I wrote last week about the use of blog-style websites as an effective tool for educators to communicate with parents, students, the broader communities we serve, and to network with professionals across the country. Today, Letitia Stein of The Gradebook highlights a blog used by Hillsborough County, Florida School Board member April Griffin for exactly that purpose:
Hillsborough School Board member April Griffin wants people to tell her what they really think. So she’s started the blog, “Sound Off and Be Heard,” at http://soundoffandbeheard.blogspot.com/.
Post anonymously. Post regularly. She just wants to know what’s really on your mind.
“I just wanted to have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on,” Griffin says.
Griffin’s got it – the key to public service is having your fingers on the pulse of the community so you can factor in their concerns to the policy decisions you make. Soliciting opinions from the community doesn’t preclude a member’s individual leadership; instead, the two forces work together.
She won’t share her opinions online, saving them for School Board meetings. She has two rules: Don’t be vulgar and don’t waste her time with insults.
I have to assume that Hillsborough County’s public meetings include full, public discussion of issues. If that’s the case – and I have every reason to believe it is – then she is candid and open about her opinions without having to air them on the site. Her request for an acceptable level of decorum is a reasonable one. And April’s no stranger to blogging; she authored April Griffin’s Campaign Blog to help with her election to the board.
E.C. Huey, a candidate for the Guilford County, NC school board, also thinks education blogs are an important element of effective communication between a district and its constituents. He’s challenged his district’s officials to start blogging.
UPDATE at 5/09/07, 2.34pm:
Calls for blogs by school officials are growing in both volume and frequency. Kimberly Moritz, principal at Gowanda High School in New York, has challenged her superintendent to start blogging to erase misconceptions about the school budget and, in general, to improve communication between the district and community.