Board Policy 17: Community Communication and Advocacy

Legal References:

Education Act: Part VI Duties and Powers of Boards; Education Act: Section 218.1 Duties of Board Members; Municipal Elections Act; Municipal Freedom of Information
and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).

Related References:

The Avon Maitland District School Board recognizes that the success of public education depends on the support and commitment of all education stakeholders. Effective two-way communications, community awareness and community engagement practices are key elements in strengthening and maintaining connections among education partners and meeting provincial and system goals for public education. Communications activities help to build public confidence, relay education-related messaging, increase community understanding of AMDSB initiatives and inform stakeholders of the AMDSB’s progress in achieving AMDSB Strategic priorities.

1. Policy
It is the policy of the Avon Maitland District School Board, at system, departmental and school levels, to develop, facilitate and support effective two-way communications, public awareness and community engagement strategies to:

1.1. Promote student achievement and well-being;
1.2. Inform stakeholders and communities about AMDSB schools, programs and initiatives; and
1.3. Increase understanding and positive connections relating to public education in Perth and Huron Counties

2. Guidelines
The Board ensures that open, transparent and positive internal and external communications are in place. The Board participates in community affairs in order to enhance and support the district and promote public education.

2.1 The Board believes that regular, clear and timely communication between Avon Maitland District School Board and the public it serves promotes positive relationships, mutual benefit, trust and integrity with the public.

2.2 The Board is committed to effective communications with all stakeholders to promote and protect quality public education in the district and the province and to celebrate success for all students.

2.3 The Director of Education and the Chair of the Board are the official spokespersons of the board.

2.4 The Director may designate other staff members to speak on behalf of the board in areas of their specific expertise. 

2.5 The Chair may designate another Trustee to speak on behalf of the Board, especially concerning issues of local importance.

2.6 Trustees should always be aware that they are representatives of the Board and as such are bound to the Trustee Code of Conduct.

3. Vision
The board believes the foundation for building successful relationships is based on open, two-way communication between students, families, the community, Trustees and staff.

This communications plan is designed to establish a comprehensive and integrated process for effective communication. It aligns with the Board Improvement and Equity Plan (BIEP). Annual goals are tied directly to the objectives set by the Board of Trustees’ Multi-Year Strategic Plan. The plan is a working document that is reviewed on an annual basis by the Trustees, the Director of Education and Communications Manager. It is used to ensure the Board’s accountability, and to provide a framework for engaging in communication internally and externally. The Comprehensive Communications Plan is intended to do the following:

3.1 Implement a communications program that directly helps achieve our strategic goals.
3.2 Foster strong relationships with district stakeholders.
3.3 Provide focus and direction for messages/methods in support of the district’s goals.
3.4 Enable the district to present itself transparently to audiences.

The intention is that a well-executed communication strategy will increase enrolment, increase staff recruitment and improve morale. 

4. Communication Goals
The Communications and Public Relations department provides leadership, counsel and training in order to accomplish the following communication goals:

4.1 Improve internal communications and employee engagement.
4.2 Improve communications customer service both internally and externally.
4.3 Establish promotional priorities and devise individual communications campaigns for each.
4.4 Establish a clear brand identity for the Board and build on that image and reputation.
4.5 Develop and maintain positive, collaborative relationships with all school community members to strengthen support for the Avon Maitland District School Board.
4.6 Contribute to increased enrolment at Avon Maitland District Schools.
4.7 Maintain proactive media relations to enhance the Board’s image on local, provincial and national levels.
4.8 Achieve coordinated communication, both internally and externally, regarding safety issues and crisis management.

Appendix 1
Working with the Director and the Communications Manager, Trustees will be included in part of the AMDSB Communication Plans to identify opportunities for Trustee involvement. 

The following are methods that can help to promote community communication and advocacy:
1.  School Councils
Trustees are encouraged to stay in contact with their school councils and attend their meetings as often as possible. The Communications Manager will send the Board meeting dates directly to school council chairs for information as well as the Board meeting highlights after each Board meeting. Trustees are encouraged to ask each school council to send a representative(s) to attend PIC (Parent Information Committee) meetings.
2.  Attendance at Events
Trustees will attend various events throughout the district. Trustees are permitted on school premises when they are accompanied by the Director, Senior Staff or School Administration.

3. Board Meetings in Communities
Trustees will consider holding a board meeting in one or two communities in the district each year.

4. Community Presentations
In the broader community, Trustees and staff from the Board will make themselves available, schedules permitting, to communicate to communities about educational initiatives and Board goals. Staff will help prepare any presentations that are requested.

5. Federations
The Director, Chair and Vice Chair will be encouraged, and will endeavor, to meet at least once a year with the federations as a step towards maintaining relationships between the federations and the Board of Trustees.

6. Key Messages
Key messages will be part of the Communications Plan and will be developed in partnership with the Communications Manager and Director in relation to current and/or controversial issues. The Chair, Vice-Chair, Director and Communications Manager will develop such messages in a timely manner (following relevant Board meetings or when certain issues arise), so that Trustees can articulate a consistent message. A standard key message will be developed for senior administration and Trustees to consult for such time-sensitive messages. Board-wide messages addressed to parents/families will be provided to Trustees, and letters received in response to initiatives will be shared with all Trustees, redacted for privacy if appropriate. Notification of significant modifications to Administrative Procedures will be provided to Trustees on or before publication on the board website.

7. Letters/Emails
The Board occasionally writes letters/emails as the situation arises to advocate or communicate the position of the Board. At these times the Board will consider copying the letter/email to various newspapers, either for use as a letter to the editor or background material, and copying OPSBA, Ontario Boards local respective MPPs, and the Ministry of Education. All advocacy letters sent by the Chair to elected officials on behalf of the Board shall be considered public letters and published on the Board website, and entered as correspondence at the following Board Meeting. 

8. Letters to Staff
The Chair will occasionally write letters to be distributed by email to the Board’s staff. Suggested dates are Education Week, International Teacher’s Day, and the first day back after Christmas holidays, first and last day of school. The Chair may also send seasonal greeting messages to staff. 

9. MPs and MPPs
When trustees meet with the MPs and MPPs, items of mutual interest will be discussed, highlighting good news messages. The respective meetings with MPs and MPPs will attempt to be held at least once each school year.

10. Municipal Representatives
When Trustees meet with the elected municipal representatives or staff such as Land Use Planners, they will discuss items of mutual interest, highlighting good news messages, and discussing capital funding review. The elected municipal representatives and trustees will meet annually.

11. Newspaper Articles
All Trustees are welcomed to submit articles to local newspapers and provide a perspective on a particular topic which is reflective of the position of the Board. It is recommended that Trustees work in collaboration with the Communications Manager and the Director to ensure that information submitted is accurate and representative of the Board and aligns with the Avon Maitland District School Board’s Communication Plan.

12. OPSBA - Ontario Public School Board Association
OPSBA advocates on behalf of member Boards such as AMDSB, throughout Ontario and Trustees provide input to OPSBA on its priorities through our OPSBA Director, and attendance at regional meetings whenever possible and individual Trustee input. AMDSB will continue to use OPSBA as one avenue for advocacy, especially for issues of common concern among public school Boards in the province.

13. Principals and Vice-Principals
Trustees will attend principals’ and vice principals’ conferences as time permits. The emphasis will be on relationship building.

14. Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) Process (see Board Policy #15)
Once an accommodation review is complete, Trustees will invite members of the Accommodation Review Committees (ARCs) and the Transition Committees to a meeting to thank them and get feedback on the process. This feedback will then be discussed in Committee of the Whole, Open Session following the completion of the process, so that we can refine/improve the process. As required Trustees will be invited to participate in community consultation through a boundary review process.

15. Social Media
Trustees are encouraged to be effective communicators and engage in social media and are free to publish or comment via social media in accordance with the Trustee Code of Conduct Policy. Publication and commentary on social media carries similar obligations to any other kind of publication or commentary.

16. Board Meeting Highlights
The Board Meeting Agendas, Minutes, and Highlights shall be forwarded to municipal and provincial representatives, principals, school council chairs, and members of PIC. Additionally, a system whereby members of the public can subscribe to receive these documents automatically via email shall be implemented
October, 2022