School Board aims to increase communication


Public-school students and administrators might start seeing a School Board members in the audience for orchestra concerts, sports activities, and other events.

The Iowa City School Board’s Communication Committee met Tuesday to discuss ways to increase interaction among board members and their constituents.

Regular visits to public schools were among several options discussed.

“My guess is right now not all of us are doing it,” said committee member Mike Cooper.

The School District hired community-relations coordinator Kate Moreland Jan. 17 to alleviate communication problems. She said she was optimistic about increasing board members’ presence.

“I think that’s very doable,” the former attorney said.

Under the proposal, board members would each adopt a few schools to which they would be accountable, and they would communicate directly with administrators at those institutions.

Committee members said they wanted to begin the initiative immediately, and they will present the idea as a pilot program to the School Board on March 8.

Discussion of the School Board website occupied much of the meeting.

Director of information technology David Dude, who was hired Jan. 24, said frequently updating and organizing information online would facilitate interaction among district employees and the public.

“We’re hoping to get a much better content-management system,” he said.

Board members could also maintain a blog with a comments section to foster discussion with area residents, Dude said.

Moreland said the School District’s online presence would be a great way to disseminate news and upcoming events.

“I think we’ll have an opportunity to present information in a better way once the website’s done,” she said.

Moreland and Dude also discussed measures of internal communication, such as using a tool such as Google calendar to organize information from several departments in the district.

Committee member Sarah Swisher said she supported the idea.

“We can see what people are doing in their various official capacities, and it would be easier to coordinate [meetings],” she said.

Committee members debated the merits of issuing official press releases from the School District.

The School Board could use releases to highlight positive occurrences and big decisions, such as the recent naming of Norman Borlaug Elementary, Moreland said.

Cooper said an official release would also clarify the content of the discussion from the School Board following meetings.

“There were certainly times that we would read the paper following a board meeting, and it would almost sound like there were two different meetings,” he said.

A single, official release would ensure solidarity on all issues, Moreland said.

“The caution is keeping us on the same team [and] keeping it so we’re all on the same page,” she said.

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