Located just off the central shore of Lake Michigan, Sheboygan Falls is a charming town with a quaint downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For those in the local school system, Sheboygan Falls is also known for its open enrollment and high concentration of school districts within a five-mile radius. It’s competitive, to say the least, especially when enrollment has broader implications—like resource availability and funding.
Sheboygan Falls School District (SFSD) distinguishes itself by providing its 1,500 students exceptional academic opportunities that operate within two frameworks: Universal Design for Learning (UDL)—which works to accommodate the needs of all learners while eliminating unnecessary hurdles in the learning process, and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)—which helps students become more self aware and develop empathy for others. Mike Nikson, the Instructional Technology Coordinator at SFSD, explains the district’s goal is to identify and build upon students’ strengths, empowering them to become expert learners. “When they leave our buildings,” says Mike, “we want them to have the ability to keep learning and become productive members of their community.”
Just how much does a community’s perception affect a school district, even one that provides exceptional opportunities like SFSD?
A Disconnect Between the School District & Its Community
Although SFSD was focused on student success and safety, a discrepancy arose between the district’s reality and the community’s perception. Despite SFSD’s concerted initiative to bolster school security and safety via additional cameras, door strikes, and nonviolent crisis intervention training—and despite the fact that a recent school survey demonstrated that 99% of SFSD students feel safe in the district’s buildings—parents and community members were telling a different story.
SFSD, like most schools, has procedures in place to call for emergency support when students with emotional or behavioral disorders pose a risk to themselves or others. However, a social media page that generates and promotes discussion around local emergency calls and responses was amplifying these incidents—leading some community members to question the district’s safety without any factual basis. As a result, these community members began to show up at school board meetings and the principal’s office with incorrect information, which prompted Mike and SFSD leadership to find a solution. “We knew we needed to take control of our narrative and tell our own story,” says Mike, emphasizing the importance of proactively managing the district’s reputation.
“We knew we needed to take control of our narrative and tell our own story.”
An All-In-One Solution for School Social Media
Mike ran into Dr. Jill Johnson, President of Class Intercom and lifelong educator, at the School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education (SLATE) conference in Wisconsin in December 2021. When Mike discovered that Class Intercom was a social media management platform designed to help schools share their stories, he was intrigued. Through the platform, everyone involved with SFSD, including administrators, teachers, staff, and students, could quickly and easily learn to use Class Intercom. Once Mike learned Class Intercom could enable SFSD to manage its social media presence across multiple channels, allowing them to draft, approve, publish, and respond to comments from a single platform, he was sold.
In Mike’s view, by allowing SFSD to quickly and easily share the positive events and moments happening throughout the district, Class Intercom could help the district mitigate the spread of incorrect information throughout the community. This would help build stronger connections between the district and its community members and stakeholders, while also maintaining a leading position in an extremely competitive field for schools. Ultimately, Mike believed that Class Intercom would help SFSD tell its story more effectively, resulting in a better understanding of the district’s successes and achievements throughout the community.
When Mike returned from the SLATE conference, he eagerly introduced the Class Intercom software to SFSD leadership. “When leadership learned Class Intercom could help us tell our story in a positive light,” he says, “they were completely on board.”
Telling the Sheboygan Falls School District Story
Class Intercom now plays a crucial role in SFSD’s district-wide communications strategy. Thanks to its scalability, Mike was able to create different levels of access and management (known within the software as “brands”) to suit SFSD’s needs. The district brand is used for communicating with school families throughout the entire district. For example, SFSD recently announced its casino night and basketball raffle event across its district Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages with a single click.
Each building within the district, including the high school, middle school, and elementary school, has its own brand in Class Intercom. This allows each school to share its unique moments, updates, and messages across social media channels. Recently, the high school used Class Intercom to publish a post across its social media channels recognizing the Forensics team for qualifying for the state competition.
SFSD doesn’t just communicate with stakeholders and community members—it showcases the positive moments happening across the district, helping SFSD build stronger relationships with and support from its community members, which has led to increased engagement and support for the district’s initiatives. And with Class Intercom’s on-demand social media reporting, SFSD can track the success of its social media efforts and make data-driven decisions to improve its communications strategy—not to mention the platform’s built-in automatic archival, which logs all SFSD social media posts and engagements for simple open public records management.
Empowering Administrators & Staff to Create Social Media Content
According to Mike, “Class Intercom’s user-friendliness makes it accessible for all our teachers and principals, which really enables them to participate in the content creation process.” He explains that the principals take charge of creating a posting schedule, ensuring every department, grade level, and teacher is involved in creating content.
“Class Intercom’s user-friendliness makes it accessible for all our teachers and principals, which really enables them to participate in the content creation process.”
Recently, SFSD wrapped up a social media campaign that utilized its UDL professional development initiative to improve engagement. To achieve this, SFSD created a challenge for teachers to share engagement-related posts and upload corresponding photos on their school’s Class Intercom brand. Through this campaign, SFSD showcased its professional development to fellow educators and families alike, giving them an exclusive peek into the SFSD classroom experience. The campaign was a huge hit with the community. “The number of followers for each school steadily increased by 10 to 20 each week during our engagement campaign,” he says, noting additional followers weren’t the only benefit. “The community loves seeing students working in the classroom and doing new and interesting things,” says Mike. “It gives them a glimpse into the innovative strategies we’re using at SFSD. A lot of districts do a good job of showcasing sports teams and events, but we’re also getting into the actual classroom. We’re showing the stuff that really, really matters.”
In addition to empowering administrators, teachers, and staff to create content for the school’s social media channels, Mike and the leadership team made moderation a top priority. Thankfully, Class Intercom’s cutting-edge workflow, built specifically for schools, lets contributors upload various forms of content such as photos, videos, and captions directly into the platform. These drafted posts then seamlessly transfer to an assigned moderator for approval before publishing. Moderators and other contributors can even provide feedback on content through the platform. The technology has allowed SFSD to take control of its own narrative. “Now we’re putting out appropriate, on-brand communications that align with our district’s values and goals,” he says.
Students in Ms. Covert and Mr. Guy's English 10 class read together as they prepared for their literature circle discussion. #engagementbydesigncollaboration pic.twitter.com/RvLwIkghht— Sheboygan Falls High (@Sheb_Falls_HS) March 10, 2023
“Now we’re putting out appropriate, on-brand communications that align with our district’s values and goals.”
For other schools or districts looking to grow community following and engagement on their school socials, Mike’s advice is simple: “Develop the why of sharing your story with your families and community,” he says. He also recommends keeping it as easy as possible. “Educators are so busy that even a simple initiative can get lost,” he says. “Find the simplest way to get them involved. Give them some good ideas, and then give them some freedom to run with them.”
The Next Step:
Students Create Content for their School
The SFSD journey is taking an exciting turn as the district transitions to enlisting the help of its own students to capture moments and share school stories. According to Mike, this not only creates more engaging and authentic social media content, but also builds an even stronger bond between the district and its communities. Moreover, Mike believes the involvement of students in content creation fosters a sense of pride and ownership as they share their achievements with their families, their communities, and the world. With the support of Class Intercom, SFSD students also develop storytelling and digital communications skills, enhancing their future prospects. But it’s more than just skillbuilding and college and career readiness for Mike and SFSD. “We want our students to feel empowered to share the great things they’re doing,” he says. “We want the people living the story to tell the story.”
“We want our students to feel empowered to share the great things they’re doing. We want the people living the story to tell the story.”
Interested in learning more about using technology to empower students and staff to leverage social media at your school? Click the button below to learn more about how Class Intercom can help.