Saturday, February 4, 2017

Podcast with Ada Local Schools Superintendent

Today, I had the pleasure of talking with Meri Skilliter, superintendent of Ada Local Schools. I wanted to ask her a few questions about what it is like running social media from a position that is always watched and judged. Prior to being Ada's superintendent, Meri has worked as the superintendent of McComb Local Schools, elementary principal of Gibsonburg Schools, and a 5th grade teacher at Bluffton Schools. Below are some of the key points from the conversation I had with her this afternoon and an attached is the podcast. 

So I know you previously used to keep a blog for McComb Local Schools. What topics did you find yourself writing about that seemed to be enjoyable for the community to read?
Things that were enjoyable to the community were always the human interest stories of things I wrote about either graduates or students who were doing something interesting or out of the ordinary. I used the blog more for informational things; if I heard rumblings of something that had some misperceptions or misunderstandings on a topic, then I would blog about that to get the facts and correct information out to the community. 
When you are posting on social sites, are there any privacy concerns for the students that you have to be aware of?
Most certainly. I'm a superintendent of a K-12 school, so the majority of my students are younger than 18. At the beginning of a school year, we send home a paper and the parent has to approve any posting of their children on social media and on the school website. Here at Ada, we have a list of 15-20 students whose parents have denied us the right to post pictures of their children. For example, when I was taking pictures of Ohio Northern's dogs, I took a picture from the back of the students. You could see the dog, but you couldn't identify the students. I always have to screen those photos and show them to the principals here because they know the students that cannot be shown. Anything that I post needs to be compliant with FERPA, which is a federal law that protects student privacy. 
I know that you manage the Facebook page for Ada. So, if someone were to post a comment that you felt was inappropriate, how would you handle that situation?
I also handled social media for McComb and only a few times did somebody post something on Facebook that was inappropriate. If  felt it was inappropriate, I usually deleted it because I didn't want to expose other students to that. When parents and community members post something that is critical of us, I don't feel like I can delete those comments because Facebook is an interactive site. If I start deleting certain posts, in essence, I feel like I am censoring people. Sometimes when a parent has posted based on misinformation, I have actually called that parent and asked them to take it down once they understand that what they wrote was inaccurate. [The parents] posting anything lets us know where the misconceptions are in the community and whether we need to put out more information to correct the misinformation. 
What is your role in articles that local media posts about the school?
In Ada, we have five newspapers that follow us and they really follow us closely. All of the newspapers that cover us follow us on social media and they watch for us to post information and then they will repost that information or they will call when they've seen something on Facebook and they want to ask more about it. Sometimes it will generate a story for them.

Check out rbreitigam on Podbean for the whole podcast!

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