As school communities continue to face challenges with divisive public arguments over curriculum and COVID-19 protocols, the School Superintendents Association (AASA), and the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) have partnered to launch a Leadership in School Communication Program.

The program encourages superintendents and their communications staff to work in teams as they participate in one in-person and four virtual learning modules focused on critical areas of communication leadership. The program will run from March to July.

The goal of the program is to help develop clearer district communication that leads to a more civil and understanding environment in school communities, according to a report by K12 Dive.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many districts already viewed building communication skills, improving trust with parents and focusing on community engagement as areas for improvement, but the challenges of the past two years have amplified that need.

Misinformation in school communities has floated around since the pandemic’s onset and been exacerbated by debates over topics like critical race theory, vaccines, mask mandates and more. As the misinformation spread, school board meetings in some areas have become violent and educators have been verbally abused and attacked.

It’s a situation most education leaders say they never expected to see and could use help to diffuse.

With that in mind, the AASA-NSPRA program’s learning module topics include:

  • Best practices in communication.
  • Framing messages in a time of community divisiveness.
  • Designing and delivering authentic community engagement.
  • Telling districts’ stories through social and digital media.
  • Taking control of media interviews.

Research around communications has found the more information parents receive from schools, the more likely they will be to actively support district efforts, according to NSPRA.