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Dear Randy,

You ask, our leadership expert answers.

With the increasing popularity of social networking sites and the Internet as vehicles for communication (Twitter, Facebook, e-mail), what pitfalls should superintendents be aware of? What possible negative consequences could occur by using these tools? Should we be drawing parameters for how teachers, especially our younger (digital native) teachers, communicate with students?
Mike Ford, Superintendent of Schools,
Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District Clifton Springs, N.Y.

Dear Mike,

With the speed and rapidity of communication, I am concerned that many of our teachers may not fully realize the dangers inherent in using social networking to communicate with students. Comments made in jest today and taken out of context at some future date could have career-altering consequences. Often conversations that begin regarding schoolwork evolve into personal discussions that are potential traps. I would caution school personnel to not "friend" students or parents of students and to utilize the network systems that schools have as the sole means to communicate with them about schools. Do not put it on Facebook, or other social networking sites, if it is not for everyone to see. While there are privacy settings once you post the comment, you have no way of knowing where it will end up. To quote an editorial in The Day (New London, Conn.), "Social networking isn't private conversations or idle chatter between two old friends; it's the equivalent of putting one's thoughts on a highway billboard."


What are the best ways for teachers to communicate with parents and for parents to get more involved with their school district?
Wendy Shelton,Communications Director,
Santa Barbara County (Calif.) Office of Ed.

Dear Wendy,

There are two areas where parent involvement with districts and schools is critical. To achieve good communication between home and school, a district must embrace a philosophy that places communication as a high priority. Timely and honest yet diplomatic communication must be a professional expectation of teachers and administrators. Whenever the communication can be in person, that is desirable. Given the complexities of today's schedules for all constituents, other means of communication must also be available. Telephone conversations and e-mails fall next in the line of effective communication. Many districts have implemented systems that provide a "live" view of student progress so that parents can see a virtual grade book.

For a district to remain in consort with its community, all vested members must sit at the table where decisions are made that determine the direction of the district. School committees and boards of education should have parent representatives.

Strategic planning teams, building committees and policy review boards should all have strong parent representation. Any endeavor undertaken in a school district that will determine the direction of the district and have an academic, social and/ or financial impact on the community should include parents.


I enjoy your column. Could you highlight resources for military families, especially kids whose parents are deployed? Thank you.
Amy Harris,Vice President,
Communications and Marketing Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (Former Director of Communication, AASA)

Dear Amy,

As you know from your time with AASA, there are 700,000 children in the country with one or both parents deployed. This can have a profound impact on the child, but there are a few resources that superintendents can use to help during this time of transition.

  1. The AASA Web site ( has a toolkit for supporting the military child.
  2. The site has background information on each service branch, outlines Department of Defense initiatives that support schools, and sketches the challenges that students from military families face.


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