My newest obsession is the analysis of the ways in which schools/teachers/administrators/community members sell their brand. The importance of telling our story has never been as important…as crucial in this era of education! We can either tell our own story or invite the misinformed outsiders to stake a claim to what they believe happens in our schools. Every time I get the opportunity to hear Tony Sinanis, @tonysinanis, speak about school branding, I am inspired to document the top notch environment that exists at Berner Middle School in Massapequa. Each of Tony’s parents at Cantiague Elementary in Jericho is able to see into his/her child’s classroom and capture the fantastic teaching and learning that happens each day. Through Tony’s lens (and his teachers who have bought into this necessary practice), parents are digitally invited into the building and embraced in what truly has become a school community. In a recent conversation about effective school branding, a colleague asked me, “But, Ed, is it too much? Should parents really be able to log on to Twitter and supervise all that goes on?” Immediately, I wanted to shout, “OF COURSE!” Halloween made that answer even more definitive for me as I truly became a school parent for the first time.
My son attends day care at New Beginnings in Kings Park which is housed in a former elementary building. His first Halloween parade was on Friday and since my wife and I both work, we were unable to attend. However, with Twitter and a committed superintendent, I was able to get a glimpse of the costume march around the property. After logging into Twitter, I saw Dr. Tim Eagen’s post through the district’s Twitter account (@kpschools), “New Beginnings Parade at San Remo today :)” with a picture of the infants and toddlers proudly sporting their costumes. See, I knew that Max was going to be a farmer for Halloween. I knew the specifics of his costume. Yet, I zoomed in, zoomed out, focused on the right corner, the left corner, etc. to see if I can see my son happily marching. To perhaps see if he is smiling and enjoying his walk down his red carpet. How awesome! How lucky. Sitting nearly 40 minutes away in my office, I was able to capture the moment of my son’s first parade. A year ago in Kings Park, I would have been left in the dark. The impact of committed and digital leadership is simply invaluable. Branding the district and highlighting the events of a school community should not only be a choice but an expectation of a 21st century school leader. Thankfully, Kings Park has put our district in the hands of a leader who understands transparency and the benefits of marketing.
The five minutes of trying to find Max on the screen made me reflect. We no longer have to suffer through the sound of AOL trying to log in, jump through hoops to wait for the available dial tone, or navigate through different sites to get connected. It is easy. It is too easy to not use. Or ignore. As we progress in this age of digital leadership and digitally saturated instruction, school branding and telling our story shouldn’t even be a question. Parents want to join us in this journey of educating their children. They are curious learners and leaders as well. They deserve it. For us to not provide this awesome opportunity is careless. I welcome the future opportunity of potential candidates to show their branding during the interview process. Put aside those binders!
I think back to that conversation I had a couple weeks ago and realize that too much is never too much. At some point when they can’t get to the building, our parents and community members will be eager to see why our reputation is so great. Whether it is seeing their son in his first costume or getting a glimpse of their daughter in front of a green screen, the ability to get connected is priceless.