As media contact for Cambridge Public Schools, I coordinated our response to many media inquiries. This meant being prepared to provide a swift, reassuring, and highly-quotable response during crises as well as identifying “good stories” taking place in our schools. Following are a few (non-paywalled) examples.
- American School Board Journal – Magna Awards
- Cambridge Life – Feature story on visual and performing arts
- Wicked Local Cambridge – Cambridge students transform Foundry Building into public safety training site
- MIT News – Preparing high schoolers for a tech-driven future
- Boston Globe – Honors Classes for Everyone
- Cambridge Chronicle – Cambridge receives $295K grant to address achievement gap in schools (archived – view press release)
- Cambridge Chronicle – To close achievement gap, parents learning key research on kids’ brains (archived – parent education program on neuroscience and child development)
- Cambridge Chronicle – Cambridge schools roll out halal lunch option (archived – press release developed with Mayor’s office)
- Cambridge Chronicle – What’s on the Menu is More Important than Ever (archived – press release discussed farm-to-cafeteria approach in nutrition services)
- Christian Science Monitor – Next up for men of color? A place at the front of the classroom
- Boston Globe – feature by “Great Divide” team
- PRI/The World – Why it’s so hard to talk about racism that happens in school
- WBUR / Edify – Cambridge Brings Back Middle Schools
Some of our the most high-profile incidents that occurred during my tenure can still be found online – including one that went viral, resulting in a tsunami of hate-filled right-wing messages to our inboxes, phones, and social media. While it was a little exciting to see my name credited, as CPS communications director on CNN, it was a relief when these events eventually passed.
I learned an incredible amount from handling these sensitive and highly-charged incidents. The key was to have a clear crisis communication plan in place, and to revisit it periodically to ensure that all point people were ready to respond.
When a crisis emerged, I would immediately draft a core message and revise it until the Superintendent, Chief Operating Officer, and other key leaders were satisfied with the language. This might involve our legal counsel, department heads or Principals, depending on the situation. Internal communication came first – and I made sure to directly notify school clerks and family liaisons in addition to all school Principals, whether or not they were involved, of the basic facts of the situation so that they could refer questions to me.
In developing this message and sticking to it, my goal was to provide transparency and de-escalate emotions. One measure of success is that many significant health and safety incidents never found their way to the Boston Globe – not because we hid information but in fact because we communicated with appropriate urgency and demonstrated transparency, responsiveness, and integrity.