5 key questions for school leaders this spring

school security and customer service

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already April.

For school leaders across the country, spring marks that turning point where year-end planning kicks into high gear.

From school security to choice to funding, administrators have a lot to think about. They also have a lot to do in the ensuing months to ensure their schools and students are positioned to succeed next fall.

Here are five important questions every school leader needs to ask:

Do students, parents, and staff feel safe in your schools?

Recent tragedies, such as the shooting in Parkland, Fla., have raised understandable questions about school safety. Now school leaders and lawmakers across the country are looking for ways to improve school security.

These moves come even as new federal data suggest that America’s schools might actually be safer today than they have been in years.

As you evaluate your safety and security protocols this spring, are you doing enough to include parents, students, and staff in these conversations?

Do you have control of your district’s brand story?

As former AASA National Superintendent of the Year Dr. Philip Lanoue recently reminded us, when it comes to branding, a lot of schools limit themselves to developing a new “logo for their football or basketball team.”

But brand is about so much more than the symbols people see when they visit your website–it’s also about how they feel when they enter your schools.

Do you have a way to effectively measure parent, student, and staff perceptions? What steps are you taking to build your school district’s brand this year?

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Is customer service a priority in your district?

Schools aren’t businesses. But they do have customers. In an era of increased school choice and competition, ensuring that students, parents, and staff have a positive experience when they engage your district is critical to your continued success.

As former school superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins writes, customer service is something good school districts do everyday–whether they realize it or not:

When I was superintendent, I employed a simple rule of thumb: For every 100 students enrolled in my district, I assumed that I would have at least one staff member who spent some part of their day performing customer service. They might not have had the words “customer” or “service” in their title. Those words might not have appeared anywhere in their job description–but these team members spent time on the phone with parents, or meeting with community members in our schools. They spent time doing customer service, and they worked in every department.”

Does your school district embrace a customer-first mindset? Share your stories in the comments.

Do students have a strong voice in your district?

The last few months have seen a marked increase in K-12 student activism–primarily around school safety.

From student walkouts to a massive march in Washington, D.C., students are proving that they have opinions on important issues–and that they want to be heard.

The question now is: Are we listening?

Are you cultivating a strong relationship with teachers and staff?

Nearly a month after West Virginia teachers secured a 5 percent pay raise through statewide strikes, disgruntled teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky have launched labor protests of their own.

Despite a recovering economy, a recent report from AASA shows that school budgets have been largely flat for nearly a decade. In several states, dwindling budgets have resulted in years-long pay freezes for K-12 teachers.

School budgets might not be easy to control. But understanding teacher frustrations and mitigating the challenges they face, both personal and professional, certainly is.

To build stronger relationships with teachers and staff, your district has to display strong internal customer service. “Our focus shouldn’t be only on great external customer service,” Dawkins writes. “How you treat your internal customers matters a great deal as well.”

What challenges is your school or district facing this spring? Do these questions ring true to you as we enter the final months of this school year? Tell us in the comments.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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