The representatives of Malverne UFSD residents met in public on November 10th. This was the second time I regretted the meetings are not recorded or streamed. The first occasion being their meeting in October during which Dr. Romano, the high school principal, had students performed “il teatro delle molte lingue,” described in my previous post. I was not the only one impressed by the show.
“…15 high school students individually thanked the Board using the language of their ancestral origin. It was so impressive to see our diversity unfold from so many countries around the world. The history, customs, beliefs, attitudes, values, experiences and modes of thinking all blending together to form the Malverne school family IS one of our major strengths.” In Dr. Hunderfund’s words.
At this meeting, Mr. Gilhuley, the middle school principal, and Mrs. Gross, the cheerperson for Common Core K-6, presented a perfected version of the “grassroot” campaign that was mentioned at the M. W. Downing PTA meeting earlier in November. Presentations like this one need to be recorded. In summary, the school community understands it needs to showcase all the positive work that goes on at the schools.
This effort is not new. The district management has been trying to influence the perception of schools in the eyes of residents for years. The school board even hired a PR company that revamped the Malverne Pride newsletter and the website, but after several years the results are still not justifying the contract expense. The blasts will always be perceived as what they are—one-way blasts.
The “Malverne schools branding effort 2.0” is different. Instead of relying on virtues of a contracted company, the community, teachers, and administrators form the driving force behind the effort. After the MWD PTA meeting, I recommended a book entitled “The Power of Branding: Telling Your School’s Story,” co-authored by Tony Sinanis (@TonySinanis), the principal at Cantiague elementary school. On its 70 pages, readers find guidelines what to say, how, and why on social media. When I asked at the EdCampLI conference, the author would not mind to come to our district and talk about what he’s been already practicing with his team for several years.
Mr. Gilhuley and Mrs. Gross titled the Malverne campaign “Perception and Branding” with tagline “Telling our school’s story.” They also devised a universal hashtag #gomules. The beauty of the hashtag is that by following this single tag readers/viewers will see posts about the life in our schools coming from all authors/participants. Of course, provided that the authors don’t forget to add the tag to their posts. At this moment, the tag is used on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Try it now. You don’t need an account to view the posts, but you need to set your account in order to communicate.
Yet, we must not forget to include the old fashioned notes on paper in these branding efforts as well. Personally, I like receiving notes as these two examples here and here. But in order to be effective, they need to get online so they contribute to the overall branding effort in creating a contrast to meaningless scores based on standardized tests the real estate companies use.
In my opinion, the Malverne schools branding effort 2.0 is a very promising beginning of getting parents involved in educational issues—by other parents and teachers. A glance at other districts reveals that teachers represent a gargantuan part, as they create the classroom network that spreads and connects with networks of other classrooms, schools and parents—World Wide Web.
As in other districts that embarked on the “socialization” path, there will be mistakes made, but the entire community will learn from them. An informative session on Malverne schools perception and branding 2.0 is scheduled for January 21st. So BYOD to get started.
In all that “community buzz” an attentive observer will notice that the residents representatives remain “somehow detached” and suggest their meetings in public be streamed. The co-owners of $53M Malverne school enterprise spend $800K annually on technology. The bandwidth is wide enough to transfer personal data of hundreds of students simultaneously to the BOCES/NYSED database. So it’s not a technological issue to attach a camera to a wall or shelf.