SBHS aims to close communication gap

Communications officer utilizes social media, newsletters and website to keep students and public informed.

Communicating via social media is a seemingly never-ending race to keep up with the latest technology or trend, especially when kids are most often the driving force. By the time parents or teachers think they have caught up, the kids have moved on and left them behind in the scrapheap of the blogosphere.

On June 25, San Benito High School communications officer Adam Breen briefed the school’s Board of Trustees on his work over the last school year to close the communication gap between students, faculty, staff, parents, the general public, and even other schools.

He said whether the messages are good or bad, communication needs to be forthright. Breen said it is accomplished not only through social media, but the school’s website, its weekly newsletter distributed to more than 6,000 individuals, and local news media.

Breen said one of his goals is to improve the school website’s content and aesthetics. He also told the trustees that he studied a Facebook snapshot between May 22 and June 18 to see how it was used to communicate. During that period, he said, there were 35,672 posts on Facebook and 69,490 responses from people who liked, commented or shared those posts.

He called Facebook “a primary means for us to reach our community where we share pictures, stories and videos. It’s really a social network that interacts through me, but we share information about our school.”

He said the school’s Twitter page has 2,072 followers. Since the account was opened in January 2013, there have been over 16,000 tweets. The account, however, has not been active since November 2015. @BalerNews has 1,820 followers and @BalerSports has 2,851 followers.

“I found four or five years ago, Twitter was the primary means for the students getting information about us or sharing information,” he said. “That has transitioned over to Instagram, where students really interact with us. Twitter is still a popular venue, but in terms of reaching different audiences, we have these different means of doing so.”

Over the last two years, Breen said the school has published 126 newsletters.

“I noticed 20% to 30% is our average open rate,” he said. “That’s when people actually open the newsletter. That’s the industry standard, based on the other communications officers I’ve talked to. We’re striving for about 25%.”

He said if something happens on campus it can end up being a topic for the newsletter.

“We’ve covered AFTs [Academic Focus Time], job openings, cafeteria menus, student activities, career center, regular features, and special topics,” he said. “We’ve talked about LCAP [Local Control and Accountability Plan], Avid and a lot of the topics that have come before the board. We also communicate with parents about such things as grading practices, electronic devices policy, and messages from the superintendent and principal.”

Breen said messaging often goes out on all the social media venues simultaneously in an effort to increase the school’s reach.

“And of course, our media partners, as I like to call them, the Free Lance, BenitoLink and San Benito Live, we share information with them as much as possible,” he said. “Sometimes we send the stories and photos that are ready to go. Other times, we invite them to connect with people on campus. We try to be as transparent as we can by connecting the people to us through the media.”

Breen said this summer he is working with Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum and Derek Barnes, strategic plan coordinator, to promote a grand opening/alumni event, while maintaining a constant flow of information from the district to its constituents.

In the fall, he’ll be working with multimedia teacher Rob Campbell to produce a ‘Baler Minute’ video broadcast “while grooming student interns to participate in our media outreach efforts.”


Note: Adam Breen is a BenitoLink Editorial Advisor. Breen was BenitoLink Content Manager for over two years and helped develop the community-based news site to serve residents of San Benito County. 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.