Student board member encourages the use of social media to better inform students

At a meeting Monday, Aug. 24, Lake Oswego School Board student representative Mete Bakircioglu encouraged the district to use social media as a form of communication to reach high school students.

"I have been getting asked a lot about what the next school year is going to look like," Bakircioglu said.

He said they are simple questions about schedules and deadlines to sign up for LO Online.

"And when I get asked these questions it seems to me like things we've all talked on the board extensively about, and things that should be known to the public, but the reality is that there's a pretty sharp disconnect between what we think students know and what they actually know," he said.

He said the common thread in the communication issue is that a lot of students don't check their emails.

"A lot of my peers have felt kind of overlooked throughout this whole reopening process just because maybe they haven't been looking in the right places for news and it hasn't really been put in front of them in the most successful ways," Bakircioglu said.

He said email isn't a practical way for his peers to take in information.

"I feel like it's the district's responsibility to cater to all the ways that students get their information nowadays," he said.

He proposed using social media to get important information like deadlines out to students.

He said the Instagram account @wearelakeridge has 1,567 followers. Likewise, the @wearelo account has 1,791 followers.

"And that means that pretty much every student that goes to that school with an Instagram account follows the school page, and it's just a very heavily underutilized form of communication," Bakircioglu said.

The accounts are student-run and get passed down year after year.

He asked the board to consider different forms of getting information out going forward. COURTESY PHOTO: METE BAKIRCIOGLU - METE BAKIRCIOGLU

"This is the exact reason why we have student board members on the board — to really share that perspective of student voice," School Board Chair Sara Pocklington said at the meeting.

Director of Communications Mary Kay Larson said she would be having a meeting next week with Bakircioglu, fellow student board member Liza Wadell and LOSD media specialist Diana Reyes to talk about the ways the district can best reach students.

"The last thing I want is for students to feel like they're not being part of the discussion," Larson said.

Students are a distinct audience and Larson said communicating with them requires being put in their shoes.

"I do understand what they said — that email is not the end all, be all for students," Larson said. "You need to adapt your strategy so you can reach your audience."

Larson said there are lots of ways to get information out to students besides email.

Texting was one example. Larson said that in the spring, when the district used an instant messaging system to remind students that counseling services were available during closures, they saw an uptick in scheduled counseling sessions.

"But I also want to balance that with spamming people," she said.

Bakircioglu thinks an opt-in messaging system would be a great way to reach students.

And what about using social media? The district does have an Instagram presence, but its following is slim.

Larson said it'll be challenging to direct students to the official instagram account, @LOSD_Proud, but she can go where they are by connecting with the more popular accounts.

She said she might try to work with the two student-run TV stations depending on whether they will be active during distance learning.

"I really encourage students to, if they have a question about something, to talk to their parents," Larson said. "Ultimately, it's a parent's decision to enroll their student in LO Online."

Bakircioglu brought to the district's attention that oftentimes, students want to receive the same communications parents receive.

"Because otherwise it feels like something is going on behind closed doors," he said.

She said the high school principals have great relationships with the students and she'd want to work with the principals on implementing any new communication platform.

"Hopefully, whatever systems we come up with from that meeting will make it so that students are less confused, they don't feel like they're being overshadowed, they're more aware of the issues that are directly impacting them," he said.

He also said he hopes the communication infrastructure will be longstanding, not just a holdover during the reopening process.

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