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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Here's a campaign platform: Supporting Children

There's an article in the Huffington Post this week that is a must read for all those who care about children. (And that should be everybody, right?) It might be especially good reading for someone running for, say, governor of our fair state.

Author Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus and First Focus Campaign for Children, says we must do better for our nation's young people because:
  • 16 million (1 in 5) live in poverty
  • 8 million lack health insurance
  • 1 million are homeless
  • 750,000 are abused and neglected
  • 1 in 5 drop out before high school graduation
  • the U.S. has the 2nd highest infant mortality rate among industrialized nations
We all know that life in Arkansas -- by these stats anyway -- doesn't stack up any better for our kids. And, while he doesn't mention the problem of hunger, it's huge in Arkansas, especially for children. More than one in four young Arkansans face food insecurity, meaning they don't always know if they will have their next meal.

Lesley proposes a number of strategies, but here's one we find especially intriguing -- create a Children's Commission. He's talking nationally, but what a great thing to happen in Arkansas.

Just think about what the synergy of Gov. Beebe's Workforce Cabinet (an alliance of all the agencies involved in education and economic development in the state) has accomplished. Bring together all those who work with children -- education, health, hunger relief, child protection, child advocacy, even financial planners -- and the result could be incredible.

And just what Arkansas needs.

(Our thanks to Rich Huddleston at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families for sharing the link to Lesley's article on his Facebook page.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Strategic communication by any other name...please!

We had to laugh yesterday when we read Rosa Brooks' guest piece -- "Confessions of a strategic communicator" --  in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Brooks worked at the Pentagon. Strategic communication was her job.

The Pentagon recently stopped using the term "strategic communication" because, well, no one seemed to get it.

That's what made us laugh. You see,  First Class Communication offers communication strategy as one of our services. For over a year now, we've been trying to come up with a better moniker for the exact same reason. It's confusing and sounds like communicator jargon.

We agree with Brooks that, though we'd love a spiffier term, communication strategy "has nonetheless come to stand for something complex and important, something that has more to do with 'strategy' than with 'communications.' "

Good communication efforts start with a plan. That plan -- or strategy -- has to address such things as identifying the best and most appropriate message, knowing who needs to hear those messages, determining how best to deliver those messages, when to deliver them, and how to test that your plan worked. In other words, communication strategy.

But if you have a better, catchier term for it...please share! We can't copy the Pentagon's new term because it's even worse -- communication synchronization. Yikes!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jasper SD: A Facebook Hit

Some school districts shy away from Facebook and the like. Not Jasper. Its Facebook page, launched yesterday, is truly a virtual sensation.
Online for less than 24 hours, the page already has well over 200 likes. Here's some the praise garnered so far:
  • "I love the page! Great idea! :)"
  • "This is a great addition. Looking forward to keeping up with things 'round the district." 
  •  "Very excited to see Jasper School District's new FB Page! We are blessed with a great school and this will be a great way to highlight all our students' successes as well as post lots of school information!"
Credit goes to Superintendent Kerry Saylors and his progressive staff. Mr. Saylors approached First Class Communication about developing a Facebook page that would give his beautiful but far-flung campuses -- Oark, Kingston and Jasper -- a greater sense of community. He wanted a complete and combined history of the district, a way to highlight good news at each campus and a venue to share successes districtwide.

That's what he got. The page features:
  • A timeline dating back to 1827, dotted with interesting, sometimes quirky, facts and pictures
  • "Tabs" that give each campus a place to shine
  • A welcome video filmed by Oark campus EAST lab students
  • Guidelines for posting
  • A perfect venue for spreading good news, making important announcements and, when necessary, dealing head-on with any issues that may arise
Take a look for yourself! Here's the link:

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 "inclusive" charter schools make petitions

When the Arkansas State Board of Education meets Monday, it will consider petitions for seven conversion charter schools in Arkansas. This is good!

A conversion charter school is one in which a school district converts one of its traditional schools to a charter school, so all of the students already attending it gain the benefits of the innovation and energy that charter schools often bring. We like this model because of its inclusiveness.

Coming before the State Board on Monday with requests are:
  • Blytheville High School -- A New Tech School (Blytheville School District)
  • Rogers New Technology High School (Rogers Public Schools)
  • Murfreesboro High School (South Pike County School District)
  • Brunson New Vision Charter School (grades 4-5, Warren School District)
  • Washington Academy (grades 9-12, Texarkana School District)
  • Miner Academy (grades 6-12, Bauxite School District)
  • The Academies at Jonesboro High School (Jonesboro School District)
We'll report back next week with results and also share the most exciting plans.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

School district gets new virtual look

Manila Public Schools wanted a virtual fresh start. Its website had become dated in appearance and cumbersome in navigation. Superintendent Pam Castor called First Class Communication, LLC, for help because of our company’s experience in working with Arkansas schools and our knowledge of state requirements for school districts’ online reports.

To make sure the new site truly reflected the values and personality of the school district – both in graphic design and in written content – First Class Communication spent time in all three Manila schools and also visited with administrators, school board members, faculty, students and parents.  We gathered input as to what Manila needed on the new site, what they wanted on it, and how people used the site so we could organize it in the most intuitive way.

During our interviews, we heard a sentiment over and over again that helped us create a new tagline for the school district as well: "A Great Place to Be,” which replaced the former tagline of “Striving to Achieve.”

The new site – found at www  -- launched in December 2012, and First Class Communication will continue to maintain the site in 2013.