First, the JETTY is back with some important data which most have already learned but my sense is that we never get enough reminders in the area of community or school district communications for our leaders, especially our superintendents.
While most of the superintendent’s day is full from beginning to end, time has to be given to the issue of inter-department leader meetings or communication, as this is so important especially when times are bad or crisis issues occur. Whereas school departments usually have the most employees and highest budget, often the perception is that we are an island in and of ourselves when in reality this is just not the case.
I know many superintendents who build time into their schedule to meet often with city/town hall officials formally or informally, as well as meeting individually or together with police, fire and public works leaders to discuss a whole range of topics from school bus schedules, safety concerns around schools or the community, plus so many other issues not to mention school emergency issues and crisis plans.
Not to deviate but I attend too many meetings when non-school state leaders express the concern that we do not prepare enough for crisis issues outside of the mandatory evacuation plan and fire drills called by the fire department. The insinuation that is often made is that we need to elevate the number and quality of our school safety plans and quality of safety drills so they are taken more seriously. Recent reports on reviews of schools having major tragedies insinuate that this was the case in the schools involved but then you have to wonder whether “the issue of drills and enough safety planning” is an excuse for such horrible incidents. Sufficient drills and having solid plans, known by all, is obviously vital.
The point is however that communication with local officials can be crucial to discuss the issue above, plus a host of other happenings that are of mutual concern. One of these is obviously financial in terms of filling in the gap for end of the year budgets, as an example.
As superintendent, I can remember pulling up to City Hall to meet with the mayor at the same time as the police and fire chiefs were arriving. They would rush to the building with both commenting, “we want to get to the mayor before you do or there will be no supplementary funds left.” The comments by these two great officials was partly kidding but also had a degree of reality, as I had City Hall officials who gave great support to education.
The reality is that I often backed off, when I knew my colleagues in other departments needed supplementary funds, which they appreciated. This happened because I made it a mission to focus on communication with all departments, as well as inviting them to school events. I really never realized how much the department heads of other agencies appreciated invitations to school activities until a few commented on this after these activities.
So when we had an emergency in the school district, the full support of all departments was present even beyond the emergency response teams. Communications to me avoided the JETTY and created a spirit of cooperation. I am sure most of you have this same philosophy in your districts as well as stories or reasons communication is “vital and needed.”
My best to you to avoid the JETTY,
Paul J. Andrews
JETTY-Defined as a pier or structure of stones, piles or the like, projecting into the sea or other body of water to protect a harbor and deflect the current