Flood of school PR opportunities

The Susquehanna River flooded last week on what for many students the first day of the school year. The flooding presented school districts with significant challenges.

Districts did a good job of keeping kids safe and cooperating with emergency services. Several public schools opened as temporary shelters for evacuees.

Schools did a less good job of responding to community concerns.

After a discussion yesterday on Twitter about the fact that many school districts hadn’t posted anything on their websites about whether there would be school today, I did a quick check of website of school districts in the New York State portion of the Susquehanna Valley this morning.

Two superintendents did a superb job of responding to concerns residents had.  Most of the others didn’t do much.

Two superintendents who got it right

Peggy J. Wozniak, superintendent of Binghamton city schools, and Jason Andrews, superintendent of Windsor schools, did an excellent job of coping with the public relations aspects of the crisis.

Wozniak has her bulletins front-and-center of the district homepage, with her photo, her name, and her title. That’s a subtle way of telling people there’s somebody in charge.  She responds to parents’ concerns before they grew into worries. Her messages are:

  • short,
  • specific, and
  • include a timeline when people can expect further information.

That’s A+ work in my book.

Jason Andrews also responded well. He put signed messages on the home page, giving people that important sense of someone at the helm  (though I did have to search to find his job title).  His message is

  • short,
  • specific, and
  • includes a timeline when people can expect further information.

That missing job title, and the update in a PDF  knock him town to A-, but that’s still an impressive performance under the stress of a sudden crisis.

Voters will remember the leaders they could trust in a crisis. Other superintendents would do well to learn a lesson from these two.

Bulletins on school websites

My findings are listed from north, where there was minimal flooding, to south where flooding reached historic levels. [All links were removed 2014-05-10 as none showed the information referenced.]

Cooperstown Central School District. At the source of the Susquehanna, no mention of flooding.

Milford Central School District.  No mention of flooding, which would have been relatively slight.

Oneonta City School District.  No mention of flooding, although parts of the city were flooded.

Unatego Central School District. No mention of flooding, although homes and businesses were flooded in the area.

Sidney Central School District. Homepage sends visitors to Sidneyflood.org, a website that was last updated  Sunday at 12:30 (I’m assuming that’s PM). That page directs people to listen to the radio.

Bainbridge Central School District. Home page notice posted Thursday, Sept. 8 says there is no school on Friday. Nothing has been posted since.

Afton Central School District.  Banner posted Sunday, Sept. 11 said school will be open today.

Harpursville Central School District.  Home page notice posted Sunday, says school will re-open for students Wednesday Sept 14. Faculty and staff  are directed to report today at the regular time bringing their own drinking water and lunch.

Binghamton City School District.  A homepage message posted Sunday saying Binghamton schools will re-open  today. It also says there will be no school for MacArthur Elementary School students, but MacArthur staff were  to report to the West Middle School Auditorium at 8:00 AM.  Plans for the return and interim location for MacArthur students to attend school will be completed tomorrow, Monday, September 12 and will be posted here on the district’s website.

Vestal Central School District. Homepage bulletin posted Sunday at 2:35 PM says Vestal schools are closed today and instructional staff are not required to come in. Administrators and clerical staff are asked to report if it is safe to do so.

Union-Endicott Central School District. A home page notice posted yesterday says all Union-Endicott Schools will be open today except for Ann McGuinness, which is closed because of a road closure. The notice also says the ACT test has been rescheduled.

Maine-Endwell Central School District. A home page notice posted yesterday says the schools will be open today.

Windsor Central School District. A homepage flooding update tells what damage the district had, says the district plans to reopen today, and gives a time frame when people can expect further information.  A .pdf added later gives details of the relocation.