Hillsborough County Schools’ Blog Problem is About Communication
Hillsborough County Public Schools is a case I like to track – partly because the issues they face are common to most all school districts big and small, partly because the HCPS board and administration gives us a non-stop carnival sideshow.
And that carnival sells a lot of tickets. There’s a host of HCPS-related blogs that track the goings-on of the imperfect Tampa system. The St. Pete Times has The Gradebook; HCPS board member April Griffin has Sound Off and Be Heard; HCPS employees unofficially have The Wall; private citizen blogs include Es-Kay, Special Ed Motel, Casting Room Couch and PRO on HCPS.
Lots of daily discussion on those blogs – and that’s a new thing for school districts like HCPS. Most districts are famous among parents/taxpayers as a political black boxes. For better or worse, blogs shine a little light inside.
The Gradebook reminds us today that not every district is thrilled about new media. From “Comments vs. Content”:
“When talking to school board members from across Florida the other day, I heard many gripes that blogs, including ours, weaken our content by allowing untrue things written as reader comments to remain published as if they were true. They also didn’t like the hateful things that many readers say.”
Indeed they don’t – in fact, they don’t like criticism much at all, legitimate or otherwise. Remember when HCPS begged for positive feedback because they were fed up with hearing things they didn’t like?
There’s no question that blog comments – like any discussion, live or electronic – include misinformation. That’s the reality of communication, and if HCPS isn’t comfortable with that, they need to get there quickly.
But it’s important to point out that negativity or inaccuracy in a discussion is most often a consequence of a poor, ineffective communication strategy. The more information you give the public – the more transparent, open and honest schools make the debate – the more accurate the dialogue.
HCPS board member Jennifer Faliero wrote an e-mail to The Gradebook with a handful of suggestions for improving blog relations:
“Two suggestions; the St. Pete Times establish policies governing the use of unregistered bloggers and force people to register and implement an approval process for live comments to be reviewed before going live. This can be done at home by a staffer for round-the-clock monitoring.”
“Forc[ing] people to register” isn’t quite a warm invitation to debate – and her inability to see that such iron-fisted language is a turn-off gives a clue to why HCPS is in this mess to begin with. But Faliero’s out of her mind if she thinks that registration always commands one’s real personal information. The Times would have to institute an outrageously-invasive verification process to satisfy her request. And if one tries to post a comment that needs to be reviewed [i.e., a threat of violence] all the trackable information is there. Poor suggestion, Ms. Faliero.
But the interesting part is how Ms. Faliero thinks that the Times should make a staffer work, as she said, “round-the-clock” to fact-check, approve, monitor, and otherwise police blog comments. If anyone wonders why public schools aren’t models of efficient, cost-effective solutions to simple problems, there’s an example.
Ms. Faliero continues her logical mish-mash:
“The second involves you and taking a more active role in removing content you otherwise would not print.”
To my knowledge, the Times does a fair job of removing the truly incendiary. If I’m wrong – and I might be – they should step up their efforts.
Even so, Faliero is confused. The Times isn’t “print[ing]” comments and they aren’t endorsing comments. The Gradebook, along with others on that list of excellent Tampa-area school blogs, lets the public weigh in on issues. They’re opening lines of communication that have been shut down for years.
In short, they’re facilitating public discourse and some HCPS officials can’t handle it. Welcome to free-market, First Amendment reality in the 21st century, Ms. Faliero.
A [growing] segment of the Hillsborough public doesn’t trust the district. That takes time to erase. But in the meantime, trust can be built by using these channels of communication rather than complaining about them.
If HCPS is concerned, they should read blog comments to identify the public’s interests and then address those concerns while correcting any misinformation. They could, as Ms. Griffin does, participate actively in the dialogue. They could invite blog authors to speak at public school board meetings.
… and HCPS officials with a genuine interest in solving Hillsborough’s problems could engage in blog comment discussion themselves. Just a thought, Ms. Faliero.
We hear from third-rate consultants frequently that “proactive” is better than “reactive.” Here’s a time when they’re right. Less seething, complaining, belly-aching, finger-pointing and intimating that the public is dishonest, ignorant and/or stupid – and more dialogue with the citizens you were elected to represent.
P.S — Rather than ‘register,’ I’ll tell Ms. Faliero and HCPS that my name is Matthew K. Tabor – she, and any others in the hallowed halls of HCPS can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 607.821.1752. We can talk about blogs, new media and transparency in public service.
Matthew writes on school issues at Education for the Aughts and consults on graduate/professional school admissions and new media/communication. He is on the Board of Advisors for Educommunicators, a group dedicated to effective communication in education.
December 10, 2008 - Posted by umiamied | Blogging, Current affairs, Education, Public Schools, Social Media, University of Miami | Blogging, Education, Hillsborough, Matthew Tabor, Public School, Social Media, University of Miami
12 Comments »
This blog has been created by UM students in order to provide an outlet to discuss current issues relating Education. Feel free to comment on articles, ask questions, or propose ideas for new posts! This site is solely meant to encourage and prompt discussion…
Please feel free to email us at: email@example.com and let us know if you would like to write an article.
Enjoy the blog!
Achievement Blogging Careers Community Service Current Issues Dress Codes Economy Education FEA Hillsborough Matthew Tabor Newsweek Principal Page Public School Public Schools Schooling Seminar Service Learning Social Media Standardized Tests Teaching Testing Tracking Underpaid Teachers University of Miami
Scott McLeod on Hillsborough County Schools… Christie Gold on Hillsborough County Schools… Matthew K. Tabor on Hillsborough County Schools… Paola on Education via Subscription Tyler Hurst on Hillsborough County Schools…
Follow us on Twitter
Site infoUNIVERSITY OF MIAMI EDUCATION STUDENTS
Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.