A Top Priority: To Accurately Communicate with Our Community

What’s happening in our schools?  

What does student success look like for Cobb students?  

How do our schools compare to schools across Georgia?  

Is the rumor of a lockdown true?  

Are schools closing due to bad weather?  

How does the District keep my student safe?  

The Cobb Schools Communications Department aims to answer those questions for the community every day.  

In order to reach our community as quickly as possible, we use a variety of communications channels including email, text message, phone, the District website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, podcasts, and YouTube. In fact, in an average month, we send out more than 844,000 text messages, 602,000 emails, 5,000 phone calls, over 30 stories, and dozens of social media posts which over 5,000,000 people see, read, and hear in just one month!

It is important for the community to know how Cobb Schools stacks up to its peers and that Cobb Schools leads the Metro on state assessments, the SAT, and the ACT.  

It is important that the community know about the dedicated educators, like Osborne High School’s Annette Hansard, who has been teaching students for more than 50 years. It is important for the community to know that there are officers like Officer Phil Bradford charged with keeping our students safe.  

From the new Cobb Innovation and Technology Academy and new Clay Harmony Leland Elementary School to the new Lassiter High School 3,000-seat gym, it is important for the community to know how their tax dollars from Ed-SPLOST are benefiting students throughout Cobb.  

It is important for the community to know how departments, like the Cobb Instructional Technology Team, are preparing students for future success or how a staff member risks their life to protect students.  

When bad weather is in the forecast, it is important for the community to know where to turn for the latest and most accurate updates on school closings. The news media also rely on Cobb Schools for information regarding weather closings. The Cobb Schools Communications team posts updates on social media in addition to using traditional channels like email, text and the website to keep the public informed.  

Most importantly, when there is a crisis or a rumor of a crisis, the community needs to know where to turn for accurate information.  

Our school administrators and school police investigate rumors throughout the school day. Some rumors start on social media. Some start because students do not understand the impact of their single tweet or Snapchat message.  

Some rumors spread because no one checks with the school administration to see if the rumor is true. Some continue to spread because social media is valuable but often not an accurate source of information. Most often, moms and dads have heard something from another parent that may or may not be true, love their children, and want to understand more detail.

Misinformation is something our school administrators and the Communications Department work to prevent, particularly in moments of crisis or when a rumor of crisis is spreading across the internet. If there is a crisis at a school, our principals communicate directly to their communities through email, text message, social media, and/or phone calls but their communication has to be accurate. Our focus on accuracy often means parents will hear a rumor before they’ll hear verified facts.

Every single day principals, District staff, and CCSD police investigate reports of incidents in schools. The vast majority of those reports prove to be inaccurate, rumors which begin with mischievous students, someone on social media, or a well-meaning adult or student who thought they say or heard something and said something.

“The priority is to tell parents as much as is possible, as quickly as possible, as accurately as possible..but we can’t afford to be wrong. If we are in a circumstance where we must choose between those three, we are always going to choose getting it right,” explained Cobb Schools Chief Strategy and Accountability Officer John Floresta.  

We understand the community’s, especially parents, desire to know the details of what happens during a crisis. Staff in our schools and the central office are all parents too, we know what it’s like to hear about something and want more detail. We explained the steps our staff takes and what parents can expect when the unexpected happens in this podcast: Communicating with the Community during a Crisis.  

Parents may wonder why we do include some specific details and don’t include others when something unexpected happens in a school. Chief Strategy and Accountability Officer John Floresta explained in the podcast:

“We are bound by federal laws to protect student rights and data, including discipline record and criminal record. We get it, the details of unexpected issues at schools are often interesting and parents want to know as much as we can, especially about anything related to safety. I should have added one more phrase when I said our principals and District staff communicates ‘as early and as often as possible’ – communication from us HAS to be accurate and it HAS to be legal (FERPA),” Floresta added. 

Unfortunately, sometimes news reports do not always explain how school districts, like Cobb, are prevented by federal privacy laws, specifically FERPA, from releasing anything which violates a student’s right to privacy. We appreciate many of our media partners who spend the time, build the processes, and invest in the manpower to report accurately – we are fortunate to work with many local outlets who do exactly that.

We know circumstances or privacy laws sometimes don’t allow us to provide all the information a parent may want to know. So you know what 18,000 staff members are doing to keep your student safe before an incident occurs, we make it a priority to explain to you how we keep Cobb students safe with twelve specific District safety initiatives which can be found at www.cobbshield.com. As a way to partner with the community to keep our schools safe, we also launched the Safe Schools Alert Tipline

“By communicating early, often, and accurately, directly to our community, we believe we are providing the most information that matters to a parent in the most accurate way,” said Floresta.