With schools across the country closed for weeks or months because of the coronavirus pandemic, Superintendents and other school and district leaders are seeking creative ways to stay connected to families and staff.

Of course, your first priority is to communicate what your school communities need to know – about school closures, meal sites, distance learning, health resources, and more. You’ve sent emails, updated your website, and spoken to the press about these critical facts. But how do you continue to reach out to the students and adults stuck at home, when there’s nothing new to report? 

This global emergency presents Superintendents with a powerful opportunity to do more than simply convey information. As students, parents, and staff (and all of us) grow increasingly anxious, frustrated, and at times overwhelmed, we look to our leaders to provide reassurance and relief. This is a great chance for Superintendents to get creative – to lead with professionalism and authority, but also to communicate in ways that let your humanity and personality shine through.  

Social media is a powerful tool to help you do just that. 

I love this Tweet from my colleague Jane Tremblay, Superintendent of the Lynnfield (MA) Public Schools, conceding a new perspective:

Whatever your attitudes may have been about social media in the past, now is the time to embrace it.

Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other platforms, remind your families and staff how to connect with you there (include a link on your COVID-19 web page, in emails, etc.), and make a point of posting regularly. This shouldn’t require a significant time commitment – even just a few minutes a day. 

Need inspiration? Here are some content ideas for your posts: 

  • Record a short video message. In these circumstances, no one expects high-quality production value. Your smartphone will do just fine. Upload a short, upbeat, informal message letting your community know you’re thinking about them. You may even consider a weekly message. 
  • Say thank you. Single out employees or employee groups who are going above and beyond. Post photos of food services staff and custodians hard at work. 
  • Acknowledge partners and supporters. Communities are coming together to support schools in countless ways. Post messages and photos thanking the agencies and organizations stepping up for your students – health departments, police, PTOs, churches, nonprofits, and more. Tag them in your posts to let them know you appreciate them. 
  • Share your own experience. Let your followers see that you’re making adjustments in your personal and professional life, too. Some Superintendents are posting photos of activities at home with their families or a peaceful walk outdoors.
  • Send encouragement to those who need it most. If your heart is breaking for members of the Class of 2020 missing out on the spring of their senior year, post a shout-out to them. 
  • Suggest learning activities. With each passing day, parents are looking for new ways to keep their kids active and engaged. Offer some ideas for fun games and projects that can also enhance learning. 
  • Invite your followers to share what they’re doing. Ask students, parents, and educators to post photos of distance learning in action, or other glimpses into life at home. Consider establishing a unique hashtag for your district to capture these posts, as the Novi (MI) Community School District has done with #NoviTogether. 
  • Highlight work that is still moving forward. Some districts are engaged in building projects and other major initiatives that are advancing even while schools are closed. Assure your community that some of your operations are still up and running. (Conversely, if major projects that the community follows closely are also on hold, share that news, too.) 
  • Celebrate students and staff who are making a difference. Post examples of students and adults doing their part, such as sewing masks for medical personnel or delivering groceries to seniors. Also share opportunities for others to help out! 

Here’s a fantastic video message from Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero of the Portland (OR) Public Schools. The tone is just right (upbeat, optimistic, grateful, but also appropriately serious about the pandemic), and it conveys a lot of great information about everything happening across the district on behalf of families and staff. It’s 12 minutes long because he has a lot to cover, but it’s not one continuous headshot, thanks to editing with B-roll and nice graphics.

Here are some examples from around the country of Superintendents staying in touch via Twitter: