I nschool public relations facing a crisis or

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1 W H AT S INSIDE: 2 Ta rget Au d i e n c e 3 Finding T i m e 4 E ff e cti ve Ways to Promote Your Web Site 5 M ay Calendar I nschool public relations facing a crisis or navigating an unfamiliar situation can be daunting. The need for a mentor is imperative. Fortunately for Alabama School Communicators Association (ASCA) members, one of the best mentors in the nation is Nez Calhoun, Public Information Director for Jefferson County Schools. Calhoun will be recognized by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) with the 2007 Barry Gaskin Mentor Legacy Award. The honor recognizes a school public relations professional for their ability to mentor colleagues, and assist their peers to improve their public relations skills. I am thrilled with this honor because it was unexpected and when your peers honor you, you know it is for real. Peers know the work you do, said Calhoun. She has served as the public information director for Jefferson County Schools since 1975 and over that time period has worked with 13 different superintendents. Nez is one of the most giving people I know. Not only does she lead workshops for NSPRA and at state meetings, she is the guiding force for us when we encounter problems, said Tom Salter, senior communications officer with Montgomery Public Schools. A graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor s degree in home economics and a Masters in journalism, Calhoun attended college on a full scholarship. She graduated cum laude in the top 10 percent of her class. Calhoun has worked for Southern Living magazine, Samford University, and Alabama ETV Commission. When Cindy Warner was a rookie Public NEZ CALHOUN PUBLIC INFORMATION DIRECTOR JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOLS Information Officer with Shelby County Schools, Calhoun was the first colleague she turned to for guidance. The practical advice she has given to me over the years has been invaluable. We lovingly refer to her as The Duchess and now NSPRA will give her another title, said Warner. Nez is the epitome of a mentor in school public relations, said Kate Larkin, Opelika City Schools, public relations coordinator. Calhoun will receive her prestigious award July 18 at NSPRA s national convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Congratulations from ASCA and thanks for all your guidance and friendship over the years.

2 Readability formulas have been devised that rate writing on a scale ranging from very-easyto-read to very-difficult-to-read. One of these the Gunning Fog Index reduces everything to a number that approximates the grade level at which a person must read to comprehend the material. For example, writing with a Fog Index of 10.0 is aimed at those who read at or above the tenth-grade level. Gunning also equates the Fog Index to the reading complexity of various popular magazines. He points out that magazines such as Harper s and the Atlantic consistently score 12; Time and Newsweek, 11; Reader s Digest, 10; the former Saturday Evening Post, 9; Ladies Home Journal, 8; True Confessions, 7, and comics, 6. The Fog Index has been applied to the writing in many school publications, and too often the level is too high for the audience. How, for example, does an urban school district expect to communicate with parents of underprivileged children when it sends out a newsletter aimed at the twelfth-grade or Harper s level? For a complete explanation of the Fog Index and excellent advice on how to improve your writing, The Technique of Clear Writing, by Robert Gunning (McGraw-Hill) is recommended. Remember to avoid educational jargon, use familiar words and concrete terms, and your number of words will reduce automatically. Here s another technique: try to keep 70 percent of your words to five letters or fewer when writing to the public. If you do, you ll be on a par with Lincoln s Gettysburg Address. Another principle centers on the length of sentences. Many newspaper editors urge reporters to strive for an average sentence length of 17 words. This does not mean that every sentence should be exactly that long. Failure to vary sentence length would lead to a boring style. What we are after is an average. Holding down the sentence length restricts the number of ideas contained in a sentence. A long sentence with two or more clauses forces the reader to work too hard to get the message before he can take a pause. The remedy is to give the reader the facts in bite-sized chunks a fact or two at a time. So, if you want your writing to be readable, prefer the simple sentence to the complex or compound one. Simple sentences contain one main idea and do not overtax readers. The percentage of simple sentences in newspapers and popular magazine articles range from 30 percent to 60 percent. One last important thought: get to the point immediately. Long introductions bore readers. Research shows that readers will stay with you for a 500 word message if you can interest them beyond the first 50 words. Conversely, most readers stop before reading 50 words unless they identify the subject with their own interests. Reprinted with permission from the copyrighted article In the Interests of Increased Communication: The Fog Index NSPRA Try the FOG INDEX! Take a 100-word sample of something you ve written and apply these steps: 1Find the average number of words per sentence in the sample. (If the final sentence in the sample runs beyond the 100th word, use more than 100 words to compute the average for this step.) 2Count the number of words in the 100-word sample containing three syllables or more. (Do not count proper nouns or three syllable verb forms ending in -ed or -es.) 3Add the average number or words per sentence to the number of words containing three or more syllables and multiply the sum by 0.4. Example: A 100 word passage contains an average of 20 words per sentence and 10 words of three or more syllables. The sum of these two factors is 30 (20 plus 10). Multiplying 30 by 0.4 gives a Fog Index of 12. In applying the formula, take note of these findings: The average American reads at the ninth-grade level. However, many read below that level. Most readers feel more comfortable reading at one or two levels below their maximum. 2

3 A S by Peter Magnuson a busy principal, how often have you said, I wish I had more time? Unfortunately, with new frequently. accountability standards and increasing responsibilities, you may find yourself reiterating that statement more According to a study by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the average elementary school principal spends 58 hours a week at work and work-related functions. With only 168 hours available each week, work is already taking up 35 percent of the average principal s time. To avoid burnout, reduce the number of hours spent in the office, or to find more time to spend on instructional leadership, principals must learn to be good time managers. WAYS TO MAKE YOURSELF A MORE PRODUCTIVE PRINCIPAL Find your best time If you are an early bird, then focus on your priorities in the morning. If you get tired after lunch, then use that time to work on tasks that require less concentration. STRATEGIES FOR GETTING STARTED Time management consultants agree that to effectively manage time, people must plan, delegate, organize, direct, and control. Here are some tips on getting started. Work on public relations South Carolina Principal Kathy Whitmire believes parent concerns are at a minimum because of our intense PR. She and her assistant give presentations to community organizations, write weekly newspaper articles, and spend each morning meeting and greeting parents and students. Getting information out to parents and community members reduces the number of calls and inquiries she receives. Use In West Virginia, Brenda Valentine has teachers their attendance and lunch counts to the office. She also prints district announcements and posts them on the staff bulletin board. Be visible The more I am in the classrooms, the more I am able to prevent or become aware of situations which may require time later on, says Alabama Principal Debbie Patton. Being highly visible can help a principal be proactive and therefore avoid some of the time-consuming activities that keep him or her tied to a desk. Control interruptions The telephone and computer are there for convenience. Try to respond to voice mail and messages only one or two times a day, if possible. Plan Whether it s preparing for the next inservice training, scheduling observations, or finalizing a budget, having a plan helps you prioritize, outlines what needs to be accomplished, and provides guidance on how much time a task will take. Get organized Can you easily find what you need? If not, then you are wasting time. Use a daily calendar, develop a filing system, or invest in a personal digital assistant (PDA). Clearing the clutter will help eliminate distractions. Also, work with your secretary to organize your office and streamline its operation. Delegate The general rule is if one of your staff can do it 80 percent as well as you can, then delegate it. It may take some time to train someone how to do a task, but it will save you time in the long run. Use a to-do list Most principals swear by the to-do list. Writing down tasks and prioritizing them will help focus your time. For a way to structure your list, read Flexibility Begins with Organization in the March/April issue of Principal magazine. Finding Time Communicator March 2003 National Association of Elementary School Principals 3

4 THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR WEB SITE FOR FREE ONLINE. HERE ARE STRATEGIES YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW. Write articles or free reports for other Webmasters to publish and put your Web site address in the byline. If you write good content, your articles will be published and many readers who like your article will go on to visit your Web site. Arrange a joint venture partnership with list owners and Webmasters. Add your ad or Web site address to your signature. This way, every time you send an , you ll be promoting your Web site. Exchange links with other Webmasters. This is another effective strategy for generating targeted traffic to your Web site for free. It involves contacting other Webmasters for a possible link exchange partnership. If you plan to have anything printed up, put your Web address on it. You can print your URL on business cards, stickers, leaflets, etc. For more ideas click here to visit 4

5 ASCA Library Teacher Appreciation Month Mental Health Month Safe Kids Month Physical Fitness Month Memorial Day National Teacher Appreciation Day Alabama State Board of Education Meeting Alabama State Board of Education Meeting Challenger Middle School Web site: Homework/Allteachers.html Remember, the ACSA Resource Library has volumes of information you or your school system can use for presentations, teaching, or putting into practice public relations tactics and rules of thumb. Held in the state Department of Education Communication s Section, the ASCA Resource Library includes books, audiotapes, videos, and DVDs that are available to any ASCA member. The library includes some of the following useful material: School Public Relations Building Confidence in Education NSPRA publication on the principles of public relations and practical examples on how to improve community support. Harpeth Communications Company Media Training System: Attracting Media Attention (Vol. I), Mastering and Managing Interviews (Vol.2), and Managing a Crisis (Vol. 3) Availalbe in these formats: DVD, PowerPoint, Word and.pdf Media Training for government, non-profit and school officials The Wit and Wisdom of PR Success NSPRA A lighthearted book of quotes on school public relations, and bits of wisdom. 5

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