How school leaders can keep education in the news


“The doors that open wide when a positive story occurs should stay open when something bad happens,” says Arnett. “Schools, like reporters, must acknowledge all sides of an issue, no matter how uncomfortable the outcome. This is the essence of a transparent relationship.”

While the Brookings study takes reporters to task, Arnett says that school and district leaders need to shoulder some responsibility as well.

Administrators don’t always appreciate the inconvenience or importance of working with a news outlet they view as untrustworthy or intrusive, according to Arnett. As a result, they erect barriers to keep reporters out of schools and district offices.

“The issue is not necessarily that reporters are disinclined to tell the story of public education,” says Arnett. “Instead, educators must find new and creative media relations strategies that help reporters navigate the bureaucratic intricacies to tell a story everyone needs to hear.”

In addition to a proactive media relations strategy, Barrington 220 uses an electronic newsletter as well as student-hosted podcasts, blogs, and a video magazine to tell its story.

The district doesn’t shy away from tough topics. In a special edition of the Barrington 220 Podcast Network, Superintendent Tom Leonard talks about recent suicides of Barrington High School students and how the district is responding to the tragedies.

Students, parents, and community members are encouraged to add their voices to the “conversation” by posting blog comments or eMailing icare@cusd220.org.

Tackling tough issues, being proactive, and getting students involved align well with the Brookings Institution’s recommendations for improving public understanding of the nation’s public schools.

By helping set the agenda and define the problems, educators, students, and public officials can help drive news coverage–and a more productive search for educational solutions.

Award-winning eSchool News columnist Nora Carr is the chief of staff for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.

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