Jeff Porter