Authentic Communications Using Social Media

As many of you know, I have an active Twitter feed @drjcm and the district maintains an active Twitter feed @HilliardSchools and a Hilliard City Schools Facebook page. Many of you, especially students, posed some interesting comments and questions on these social media channels this week. While I can’t possibly answer every Tweet or post, here are a couple answers to commonly asked questions.

Why do you wait until early morning to make a decision? Parents appreciate additional time to plan.

How do you deal with all the negativity on Twitter and Facebook?

Would you ever change a Two-Hour Delay to Closed?

What does a Two-hour delay accomplish? The roads aren’t getting any better and it isn’t getting warmer?

SnowDay

Blizzard Bags “take the fun out of snow days” – why do them?

Why do you wait until early morning to make a decision? Parents appreciate additional time to plan.

Weather forecasts are good, but they are not perfect. I “hold out” hope until the last minute that we can get our students safely to school. We are all looking at the same weather and forecasts. While the forecast may look bad, it is only a forecast. So, I would encourage students and parents to make reasonable plans. If the forecast is foreboding and road conditions are questionable, it may make sense to plan for a delay or cancelation. In the event that we are safely able to hold school, being over prepared is never a bad thing. Furthermore for our students that often ask if they should study or do their homework, my answer is always yes. If you get your homework done, it gives you more time for relaxing later.

Would you ever change a Two-Hour Delay to Closed?

While I try to “never say never,” our goal is to not change from a delay to closing school. Once we announce a delay, I want parents and students to feel secure making arrangements based on that decision. This is one reason why I am extremely reluctant to call a “delay” the night before. While I may be “leaning” towards a delay, I will not post a delay and then change it to closed. That isn’t fair to working families. I feel better waiting and then making a “final” call in the early morning. I know some high school students are already up and getting ready at 5:30 a.m., but we can’t really make the best decision for the entire district any earlier. We post the information as soon as we know.

What does a Two-hour delay accomplish? The roads aren’t getting any better and it isn’t getting warmer?

A two-hour delay can have multiple benefits. First of all, a delay ensures all students are walking, driving and waiting at bus stops in daylight. On a morning with snow piled-up from plows and some untreated roads, daylight provides a huge benefit for our students, families and drivers. Secondly, in some cases, a delay may allow road crews a couple extra important hours to treat and plow the roads. The district maintenance team is amazing – they get to work before 3 a.m. on our parking lots and schools. A couple of extra hours can make a big difference.

Blizzard Bags “take the fun out of snow days” – why do them?

Yes snow days have a certain youthful joy. There is something about the memories of playing outside, sipping hot chocolate after building a snowman and hanging those wet socks up in the laundry room. And yes, for the sixth snow day this school year we are asking students to engage their brains and spend some time on schoolwork. This is a change; it may take a couple hours of “joy” away from the traditional snow day. Just remember . . . a couple hours inside on a snowy day in February just replaced a full day of school on June 2nd. Our students are able to continue learning in February – working on assignments provided by their teachers to keep them current in their classes – in exchange of a day at the pool, playing outside or that family vacation some have already booked for early June.

How do you deal with all the negativity on Twitter and Facebook?

To be completely honest, it can be difficult. I do sometimes wonder if this is worthwhile. I am beginning to question if this is an effective way for the superintendent to communicate with students. As an educator, I am deeply concerned about the lack of filter by some people on social media. I do worry about the digital footprint our students are creating. I enjoy engaging students and parents; that is what I do and who I am. I believe in authentic, honest communications. At the same time, we have a group of students that seem to “cross the line” frequently. For some, Twitter has created an audience that goes beyond communications.

For the most extreme cases, we have contacted parents to report abuse of the system. I have direct messaged and contacted students about posts that concern me. We are educators – this can be a tremendous teaching and learning tool. If our Twitter presence can be used to inform parents, teach students and make a difference for young people – then it is worth it. If it becomes an audience for vulgarity and inappropriate attempts at humor, I will cease and desist with my Twitter notifications.

For our parents and students – colleges, recruiters and future employers will search and look at your Twitter and Facebook pages. Once posted, even if you delete something, it is “out there” forever. You are creating a footprint that will follow you. School is a place for safe learning, for making mistakes and growing as a person. Unfortunately, some of the mistakes you are making on social media will follow you beyond your school years. Some of your potential mistakes today could take away opportunities in the future. Be smart . . . clean it up . . . and remember that anyone can read, save or re-tweet what you post.

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