4000 Procedure – Communications and Community Relations Program

To ensure that citizens and staff have an opportunity to be informed about their schools and provide an effective, two-way communication system between the district and its various stakeholders, the superintendent shall:

 

1. Establish an organizational environment and expectation that all district staff share the responsibility for communication of the district’s mission, vision, goals, policies, programs and information to families and community members.

2. Maintain a Department of Communications and Community Relations, which will, among other key functions:

  • Assess the public’s knowledge and attitudes about the district and its schools, and use this information in strategic communications planning and communications program implementation;
  • Maintain policies and procedures related to communications and community relations, and make them available on the district website and by request;
  • Lead the district’s communication efforts through a variety of print and digital methods with venues for face-to-face communication;
  • Coordinate annual federal and state family notification requirements, making this information readily accessible online and in print;
  • Communicate accurate, timely information about the district’s mission, vision, goals, work priorities, progress and achievements, policies, procedures, educational services and programs, calendar dates and events, opportunities for input and involvement in problem-solving and decision-making processes, decisions, finances and critical issues;
  • Strive to proactively anticipate communications needs and, as needed, work to address rumors and misinformation;
  • Foster programs and practices designed to provide an open, transparent climate to share information, and elicit ideas and input from all stakeholders;
  • Support communications between school and home;
  • Assist in ensuring that communications skills exist in each school and department;
  • Maintain an effective working relationship with the news media; and
  • Support crisis communications.

3. Support principals in leading school-based communication efforts, which will:

  • Encourage open, two-way methods of communication among all the school community’s stakeholders;
  • Differentiate, according to parents’ informational needs, and through a variety of communications techniques such as meetings, print and digital publications, and personal contacts between school personnel and stakeholders;
  • Strive to proactively anticipate the information necessary for solving problems and preventing misunderstandings; and
  • Supplement and support the district’s communications efforts.

 

4. Respond to requests from the news media, student journalists and student-produced news.

  • To balance the responsibilities of sharing information and protecting student privacy, news media inquiries about Bellingham Public Schools or any individual school, student, staff member, program or initiative are to be directed first to Communications and Community Relations.
  • News media includes all external print, broadcast, web media and higher education journalism students.
  • News media does not include Bellingham Public Schools student-produced news, as long as students are the producers and staff are advising. If a BPS student voluntarily poses for a picture/video or takes part in a student news program/publication or a public event where cameras are allowed, then the information is not gleaned from a confidential education record and the opt-out Form 4011F-1 does not apply. Students may choose to not pose for yearbook and class pictures but must have a current photo taken for their educational record and maintained in the district’s student information system for safety purposes.
  • Staff who are contacted directly by a member of the news media should refer the reporter to Communications and Community Relations, which will work with staff and the media outlet to respond appropriately to the inquiry.
  • News releases and notification to the media of potential story or photo opportunities will be coordinated through Communications and Community Relations, with the exception of news about inter-school athletic events, Associated Student Body (ASB) activities, PTA-sponsored events, and release of graduation and honor roll lists. To facilitate a consistent and responsible communication process, Communications and Community Relations will participate in developing and distributing information for release through district communications channels and through the media. As all schools and departments in the district are potential sources for news and feature stories, staff are encouraged to send news and information to Communications and Community Relations.
  • In the event that a school site or department seeks to initiate media contact, appropriate notification should be given to Communications and Community Relations. Staff should secure authorization from the principal or administrator before contacting the media. This shall not preclude a staff member from contacting the media as a private individual outside of work hours.
  • Once authorized, news media must report to the school’s main office for identification and before going to any part of a school or building or contacting any individual.
  • District officials, schools and staff will cooperate with the news media to the extent required and appropriate by law, while ensuring that media coverage does not interfere with teaching and learning. A student or staff member should be informed that he or she has the right to deny an interview or photograph.

 

5. Field other interview/video/film requests and recordings.

  • Requests from individuals, organizations or television/film production companies to record, film, photograph, or interview students or staff shall be submitted to Communications and Community Relations for consideration. Such activities will be evaluated for alignment with the district’s mission, goals and primary purpose of teaching and learning, impact on the learning environment, and mutual benefit to both the requestor and district/schools and will be conditioned upon agreement to honor parent/guardian preferences expressed on Form 4011F-1.
  • Per state law, it is unlawful to record or intercept private conversation without first obtaining the consent of all the persons engaged in the conversation.

 

6. Assist and coordinate visits from visits from public officials/legislators.

  • Requests from public officials to visit and tour schools will be coordinated by Communications and Community Relations. Staff who want to arrange a visit to their school/workplace should work with their principal/supervisor who will coordinate with Communications and Community Relations.

 

7. Support crisis communications.

  • In the case of accidents or emergencies involving students or staff members, Communications and Community Relations will serve as a clearinghouse to provide accurate and timely information.

 

Adopted: 03/11/93; 08/13/09; 03/12/13; 9/27/18
Revised: 10/4/2021