ST. MARYS — The St. Marys Area School District is making an effort to improve how it reaches the public and hoping to give a fresh perspective in the process.
Ongoing efforts to improve outreach, specifically online, were included as a goal in the district’s comprehensive plan accepted Monday.
One of three goals listed in the plan was entitled “’Changing the Narrative’ by telling our overwhelmingly positive story via social media outlets...”
“We want to show the positives of public education,” Superintendent Brian Toth said. “If you haven’t been in a public school since you graduated, you may not know all the good things that we’re doing. We want to say, ‘This is how our schools have changed to make students more college and career ready and we’re proud of that.’ We want to show people.”
It’s an effort that incorporates both modernizing efforts on the technical end of the spectrum and recognizing the effort has grown on the personnel end.
“We started out with Facebook. When I came here, the district did not have a Facebook page,” Toth said. “As time went on, we also updated our website to have a more modern page.”
Approximately three years ago the district did a technology overhaul, which included obtaining more modern equipment.
“When we did that, we were able to upgrade our recording studios for doing our live streams,” Toth said. “As that came about, we were also able to implement Twitter. Most of our students use Twitter.”
This year, the district purchased additional equipment to improve streaming capabilities in the form of iPads minis with video lens attachments.
Combined, the upgrades provide streaming capabilities to Zito Media’s local television channel, and online through medium such as Facebook and YouTube for district events.
“That way, those who can’t be here can still see it,” Toth said. “Relatives and others all over the world can see the positive things going on.”
On the personnel end, in recognition of the fact the workload to handle of this has grown, the district adopted a new model to handle the duties of producing content and getting it within public reach.
The district had designated two employees, an IT coordinator and another existing employee provided a stipend for additional duties, to handle its media work. Last month, the district board of directors approved a model in which the additional employees duties will be spread out over a number of staff members. The new model will compensate individuals on the basis of work done rather than with a set stipend, a move administrators say will result in no additional cost for the district.
“Mike Belovesick (the existing IT coordinator) is taking things over thing on the technical side, and the rest is segmented so that everything can get covered,” Toth said. “It’s too much for one person. There’s too much going on. One person can’t be expected to be at everything.”
The district has also designated an employee at each building to take iPad videos and have teachers training students after school to do broadcasts.”
“Basically the dos and don’ts of broadcasting something live,” Toth said.
Overall, Toth said, its been a massive effort, but one the district hopes will pay off.
“We are now able, and it’s taken four years, to get out all the positive things that we’re doing, not just in St. Marys, but across the state and across the country. It’s a lot and it’s taken time,” he said. “Many times we get bashed politically and we’re pushing back in a positive way. Number one is to focus on the positive things we do in public education.”