From Ryan Vernosh: How Can Communications Help You?



Our district’s stakeholders often call for “better communication” from us. As director of Communications, Marketing and Development (CMD) for SPPS, I want to highlight some of what our office does -- and invite you to tell us how we can do  better.

Some may know me first and foremost as a teacher -- at Jackson, Maxfield and Battle Creek Middle School. After serving as a PAR consulting teacher and a year with the US Department of Education as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I transitioned into the role of policy and strategic planning administrator in 2013. All those experiences -- along with everything I learned from my time in the Teach for Diversity program and Gloria Ladson-Billings, a pioneer in the field of culturally relevant pedagogy -- inform my approach to our CMD efforts.

I believe we must always keep the student, teacher and school perspectives in the forefront of our communications work. Students are at the center of our work, and teachers are on the front lines of communication with kids and families. We don’t want to assume we know what you need.

District policy and communication go hand in hand. That’s why we spent so many hours in the last two years engaging thousands of people about gender inclusion and start times. Communication must be a two-way street. We need to hear what our constituents need and want, and we need to have coherent, plain-language explanations for why we make the decisions we make.

I’ve heard from some district staff that our communications are repetitive. Meanwhile many stakeholders would rather we over-communicate. There’s no one sure-fire way to reach everyone -- and constituents have more choices all the time. Twitter and the SPPS app each have nearly 3,000 users, and almost 5,000 people follow SPPS on Facebook. Each day’s SPPS in the News goes to all staff, and the biweekly Happening Now e-newsletter reaches about 30,000 recipients.

CMD staff translate more than 200,000 words in a year. We help schools and departments communicate with families, regularly updating the School Marketing Toolkit and other resources. We help schools establish and effectively use social media. We shoot, edit and post video. Grants team members raised more than $7 million last year and annually work with scores of teachers on classroom grant applications. We pitch stories to local and national media. We find and feature the inspiring stories of individual students, parents and staff in the #IAMSPPS campaign.

There’s always more we can be doing, and I am serious when I say I welcome your ideas, questions or comments about CMD and our work. I deeply value the opportunity to bring a teacher’s perspective to CMD’s efforts, and I would like to include your perspectives as well.


Ryan Vernosh,
Director, Communications, Marketing and Development