AP NEWS

Schools Reach Out Via Social Media

March 1, 2019
1 of 2
Schools Reach Out Via Social Media

Facebook gives Scranton School District Principal Tim Wolff the chance to write his school’s story. Twitter helps Lakeland English teacher P.J. Scanlon reach his students. Social media is becoming the go-to for superintendents, school clubs and parent-teacher organizations across the region to post good news and updates for parents about incidents and events. School district administrators, teachers, staff and students in Northeast Pennsylvania find maintaining a social media presence is a new necessity. Tweets about and Instagram photos of students excelling in the classrooms, fields and courts now fill feeds of parents, family and friends. In addition to elementary, middle, intermediate and high schools, guidance and other school departments and student clubs within the local districts also maintain pages on social media platforms. Parents also keep in touch or vent through advocacy groups on Facebook; PTOs stay connected with members and families online. “It helps us get the good news out for our school, for our students, for our school community,” said Wolff, the principal at Whittier Elementary School in Scranton. Wolff created the first social media account in the district in 2010 as a teacher at Scranton High School to connect with alumni. “That was my first baby,” he said of the page that still exists today. At Whittier, teachers and other school staff members send him photos to put on the school’s Facebook page. He sees the posts as a morale builder for the entire school community. “We get to tell our side,” he said, adding he receives steady and positive interaction throughout the day from parents. Scanlon, a Lakeland teacher, reminds his students about upcoming quizzes on social media and celebrates his students’ achievements on the site. If he can’t make a sporting event, he shows his support online. He also follows administrators and teachers from across the country on Twitter to get ideas to improve professionally. Scanlon recently introduced a poetry lesson in his high school English class that uses SnapChat for part of the project. “It’s a way to modernize a classroom. Students are seeing you’re willing enter into their world,” he said. Carbondale Area Superintendent Robert Mehalick primarily uses Facebook to communicate with district families and post about extracurricular activities. “We find it very beneficial just to alert them of upcoming events or anything that’s happening in the schools,” he said. “The families that are utilizing it are very appreciative.” He also has mostly positive interactions online. “Not everybody has access to the internet,” he noted, saying the district still uses automated phone calls for cancellations, delays and other issues and sends informational flyers home with students. Similarly, Abington Heights Superintendent Michael Mahon, Ph.D., called Twitter a good tool but found that in real emergency situations, a service like Remind works best to reach parents. When a cold spell hit the region in February, diesel fuel in the district’s buses froze while kids waited at bus stops. “In such an instance, Twitter is not effective,” he said. The district relied on Remind to alert parents that buses were running behind. While Abington Heights doesn’t follow many Twitter users and does not engage with users to avoid miscommunication or misinterpretation, Wolff finds responding to parents makes his school day easier. For example, a parent sent him a photo of clothing on Facebook to ask if the outfit was school appropriate. Those simple-to-answer questions avoid possible discipline during the school day. Riverside Superintendent Paul Brennan uses Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote the school district and keeps up with former students and other educators on LinkedIn. Through the platform, he’s recruited Riverside alumni to come in and talk with students. “Our district is recognized as an influencer on social media and we have built an army of advocates with our brand over the past few years,” Brennan said. He’s also been teaching himself best social media practices to build up the district’s brand. “We try our best to make sure that our content is of high quality and ensure that it is clear, timely and targeted,” he said. Each year, the Mid Valley Secondary Center has a public relations student intern who is responsible for daily posts on the district’s social media accounts. Senior Josh Vituszynski, currently in the role, attends sporting events and takes photos of interesting classroom projects and assemblies around the school during the day to post online. Josh enjoys being creative with captions and creates content to show happenings in the schools that people “might not think about,” including a recent post of Mid Valley’s Outdoor Adventure Club. “Putting stuff out like that spreads awareness,” Josh said. “There are so many schools that have brought their public relations efforts to social media, if you don’t you’re almost falling behind.” Contact the writer: kbolus@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5114; @kbolusTT on Twitter Schools’ social media handles Abington Heights: @cometsAH on Twitter Carbondale Area: Carbondale Area School District on Facebook Dunmore: @dsd_news on Twitter Forest City Regional:@FCRSD on Twitter Lakeland: @LakelandSD on Twitter; Lakeland School District on Facebook Mid Valley:@MidValleySD on Twitter North Pocono:@NorthPoconoSD on Twitter; North Pocono School District on Facebook Old Forge: @OldForgeSD on Twitter; Old Forge School District on Facebook Riverside:@riversideviking on Twitter Scranton:@SSD_Scranton on Twitter; Scranton School District on Facebook Valley View:@ValleyViewSD on Twitter