RR 2.0 - Communication

Communication Graphic

The goal of Worcester County Public Schools’ Office of Public Relations & Special Programs (OPR) is to inform, engage and inspire trust from all stakeholders and our community, regardless of circumstances like those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The OPR continues its efforts to keep Worcester County Public Schools’ 1,200 employees, 6,500 students, their families, and the Worcester County community informed about the work of the school system.
 
No matter the environment, the OPR relays vital information to all stakeholders, supports crisis situations, continues to build and enhance the Worcester County Public Schools brand, directs community relations, responds to the media, and leads many other “business as usual” communication efforts. 

With lessons learned from the 2020-21 school year, we anticipate communication efforts to remain at an elevated level with moderate complexity. To continue to deliver timely and effective communication, we must remain agile, flexible, creative, and responsive. 

The importance of delivering timely communications to all stakeholders cannot be overstated. Complexity notwithstanding, in order to serve the information needs of Worcester County’s entire community, the OPR has bolstered its use of translation services to ensure that all non-English speaking families receive (or have access through online translation mechanisms) information in their chosen language(s) at the same time as every other family in the school system.
 

INTERNAL COMMUNICATION

Worcester County Public Schools provides crisis and regular updates to employees via multiple channels including email, social media, video, automated notifications, and face-to-face or virtual meetings. Using lessons learned during the 2020-2021 school year, the following notification tools will be primarily utilized to engage and inform employees.
 
• WCPSAll Email – Email to employees continues to serve as the primary channel for internal communications. Information shared on the Responsible Return 2.0 plan will continue to be branded as such when disseminated through this channel.
• Automated Notifications – The school system and all schools provide important updates and crisis alerts utilizing the SchoolMessenger automated broadcast platform. Faculty and staff lists have been established for targeting internal messages. 
• Communication Toolkits for Leaders – A best practice that emerged during the 2020-2021 school year was the production of comprehensive toolkits for school- and Central Office leaders to ensure clear, consistent messaging across the school system.

EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION

External communication will be situationally adaptive. Major announcements and day-to-day messaging for external stakeholders (families, students, employees, community members, media, elected officials, and others) will include emails, eNewsletter, automated notifications, websites, media engagement and news coverage, social media, and video. Key communication tools to support the Responsible Return plan include, but are not limited to:
 
• Responsible Return 2.0 Webpage – The existing Responsible Return public-facing webpage on the existing Worcester County Public Schools website will be updated to reflect the revisions reflected in the RR 2.0 plan. Content includes but is not limited to the following high-value topics: blended learning, instructional schedules, curriculum support resources, student expectations, access to the public-facing Help Desk, Food Services program, social emotional health, special education, FAQs, and pertinent community resources.
• Automated Notifications - The district and all schools provide important updates and crisis alerts utilizing the SchoolMessenger automated notification platform. Transcripts of these notifications will be available (in translatable formats) on our website. 
• Media Response - Reactive and proactive activity with local, regional, and national media to provide timely and accurate responses to media inquiries. Produce and promote Worcester County stories about schools, student achievement, and district activities. 
• Videography - Produce high quality visual storytelling for all audiences. The school system website and social media, including Facebook Live, and potentially new broadcast outlets will serve as content distribution platforms.
• Social Media - Maximize the use of our school system social media channels to provide content that encourages interaction and engagement with external audiences. The OPR will continue to practice social listening to identify and dispel any rumors or misinformation related to the school system and the Responsible Return 2.0 plan.

The OPR will also support school-level outreach and communication as school administration utilize already established channels to provide school-specific messaging. This support will continue through the established protocols. 
 

COMMUNITY OUTREACH & ENGAGEMENT / STAKEHOLDER FEEDBACK

The school system will continue to develop and nurture partnerships and relationships with community organizations, interest groups, and initiatives that align with and support Worcester County Public Schools’ mission, vision, and strategic plan. These partnerships are vital as ongoing feedback is sought on Responsible Return 2.0. The OPR will provide leadership, coordination, and information dissemination for outreach and engagement initiatives conducted by, or in cooperation with, other school system departments.

CRISIS COMMUNICATION

The health and safety of Worcester County Public Schools students and staff remains our top priority. Crisis communications encompasses community messaging and school support related to incidents and issues such as lockdowns, shelter in place, threats, etc. Schools will be the primary resource for determining and delivering building-level emergency messaging under the direction of the Chief Safety & Human Relations Officer, the OPR, and any appropriate personnel (i.e. Mental Health Coordinator).
 
During the 2020-2021, a public-facing school status (open/closed) dashboard was developed on the Worcester County Public Schools’ website. This OPR will work closely with the Coordinator of Student Health Services and school system leaders to determine the use of and any modifications to this dashboard for the 2021-2022 school year.  
 

SCHOOL AND CENTRAL OFFICE MARKETING & COMMUNICATION SUPPORT

In tandem with activities driven by the Responsible Return 2.0 plan, business-as-usual initiatives will continue to support the strategic communications needs of Worcester County Public Schools. We anticipate constant fluidity and priority shifts for what’s necessary today, while simultaneously executing for the future state of schools.


 

Resources

School System Website: www.worcesterk12.org
Social Media Channels: Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram