KNOW YOUR PUBLICS
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Strategic Communications Series #6
The world wide web and its multitude of platforms has accelerated the pace of communication and pressured education leaders to stay ahead of the story. Either control the narrative or it will control you. Fifty years ago, when school administrator Kenneth K. Muir introduced the Ten Commandments of School Communications, the world was a smaller place, though still complicated in many ways.
The politicalization of education complicated the reopening of schools for the 2021-22 school year. Weighing public health risks against the costs of schools remaining partially or completed closed to in-person instruction put educators in the eye of the COVID-19 storm. Characterized by rigidity, leader dependence, and erratic behavior, many governance teams were overwhelmed by the shear weight of their responsibilities. In the worst of cases, governance teams lost control of their districts to some degree as lawmakers shaped school district decision-making, in contrast to the conventional model of school districts as localized and non-partisan actors.
Muir's commandment, Thou Shalt Communicate With All Thy Publics rings as true today as it did in Muir's day. Although our "publics" expanded to include political interest groups and other actors whose interests expanded beyond the boundaries of our usual sense-making ability to structure the unknown so we effectively can act in it.
Education leaders need to act in a system to learn from it. Here are a series of weekly messages from a period of time when education leaders were navigating high levels of partisan polarization and trying to protect students and staff in a fractured system.