School Business Affairs June 2020 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | JUNE 2020 23 Not everyone is Twitter-savvy and not everyone has an Instagram account. Communication Strategies One of the most neglected groups of stakeholders is those age 55 and older whose children have graduated from the district’s schools, as well as those seniors who have moved into the community and have no real con- nection—past or present—to the district. Although their ties to the local schools may not be strong, those who are 55 and older may be the ones whom school personnel most need to reach. These folks are the most engaged voters and can be a district’s big- gest supporters when it’s time for a bond election—or they can be its worst nightmare if they are left out of the communication pipeline and are unaware of the dis- trict’s needs. When people don’t know about or understand the issues, they will not support them in the community or at the ballot box. For example, the district may ask for a tax increase without thinking about how it affects seniors on fixed incomes who don’t understand why the district needs shiny and new when paper and pencil always worked for them. If they understand the “why,” seniors may be your big- gest advocates. When we attend meetings in the community, we get the email addresses of those present and add them to our list. Reaching the Audience Post-pandemic, how do we reach those age 55 and older in our communities and explain the “why”? 1. Go where they are. School districts may be chal- lenged by a large population of senior citizens who leave for the winter and return just in time to vote. These voters seldom have much information about education- related issues. Other seniors might have had negative experiences with the school system in the past and have no desire to connect with the district now. Both of these groups may vote no at the polls and then go back into hiding until the next ballot issue comes along. These folks won’t seek you out, so it’s important to go to them. If district employees or representatives are active members of various community and civic groups, you’ve already taken the first step. However, if the only time school personnel show up at a community meeting is right before an election that includes school fund- ing on the ballot, they’ll be likened to teenagers who show up to dinner only when they need money from Mom and Dad. By being involved with the community year-round and consistently updating community members on school affairs, the district can build relationships that keep everyone informed and open to two-way conver- sations about what’s going on in the schools. Look to the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, and other civic groups. An investment of time will pay you back in support. 2. Invite them in. The more often people have the opportunity to see what’s going on in the schools, the more likely you will gain their support. Invite commu- nity members to participate on school-based commit- tees, such as those for strategic planning. If the schools serve as voting locations, set up exhibits to showcase Keeping senior community members up to date on ballot issues engages them and can build support for district projects. NIXA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NIXA, MISSOURI