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It’s about communication– not a logo

Opinion Rosanne Wood, Your Turn Published 7:00 p.m. ET Oct. 15, 2019

It’s true that the district needs a special education teacher at Kate Sullivan Elementary School. But it’s not that we don’t have the funds to hire the teacher, as was implied in a recent news article. We simply can’t find a qualified applicant.

We are in the throes of a national teacher shortage. So how do we get a highly qualified applicant to move to Leon County and teach here? Marketing our schools.

For example, the first thing an out-of-state teacher looks at is our website, and we need to make it more attractive and informative.

How many parents know that in many of our elementary schools, we are now offering engineering, robotics and foreign language classes? Or that we will soon launch pre-IB programs at W.T. Moore and Hartsfield? Do they know our high school students can dual enroll and earn an AA degree or become certified in a vocational skill before graduation? I doubt it.

We have many outstanding programs in our public schools and it’s our job to let the public know about them.

As our highest priority, Superintendent Rocky Hanna and our school board have cut district costs and plowed millions of dollars back into our schools for safety, supplies, equipment, student activities, Pre-K programs and pay raises for all employees.

We live in a competitive world of choice, charters and private school vouchers. Public education used to be a monopoly. No competition. Every year, the students simply showed up. Not today.

There’s a reason you constantly see and hear advertisements for private and charter schools. Every child who leaves Leon County Schools takes $7,000 in state funding with them. Between home school, private school vouchers and charter schools, the district loses nearly $53 million dollars a year! We can’t sit idly by and watch funding drain from our innovative programs in the arts and technology.

Some have criticized our recent decision to hire an educational consulting firm to guide us. Simple answer — we can’t afford not to. If we don’t tell parents and the community about the many great choices they have right in LCS, how will they know? If 10-20 students stay in or return to Leon County schools, that will more than pay for our efforts.

We are also dealing with crisis situations at our schools. Most of the time they are false alarms. But regardless, parents demand immediate, accurate information. This takes a strategic approach to communication, and that’s part of this plan.

No one questions that a child’s first teacher is the parent. Yet we struggle to get some parents involved in their child’s education. What’s the solution? Improving communication with parents and assisting them in helping their child.

Everyone knows property values are affected by perceptions of “good and bad” neighborhood schools. It’s in our community’s interest that every child in every neighborhood have a great public school — and that people know about it.

So this initiative isn’t really about "branding." It’s about communicating with parents, recruiting teachers, supporting our staff, building community support and maintaining our budget so we can deliver the highest quality education our students deserve. 

Rosanne Wood is chair of the Leon County School Board.

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