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Table of ContentsIntroduction• Telling the Story – Focus on Messages and Themes to Presentthe PWCS Story Along with key Issue-Focused Information ................................................................2• Putting it all Together .................................................................................................................................5Communications Team• Whom to Contact .........................................................................................................................................6Visual Identity• Logos ..............................................................................................................................................................9• Stationery, Letterhead, and Business cards ...........................................................................................11• Publications ................................................................................................................................................13• Templates for Board and Senior Staff ....................................................................................................13• Nondiscrimination Statement ..................................................................................................................14• Brochures ....................................................................................................................................................15• Newsletters ..................................................................................................................................................15• <strong>School</strong> Newsletters/Newspapers ..............................................................................................................16• Showcase .....................................................................................................................................................16• Signage ........................................................................................................................................................16• Folders and Notebooks ..............................................................................................................................16Web• Publishing Guidelines ................................................................................................................................17• Securing Coverage of News or Feature Stories .....................................................................................17• Posting Calendar Information .................................................................................................................17• Submitting Announcements .....................................................................................................................17<strong>School</strong> and Department Sites• Required Elements for <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> ................................................................................................................18• Department/Office Home Pages ...............................................................................................................19• Relevant Policies and Regulations ...........................................................................................................19Style Guide• Letter Format ..............................................................................................................................................20• Division Style Book ....................................................................................................................................20• Telephone Protocol ....................................................................................................................................28Media Relations• Rapport with the Media ............................................................................................................................30• Media Do’s and Don’ts ...............................................................................................................................31• Interview Strategies ...................................................................................................................................32• News Releases .............................................................................................................................................33Special Events• Types of Events/Responsibilities ..............................................................................................................35• Planning Timeline .....................................................................................................................................36• Seating and Speaking Arrangements .....................................................................................................38• Platform Protocols .....................................................................................................................................39• Settings for Business Partnerships ..........................................................................................................39• Additional Resources .................................................................................................................................40Critical Communication• Letters About Special Safety-Related Issues ............................................................................................42• Annotated Letters .......................................................................................................................................43• Guidelines for Parent Letter .....................................................................................................................47• Sample Letters ............................................................................................................................................48• Templates/Guidance to Come ..................................................................................................................51• Contacts for Letter Development Approval ............................................................................................521


IntroductionEffective communication — both internal and external — is vital to the success of the <strong>School</strong> Division. It enables usto positively influence attitudes and behaviors, leading to a wide range of desired outcomes, from enhanced studentsafety and performance, to securing support for school programs and initiatives; improving staff recruitment andretention; and achieving higher overall customer satisfaction.The payoffs are huge. Together with the benefit of avoiding the mistrust and misunderstandings that arise in theabsence of effective communication, they more than justify the time, effort, and investment needed to reach outfrequently and fully to every target audience.This handbook offers valuable <strong>guide</strong>lines for developing communications and supportingmaterials that reach your audience at the right time and in the right ways to effectively deliveryour message and reinforce the positive image of <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> (PWCS).That image, and what it stands for, constitutes our brand-image in the same way that specific brand elements shapeyour perception of Disney or Coca-Cola. We must live up to our responsibility to communicate openly and honestlywith all stakeholders while remaining every bit as protective of our brand as the international consumer companiesare of theirs.Please familiarize yourself with each of the brief sections of this handbook, especially the first section below,“Getting the Message Across.” Then, use it as needed, along with supporting materials in the Communication sectionof the PWCS Intranet. Together, they will help you to fully and effectively share important information with ourmany audiences remaining consistent with our brand, and portraying the ongoing story of <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong>Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>.Getting the Message AcrossBelieve it or not, many communications fail to produce the desired response or action simply becausecommunicators do not identify and properly emphasize exactly what they want to convey. People today arebombarded by a constant flow of information. This makes it essential to plan all written and verbal communicationwith two overall elements in mind — one remains constant; the other changes with circumstances:Who is communicating?• You are communicating as a representative of <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>.PWCS values and image comprise the constant frame that shapes all we say and do.What does the audience need to know right now?• All communications must convey a single message that you want the audience toremember and act upon. This ever-changing, case-specific message is the focus of anygood communication.2


IntroductionThe PWCS VoiceWhat our <strong>School</strong> Division stands for — our beliefs and approach to education — are captured in severaldocuments, including our Strategic Plan and beliefs statement. For purposes of communication, they can besummarized by our mission statement, which amounts to our promise to the community: Providing a World-Class Education. The meaning of that promise and how we go about delivering on it must underlie everycommunication concerning PWCS.Four consistent brand themes can help you to consistently explain the World-Class promise, illuminating keypoints, as appropriate for a given audience.Providing a World-Class Education Means• We strive for and secure student achievement that meets high standards, individually and across all groups.• We invest carefully in people and programs — putting the needs of children first – to offer education that isrigorous, relevant and engaging.• We offer schools that are safe, inviting places where every student is valued and has a sense of belonging.• We prepare students for a global future, with new challenges and unlimited opportunities.Linking the Brand and the MessageMessages developed for any situation must stem from and reinforce our PWCS promise and itsmeaning. When creating messages, use these brand themes to ensure that your communicationsembrace the PWCS professional image. For example, when explaining test results, themessage might showcase how the results or the <strong>School</strong> Division’s response demonstrates ourcommitment to meeting high standards. When talking about potentially dangerous situations,the message should highlight steps being taken to ensure safety. In each example, the message —and hopefully the action it represents — is shaped by our brand commitments.3


IntroductionMessage of the MomentYou cannot communicate effectively without preparing your message first.It is the single key idea you want your audience to remember and act upon as a result of your communication.It must be the central focus of that communication, repeated and expanded frequently. Often the message willhelp people to interpret the meaning of information or an event — that’s an important role. If you do not provideinterpretation, others will.• Simply define the most important thing you want your audience to remember, understand, and/or to actupon. The idea is more important than the exact words. Indeed, it can be conveyed with differentwords each time, so long as the point gets across.• Select up to four secondary points/issue themes that help you explain the what, why, and how ofyour primary message. Use them to help illuminate your message and to ultimately steer the focus backto the primary point you seek to make. Anticipating questions or negative reactions generated by yourprimary message can help you develop themes to counter them.• Think about the words you can use to convey a clear message in a way that is relevant to the audience.• Identify information and appropriate anecdotes that help you communicate what the messages andthemes really mean.• Once you’ve prepared your message — stick to it. State your main point quickly and clearly. Then, usesecondary points, as needed to expand and reinforce the idea — or to respond to questions — but alwaysendeavor to leave the audience with that one main point.Golden Rules• State your message early and often — do not build up to it with a story, or mention it once, assuming youhave made the point; instead, tell them, tell them again, then tell them what you told them.• Be clear and concise — Don’t use jargon that others don’t understand.• Make it matter — people remember information with impact on their lives. So don’t just give them data, givethem a message about how and why something affects them.• Make it timely — Information is both more relevant and more convincing when shared in a timely fashion.When you fail to communicate promptly, even positive information can be viewed with suspicion.• Focus on the audience — The same message can be stated in different ways. Be sure to use words andanecdotes to which the audience can relate.• Keep it truthful, but positive — Never mislead. That’s the easiest way to lose credibility. Help your audienceunderstand even bad news in a positive light. For example, if results are disappointing, focus your messageon plans for improvement. Remember, most facts require interpretation. If you don’t interpret them as partof your message, someone else will.• Reflect the values and image of <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>.4


IntroductionPutting it all TogetherOur brand promise, its recurring themes and the primary and secondary points we use to discuss any issue canbe likened to a target for a game of darts.Words, stories, and anecdotes are the darts themselves. They should be aimed effectively to hit the target.Our objective is the bullseye — securing audience understanding and awareness of the main message. We want tohit it again and again.We can also score by hitting the four secondary points (themes) that surround the bullseye — hitting the rightones for a given audience can strengthen their understanding of our message and help to address questions andconcerns. Aiming at various points on the target can help you move your audience back toward the bullseye of aclearly understood message.Ideally, thinking about these themes can drive development of primary issue messages and the points thatenhance them.The target is our promise of providing a World-Class Education. To communicate effectively, stay on target. Missthe target, and your audience will likely miss your point.5


Communications TeamCommunications and Technology ServicesKeith Imon, Associate SuperintendentAssociate Superintendent for Communications and Technology Servicesimonka@pwcs.edu703.791.8030Debra Hoge, Administrative Assistanthoged@pwcs.edu703.791.7451Office of Communication Services• Community Relations Services• Web Services• Media Production Services• <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> NetworkBusiness PartnershipsEducation FoundationOffice of Communications ServicesKen Blackstone, Directorblackskj@pwcs.edu703.791.8015Contact for questions about:Communication ProtocolsInternal CommunicationCrisis Communication<strong>School</strong> Board CommunicationLegislative/Government RelationsPublic RelationsCommunity Relations ServicesIrene Cromer, Supervisorcromeri@pwcs.edu703.791.8721Contact for questions about:Media RelationsPublicationsNews ReleasesBoard BriefsAwardsRecognition ProgramsEmployee RecognitionVolunteers and Resource Speaker Program6


Communications TeamWeb ServicesMary Anne Billingsley, Web Masterbillinma@pwcs.edu703.791.8998Contact for questions about:Division Web Site<strong>School</strong> Web SitesDepartment Web SitesMacromedia Contribute SoftwareCalendar of EventsFTP ProcessWeb Site Editing ProcessesWeb Site Regulations and PoliciesMedia Production ServicesBen Swecker, Supervisorsweckebd@pwcs.edu703.791.7328Contact for questions about:PWCS-TV (Comcast Channel 18)Video ProductionCable ProgrammingTeleconferencesVideo Instructional ProgramsMultimediaGraphic ProductionA/V Equipment for LoanA/V Support for Special Events and ProgramsAvailability of Photographers and VideographersAudio, Videotape and DVD Duplication Services (provided at a nominal fee)<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> Network (Distance Learning)7


Communications TeamBusiness Partnerships — Partnership <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong>(pwcspartnership.org)Sharon Henry, Administrative Coordinatorhenrysw@pwcs.edu703.791.8002Contact for questions about:Classroom SpeakersVolunteer/Mentor Program<strong>School</strong>-to-Business PartnershipsBusiness-to-<strong>School</strong> PartnershipsBusiness Partner AwardsEducation Foundation(pwcsedfoundation.org)Susan Harman, Executive Directorharmansc@pwcs.edu703.791.8003Contact for questions about:KidBizInnovative Grants ProgramDonationsSponsorships8


Visual IdentityLogoThe PWCS logo — with its integrated slogan, Providinga World-Class Education — is key to presenting a clearand consistent image of a unified <strong>School</strong> Division toall audiences. Use of the logo is mandatory on reports,publications and “products,” created by PWCS. Itsprominence may be varied to reflect the origin andintent of materials.For example, the “Code of Behavior” and “Profile ofExcellence” publications will prominently display thelogo or PWCS name on the front page to reflect theirDivisionwide origin. <strong>School</strong>-based publications mustincorporate the logo, but may do so in a manner thatclearly places the focus on the school, while using the logoto represent that the school is part of a larger Divisionfamily (follow <strong>guide</strong>lines for specific types of publications).The following rules apply to logo use in all circumstances.1. Logos will be reproduced only in approved PMS 287 blue (Sample 1) or black and white (Sample 2).Sample 1 Sample 22. The full logo (as contrasted with it’s “globe component” (Sample 3) used as a stand-alone) may not bereversed (Sample 4).IncorrectORSample 3 Sample 43. A minimum size for the full logo must be 1/2 inch tall by 2 1/4 inches long (0.5 x 2.25 inches) to ensurereadability (Sample 5).Sample 54. The aspect ratio — relationship between logo height and width — is not to be altered (Sample 6). Utilizelock ratio functions of document design software to ensure proper height/width relationship.IncorrectSample 69


Visual Identity — Continued5. Do not utilize the logo treatment without the slogan element (Sample 7).IncorrectSample 76. The PWCS logo is not to be used as an element in creating a new logo/identity for a program orpublication (Sample 8). Instead, use two separate and clearly distinct elements to depict a relationship(Sample 9).IncorrectSuper Smart Kids<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>CorrectSuper Smart KidsSample 8 Sample 97. The PWCS Logo must be displayed as part of signage created to depict school projects/programs toaudiences outside <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> (Sample 10). (See section on Signage on page 16.)Sample 1010


Visual Identity — ContinuedStationery — AdministratorsPWCS stationery utilize specific designs for schoolsand administrators. Included for administratorstationery are the PWCS logo and slogan, employeename, title, department, and appropriate contactinformation. The PWCS Imaging Center maintainsthe design. No customized graphic treatments arepermitted. Fax cover sheets, memo forms, andname-customizable letterhead will also be created,but distributed solely in electronic template form foruse in preparing individual correspondence usingpersonal computers and local printers. Templatesfor stationery may be ordered by contactingTim Tewalt, Media Productions Services,(tewaltte@pwcs.edu or 703.791.7324).Fax SheetLetterheadMemorandum11


Visual Identity — ContinuedStationery — <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>Included for school stationery are the PWCS logoand slogan, school mascot, appropriate contactinformation, and principal’s name. The PWCSImaging Center maintains the design. No customizedgraphic treatments are permitted. Templatesfor stationery may be ordered by contactingTim Tewalt, Media Productions Services,(tewaltte@pwcs.edu or 703.791.7324).Business CardsPWCS business cards utilize a single design for allpositions Divisionwide. Included are the PWCS logo andslogan, employee name, title, school and department,and appropriate contact information. The PWCS ImagingCenter maintains the design. No customized graphictreatments are permitted.Templates for staff business cards may be ordered bycontacting Tim Tewalt, Media Productions Services,(tewaltte@pwcs.edu or 703.791.7324).<strong>School</strong> LetterheadKerrydale Elementary <strong>School</strong>13199 Kerrydale Road • Woodbridge, VA 22193703.590.1262 • FAX 703.670.6259 • www.pwcs.edu/KerrydaleAnthony W. Leonard, PrincipalBetty A. <strong>William</strong>s, Assistant PrincipalBusiness CardYOUR NAME HEREYour Title HereYour Department/Office/<strong>School</strong> Here703.555.5555Fax:703.555.5555P.O. Box 389Manassas, VA 22108www.pwcs.eduemail:yourname@pwcs.eduwww.pwcs.edu12


Visual Identity — ContinuedPublicationsAll publications and reports created by PWCS schoolsand offices must follow the <strong>guide</strong>lines specified belowto ensure that they appropriately reflect Division“ownership” and image, while serving their intendedaudience. Publications <strong>guide</strong>lines and tools can befound on the Intranet.Universal <strong>guide</strong>lines:1. Intended audience should be the primaryconsideration in the writing and design ofall publications. Clarity is paramount. Jargonthat is understandable only to educators mustbe avoided, even in teacher-focused copy, toensure that publications are clear andaccessible to secondary audiences.2. The combination of color, font families, and the“globe element” of our logo constitute a visualsignature for PWCS that can be manipulatedby a qualified designer to create new designsthat retain some degree of consistency acrossall Division publications. This is especiallyimportant for publications designed forDivisionwide distribution; greater latitude ispermitted in the design of school-basedproducts, so long as they incorporate otherelements described herein.3. All publications must be carefully proofed,edited, and free from grammatical andtypographical errors.4. All publications must be written and edited inaccordance with the PWCS style <strong>guide</strong>(see page 20).5. All publications must include, at minimum:a) PWCS logo, with slogan. Logo shouldappear on front cover or front page and/orback cover or back page. Appropriateplacement and size of the logo and/or the<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> <strong>School</strong> nameare indicated in detail under theappropriate publication category.Logos are available on the Intranet.b) The complete list of <strong>School</strong> Board andSuperintendent’s Staff or the name of theSuperintendent of <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> (the latter isacceptable in short brochures, newsletters, etc.Larger, more formal publications should utilizethe full listing).c) <strong>School</strong> Division address:P.O. Box 389, Manassas, VA 20108d) <strong>School</strong> Division phone number:703.791.7200e) <strong>School</strong> Division Web Address:www.pwcs.eduf) Date of publicationPublications templates — Items a-e (and the short versionof the disclaimer referenced below) are contained inpredesigned templates available to meet a variety of sizeand shape requirements (Sample 11 and 12). Templatesmay be used on a title page. They are also well-suited toback page/cover use. Please choose templates from theselection available on the Intranet to ensure you are usingthe most up-to-date version.6. All publications which are directed to thecommunity or staff must include the following notice ofnondiscrimination:<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> does notdiscriminate on the basis of race, color, nationalorigin, sex, disability, or age in its programs andactivities.Major publications such as course catalogs, handbooks,teacher <strong>guide</strong>s, and others designed primarily to broadlycommunicate Division policies and offerings shouldinclude the longer version of the nondiscriminationnotice, specifying contacts for addressing complains orconcerns:13


Visual Identity — Continued<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> doesnot discriminate on the basis of race, color,national origin, sex, disability, or age in itsprograms and activities.Formal VersionThe following persons have beendesignated to handle inquiries regardingnondiscrimination policies:Title IX ComplianceDirector of Student ServicesP.O. Box 389, Manassas, VA 20108703.791.7257Section 504 ComplianceDirector of Special EducationP.O. Box 389, Manassas, VA 20108703.791.7287Short VersionSample 12Sample 1114


Visual Identity — ContinuedBrochures• Should be designed to best market/provideinformation about their subject program orproduct to the target audience.• PWCS name and/or logo should be includedon the cover, per following <strong>guide</strong>lines, unlessdetrimental to the purpose of the publication,or inappropriate to fully represent program/product sponsorship (Sample 13).• Tri-folds, larger, etc.• Use of the publications template is mandatory.The short-version is acceptable for mosttri-fold or other short brochures. Full versionis recommended for larger publications.• Brochures should be of sufficient quality toappropriately reflect the World-Class natureof PWCS. Professional design is preferablefor brochures to be distributed in significantnumbers.• When using the <strong>School</strong> Division name on thecover, the font must appear vertically orhorizontally as shown in sample 13.Newsletters• Newsletters from PWCS departments andoffices must incorporate the name or logo onthe front page (Sample 14).• Newsletters must incorporate all requiredpublication information, including the“Superintendent’s name” (short version) onthe publication template. You may havea credits section to give credit to writers andeditors as well.• When possible, design should draw onelements of PWCS visual signature.• Nondiscrimination disclaimer should bechosen to reflect the needs/interests of thetarget audience.C ommunicatorA WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FOR THE EMPLOYEES OF THEPRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLSSummer <strong>School</strong>Principals andAssistantPrincipalsThe following list of appointments for elementary, middle,and high school summer school principals and assistantprincipals is continued from the May 15Communicator:Lisa Jones, Life Science Teacher at Benton Middle<strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong> Principal atWest Gate Elementary <strong>School</strong>.Todd Kemmerly, Administrative Assistant and PhysicalEducation Teacher at Kerrydale Elementary <strong>School</strong>, wasappointed Summer <strong>School</strong> Principal at MinnievilleElementary <strong>School</strong>.Louis LePore, Assistant Principal at Cedar PointElementary <strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong>Principal at Ellis Elementary <strong>School</strong>.Koeen Madsen, Teacher on Administrative Assignmentat Benton Middle <strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer<strong>School</strong> Principal at Bennett Elementary <strong>School</strong>.James McGovern, Teacher on AdministrativeAssignment at Osbourn Park High <strong>School</strong>, was appointedSummer <strong>School</strong> Assistant Principal at Forest ParkHigh <strong>School</strong>.Regina Nash, Teacher on Administrative Assignment atGar-Field High <strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong>Assistant Principal at Forest Park High <strong>School</strong>.Mathew Ritter, Assistant Principal at Alvey Elementary<strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong> Principal atAlvey Elementary <strong>School</strong>.Kevin Smith, Social Studies Teacher at Rippon Middle<strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong> Principal atBeville Middle <strong>School</strong>.Chuck Toler, Assistant Principal at Marsteller Middle<strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong> Principal atForest Park High <strong>School</strong>.Larry Wink, Sixth Grade Teacher at Lake Ridge Middle<strong>School</strong>, was appointed Summer <strong>School</strong> Principal atParkside Middle <strong>School</strong>.Sample 14About Our PeopleBrentsville District High <strong>School</strong>’s chapter of the FutureBusiness Leaders of America (FBLA) received variousawards at the State Leadership Conference in April.Attendance at the Conference included 1,519 members.The Brentsville FBLA chapter was named first runner-up forthe 2006 Virginia State Outstanding Chapter. There areover 400 chapters in Virginia. Sally Martin, Chairman ofthe Business and Information Technology Department atBrentsville, and Taryn Witt, Business and InformationTechnology teacher, will serve as FBLA State Advisors for2006-07. The chapter and individual members came awaywith a number of other awards and three members qualifiedto compete at the <strong>National</strong> Leadership Conference inNashville, Tennessee in July.Joseph Gabalski, Music Teacher at Stonewall Jackson High<strong>School</strong>, was the featured organist and accompanist in aconcert at Centreville United Methodist Church in April. Heaccompanied the church’s choir in a performance of JohnRutter’s “Requiem” and was the soloist for a performanceof Dan Locklair’s “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”Forest Park Science Teacher Steve Carbone and IST memberJohn Winkelsas presented a workshop at the <strong>National</strong>Science Teachers Association meeting in Annaheim,California, in April. Their presentation, “Integrating Scienceand Math Using Graphic Calculators and Probeware,” waswell-attended and received rave reviews by participants.This spring, for the first time in more than 20 years, theVirginia Organization of German Students’ two-day conventionwas held in <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong>. Thanks to HyltonHigh <strong>School</strong> Principal Carolyn Custard, Hylton teacherswho presented the bulk of the workshops, and the HyltonSaying Goodbye to Retireescustodians who set up and helped keep things running, thiswas a super event for area German students and presented<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> as a warm, welcoming, and fun place to be.Well over 200 students and teachers from more than 20schools attended. Popular German games, German colonialismin Africa and Asia, German teen life, glass etching, andEaster egg decorating were popular session themes. HyltonGerman Teacher Marlies Smith coordinated the event.Manes Pierre, ESOL Teacher at Freedom High <strong>School</strong>, presentedat a conference organized by the Association ofHaitian Professionals held at Howard University in April. Theevent discussed the wealth of published material available inFrench, Haitian Creole, and English for educators. Mr. Pierrediscussed his book, The Man and His Thoughts.As part of her cultural sharing commitment, VisitingInternational Teacher at Woodbridge Middle <strong>School</strong> SarahChaplin took a group of her students, parents, and colleaguesback to England for spring break. Twenty-two students,two parents, and three colleagues toured London,Oxford, and Stratford Upon Avon for lots of exciting adventures.See the Web story at www.pwcs.edu/news/story102/story102.htm.Arenda Bingham, <strong>School</strong> Psychologist, would like to thankeveryone who has donated sick leave to her during her currenttime of illness. Ms. Bingham truly appreciates the love,support, and generosity that has been shown toward her.Congratulations to Steven Hirsch, World History Teacher atMarsteller Middle <strong>School</strong>, and to Terri Wiseman, SIGNETTeacher from Stonewall Middle <strong>School</strong>, who were listed inthe 2005 Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. This isthe second time Mr. Hirsch has received this recognition.JoAnn Taylor, custodian at Osbourn Park High <strong>School</strong>, will be an additional honoree at the retirement dinner to be heldfor Osbourn Park retirees at the school on May 30 at 6 p.m.Minnieville Elementary <strong>School</strong> staff will host a reception for Jean Farris’ retirement from 4:30-6 p.m. on Thursday,June 8 in the school library. RSVP via email to Diana Burley at burleydl@pwcs.edu.See Retirees on Channel 21The PWCS Retirement Ceremony, held last Tuesday night at Hylton High <strong>School</strong>, will be broadcast on Channel 21 onthe following dates and times: Tuesday, May 23; Thursday, May 25; Saturday, May 27; and Sunday, May 28 from3:30-5 p.m. and 8:30-10 p.m.VOLUME 1, NO. 27 MAY 22, 2006Credits SectionSample 1315


Visual Identity — Continued<strong>School</strong> Newsletters/Newspapers• <strong>School</strong>-based newsletters must utilize theshort version of the publications template tocreate PWCS brand identity. AdditionalPWCS name and logo use are at the editor’sdiscretion.• <strong>School</strong> newspapers must utilize the shortversion of the publications template to createPWCS brand identity. Additional PWCSname and logo use are at the editor’sdiscretion.Showcase• Templates have been developed to provide aunified Divisionwide look and feel for allmusic, arts and theater programs (Sample 15).P R I N C E W I L L I A M C O U N T Y P U B L I C S C H O O L SShowcaseFolders and NotebooksUse the following template (Sample 16) for three-ringbinders, folders, and notebooks that are used for officialreports or presentations, such as to the school board.Some artistic license can be taken, such as insertingpictures into the grids in the globe (Sample 17).Your Title HerePresented byDecember 25, 2006Sample 16 Sample 17For spine labels, customize your title using the Sample 18template. For vertical placement of the <strong>School</strong> Divisionname on the front of a publication, use Sample 19. Bothtemplates are available on the Intranet.Sample 15SignageYou may encounter a situation in which you will needsome form of signage. Some examples are:Podium signsEvent bannersMeeting signsPromotional itemsConference displaysPostersYour Title HerePRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLSPRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLSContact Media Production Services to assist you if youthink you will need any such signage. Sample 18 Sample 1916


WebThe PWCS Web site is an important tool which enhances communication between the <strong>School</strong> Division and thecommunity. The Web site is being constantly improved and enhanced in order to make that communication moreinformative, more targeted to our audiences’ needs, and easier to access. These <strong>guide</strong>lines are provided to helpmaintain an organized professional design and encourage the maintenance of relevant and easy to find informationon the PWCS Web site.Publishing GuidelinesHow to publish announcements, feature news stories, and events on the PWCSWeb site• Securing coverage and/or publication of feature news stories — If your school or office would like tohave a feature story covered and/or composed by the Community Relations Office and posted on thePWCS Web site, contact the Community Relations Office by email or at 703.791.8720. Please submitthis request at least two weeks in advance.• Calendar Events – <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> and offices must post their own events on the PWCS Web site calendar.Easy online forms are available for staff to input their events. The most time sensitive events will belisted on the PWCS home page and will be updated in chronological order.• Announcements – Divisionwide announcements or other important announcements may be postedon the PWCS home page.a. Submit announcement requests by email to the PWCS Web master one to two weeks in advance.b. Announcements must be limited to a short title and paragraph (approx. 150 characters)for the PWCS home page. If the announcement needs to be longer, the rest of theannouncement will be continued on another Web page.c. The PWCS Web master in coordination with the Director of Communications Services willdetermine if the announcement should be posted on the PWCS home page or on the school’s Website.Publishing (“posting” or “uploading”) Web pages (files) to thePWCS Web serverWeb managers, Web masters, and Web developers at schools and departmentsmay post/upload Web pages to the PWCS server after requesting access from thePWCS Web master• Only staff will be given access to the PWCS Web server.• Staff must email the PWCS Web master at billinma@pwcs.edu to request access to upload files to theWeb server.• The school principal or office supervisor must authorize the access to the Web server by emailing thePWCS Web master at billinma@pwcs.edu. with a statement of authorization.• Instructions for posting files to the Web server will be provided by the PWCS Web master.17


Web — <strong>School</strong> and Department SitesRequirements for PWCS Web Sites<strong>School</strong> Web Sites – The following are required:• <strong>School</strong> Web sites must be updated on a timely basis. Information should be removed or updated assoon as its date has been reached.• A link to www.pwcs.edu must be on the school’s home page.• The PWCS logo must be placed on the school’s home page. Graphic will be provided by the PWCSWeb master.• <strong>School</strong> Division news and information is available to post on school Web pages or in newsletters.Contact the PWCS Web master.• Photos and illustrations must be no larger than 400 pixels wide. If pictures are larger they must bereduced in photo editor software before inserting into a Web page. This is necessary for keeping thefile size small enough for Web sites.• <strong>School</strong> Web Site domain names must appear on printed publications in the following format:pwcs.edu/school name. For example, pwcs.edu/Battlefield.• <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> which participate in Intouch Online (Edulink) must display a link to it in a prominent positionon the home page. Note that if a business is sponsoring the school, the business logo may be displayedon the Intouch Web page.• Nondiscrimination statement or a link to it must be on the school’s home page.pwcs.edu/Departments/info/non-discrimination.html.• Web site privacy policy and links disclaimer statement or a link to it must be on the school’s homepage. (pwcs.edu/departments/info/webservices/webpolicy.html ).• A link to the PWCS “Code of Behavior” – pwcs.edu/Rippon/VaReadersChoice0607.htm mustbe on the school’s home page.• If participating in Business Partnerships, a link to the Business Partnerships site must be on theschool’s home page. pwcspartnership.org.• Summer reading lists or a link to the school’s list must be sent to the PWCS Web master in May eachyear. Or, if you are using the same reading list as the previous year, just notify the Web master (youdo not have to send a new reading list). This list must be correct and complete when sent to the PWCSWeb master. The Web master does not edit the reading lists. The reading list documents can be inMicrosoft Word format or in HTML format.The following are not allowed on school Web pages:• Logos and links to outside business Web sites. The Business Partnership <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> Web site willplace the logos of businesses which have been determined to be helping the schools in some way.• Links to personal Web sites.• Links to online fundraising services18


Web — <strong>School</strong> and Department SitesDepartment/Office Home Pages• Offices and departments should designate staff to be “Web managers” who will insert and updateoffice information and news on their Web pages. The PWCS Web master should be contacted by theoffice supervisor with authorization for designated staff to upload files to the Web server.• Office or department Web pages must be updated on a timely basis. Information should be removedor updated as soon as its date has been reached.• Templates with the PWCS Web site logo, design and format are available for office Web pagedevelopment. All office Web pages must use the templated page design.• Office Web pages must be developed with “Contribute” or “DreamWeaver” software. “Contribute” isprovided on the Novell launcher to staff who have attended “Contribute” training.• Office Web pages may include photos and illustrations within the framework of the templateddesign.• Photos and illustrations must be no larger than 400 pixels wide. If pictures are larger they must bereduced in photo editor software before inserting into a “Contribute” Web page. This is necessaryfor keeping the file size small enough for Web sites.Policies and Regulations Pertaining to <strong>School</strong> and Department Web SitesPolicies and regulations pertaining to Web page development and publishing by schools anddepartments are listed below. See more information on the PWCS Web site at:• Web Site Plan — pwcs.edu/departments/info/webservices• Internet Policy 295 — www.pwcs.edu/Admin/pwcs/pol_pdfs/P295.PDF• Internet Web Site Privacy Policy 295.01 — www.pwcs.edu/Admin/pwcs/pol_pdfs/p295.01.pdf• Internet Use Regulation 295-1 — www.pwcs.edu/Admin/pwcs/admin_pdfs/R295-1.pdf• Web Development Regulation 295-2 and Release Forms (photos and names). —pwcs.edu/Admin/pwcs/admin_pdfs/R295-2.pdf• PWCPS Internet Web Site Policies, Privacy Policy and Links Disclaimer:pwcs.edu/departments/info/webservices/?webpolicy.html• Copyrights Regulation — pwcs.edu/Admin/pwcs/admin_pdfs/R157-1.pdf• Web Development Guidelines for Accessibility to the Disabled — www.w3.org/WAI/gettingstarted19


Style Guide<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> <strong>School</strong> Division Style GuideIn order to ensure consistency for all written <strong>School</strong> Division communications, we ask that you prepare all memos,faxes, letters, and other print items using the following <strong>guide</strong>lines.This list includes some of the most commonly occurring layout and writing questions encountered by the CommunityRelations Office. The answers below reflect the <strong>School</strong> Division’s own predetermined style; however many rules arebased upon The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual or The Tenth Edition of the Gregg Reference Manual.The <strong>School</strong> Division standard for letters, memos and faxes should be written in block style paragraphs (do not indentthe first line) using Times New Roman, 12-point font. For <strong>School</strong> Division letterhead, the top margin should be 21/2 inches to begin below the blue portion of the watermark, and the bottom margin should be 1 1/2 inches. Theleft and right margins should be set to one inch but can be widened to 0.65 inches if needed. Use only one spacebetween sentences and four hard returns for the signature line.(Please call Stacy Patterson, information specialist in the Community Relations Office, at 703.791.8147 forclarification or with additional writing/layout questions.)Examples in this Style Guide are italicized.________________________________________________________________________AbbreviationsOnly use abbreviations for street names that are listed with an address number. If no address number is given, spellout the designation.Example: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. He lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.Academic DegreesAvoid abbreviations whenever possible. Instead, spell out the degree name unless the need to identify many peopleby degree on first reference would make the preferred method cumbersome. If you do need to abbreviate, use theabbreviations only after a full name, and set the abbreviations off with commas. Of course, use your best judgmentwhen working with a long list of names. Also, be certain to use periods in the abbreviations where appropriate.When spelling out the degree name, use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, etc. Also, rememberthat there is no apostrophe in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science. You should capitalize the degree name, but notthe course material.Example: She holds a Master of Science in speech therapy. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from theUniversity of Virginia. Samuel Cotton, Ph.D., lectured yesterday, along with….20


Style Guide - ContinuedAcronymsSpell out words on first reference and list the acronym in parentheses immediately following the title or phrase. Theacronym can then be used freely for subsequent references.A few exceptions: PWCS is acceptable without previous reference when used in internal <strong>School</strong> Division communicationsor on the PWCS Web site. Also, acronyms or abbreviations that are used commonly in everyday writing (i.e., not limitedto the educational community), such as USO and NASA, may be used without first spelling out the full title. However,remember that acronyms common to educators (such as SOL and NCLB) may not be well-known to others, so theyshould be spelled out on first reference as noted above.BiannualBiannual means “occurring twice a year,” but the word often gets confused with biennial, which means “occurring everytwo years.” For this reason, use the word semiannual when describing something that occurs twice a year.BiennialUse this word to describe an activity or event that “occurs every two years.”BoardCapitalize the word Board when referring specifically to the PWCS <strong>School</strong> Board.Example: All decisions made by the Board are final.Bulleted Items (or numbered lists)Follow these rules when creating a bulleted list:• Use numbered lists only when order matters. Otherwise, use bullets.• Always use punctuation and a period at the end of a “bulleted” complete sentence.• Use semicolons at the end of incomplete sentences.• Do not mix incomplete and complete sentence styles.• Begin each entry with a capital letter, even when working with incomplete sentences.CapitalizationDo not use all caps for emphasis. Instead, use italics or bold for this purpose.See Titles for proper capitalization of job titles. Also, always capitalize the following words in communications from the<strong>School</strong> Division:Board (when referring to the PWCS <strong>School</strong> Board)Division (when referring to PWCS)DivisionwideInternetIntranet<strong>School</strong> Board<strong>School</strong> DivisionWeb (Web site, Web page, Web address, etc.)World-Class or World-Class Education21


Style Guide — ContinuedCommasCommas should be used before words such as “and” and “or” in a series of three or more.Example: Students from Bel Air, Enterprise, and Springwoods Elementary <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> participated in the food drive.Use commas to set off nonessential phrases.Example: They ate dinner with their daughter Julie and her husband, David. (Julie has only one husband. Withoutthe comma, it would suggest that she had more than one husband.)Composition TitlesPut quotation marks around the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, plays, movies, songs, software titles, televisionprograms and works of art. Exceptions are the Bible, and reference catalogs such as almanacs, directories, dictionaries,and encyclopedias. Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.Capitalize an article — the, a, an — or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.Example: “The Washington Post,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Of Mice and Men,”Encyclopedia Britannica.DatesIt is acceptable to use abbreviated dates (e.g., 7/06) in headings for letters, memos, etc., but always spell out the datewhen placing it in text, and refrain from abbreviating the months unless you are working on a long list or space is vital.Also, do not include the year in text if you are writing about a date that is taking place during the current year. Onlyinclude the four-digit year if it is absolutely needed for clarification.When writing out dates, do not use “rd” or “th” after the date. Instead, simply write August 23, September 5, 2007, etc.Seasons, when used as dates, should always be listed in lowercase (fall 2006, not Fall).When listing the school year, list all four digits for the fall date, followed by the last two digits for the spring date.Example: The event will take place on December 5, but results won’t be in until January 14, 2007. All scores willreflect work from the fall of 2006.See <strong>School</strong> YearDepartments and OfficesA section that has a named associate superintendent is a “department.” Smaller sections with directors and/or supervisorsare “offices” which are contained under the larger department group. When naming a PWCS department or office, usecapital letters.Example: Irene Cromer is the supervisor of the Community Relations Office, which is housed in the Department ofCommunications and Technology Services.DivisionWhen used to denote <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>, the word Division should always be capitalized.Example: You will begin to see improvements in various areas throughout the Division.22


Style Guide — ContinuedDivisionwideDo not hyphenate this term. (See note on Division above.)e.g.e.g., literally, “for example.” A comma should follow. Not interchangeable with “i.e.”EmailEmail should be written as one word with no hyphen or space.Example: Email (when beginning a sentence) or email; not E-mail or E-Mail.HyphenationIn general, hyphens should be used to help clarify any compound modifier used before a noun (well-known teacher, upto-daterecords, etc.) except for “very” and modifiers ending with “ly”. A few common examples that arise Divisionwideinclude:eighth-grade leveleighth-grade studenta fifth-gradermiddle-school readersgrade-level and content-area teacherssecond- and third-grade levelsUse a hyphen to designate dual heritage: African-American, Mexican-AmericanPWCS style does not hyphenate the following:high school studentsmiddle school studentelementary school studentFor further guidance on hyphenation, check the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual or the Tenth Edition of theGregg Reference Manual.i.e.i.e., literally, “that is.” A comma should follow. Not interchangeable with “e.g.”Internet and IntranetThe words Internet and Intranet should always be capitalized.ItalicsUse italics to highlight and/or emphasize important words in a text.23


Style Guide — ContinuedNumbersSpell out the numbers one through nine when used in prose. Use numerals for the numbers 10 and above. This includesthe use of ordinals, e.g., fifth grade, 12th grade. Do not use apostrophes for plural dates, but use an apostrophe forabbreviated dates.Exceptions: Always use numerals for GPA or other scores and percentages. Also use numerals for currency.Example: Five students scored above a 3.8 on the exam. As such, they each walked away with $100. The 1980s werebetter than the ‘70s.OnlineOne word, no hyphens.Order of PrecedenceWhen listing Division dignitaries in programs, publications, etc., names should be given in the following order: <strong>School</strong>Board Chairman, <strong>School</strong> Board Vice Chairman, other <strong>School</strong> Board members (alphabetically), Superintendent of <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>,deputy superintendent, associate superintendents (alphabetically), followed by school principal, assistant principal, etc.(For a complete list of <strong>School</strong> Division executive personnel, see “Templates/Logos” under Community Relations on theIntranet.)If any local, state, or federal dignitaries are to be listed, they should always be recognized first following standardpresentation protocols.(See Special Events section of these <strong>guide</strong>lines.)PrefixesGenerally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant. Three common exceptions are:• Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that followsbegins with the same vowel.• Use a hyphen if the word that follow is capitalized.• Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subparagraph.<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>The <strong>School</strong> Division’s full name is <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>. While it is acceptable to call us <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong><strong>County</strong> <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>, the shorter name is not preferred because it lends confusion about which schools we represent (e.g.,public vs. private). Regardless of which full name you use, the acronym will always be PWCS.PWCSPWCS is the correct abbreviation to be used for <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>. Among other things, this acronymis consistent with our Web site. Always spell out the <strong>School</strong> Division’s full name with PWCS in parentheses when firstreferenced, except on internal documents or on the Division Web site.Example: <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> (PWCS) announced a new initiative to boost test scores. IreneCromer, a spokeswoman for PWCS, noted that…24


Style Guide — ContinuedQuotation MarksPeriods and other punctuation marks are always placed inside the quotation marks. Use quotation marks to surround theexact words of a speaker written, or to identify unfamiliar words. Also use for names of books, newspapers, and othercomposition titles.See Composition Titles<strong>School</strong> BoardAlways capitalize when referring to the <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> <strong>School</strong> Board. Also, when listing a Board Member in apublic communication, always follow the first instance of the name with the member’s area in parenthesis.Example: Several decisions were made at last night’s <strong>School</strong> Board meeting. Michael I. Otaigbe (Occoquan) andDenita S. Ramierz (Woodbridge) voted in favor of the resolution.<strong>School</strong> DivisionWhen referring to PWCS, the words <strong>School</strong> Division should always be capitalized. These will only appear in lower-casetext when referring to school divisions outside the county.Example: She represented the <strong>School</strong> Division at the regional conference. Many other school divisions were presentfor the event.<strong>School</strong> ListsThe words “Elementary,” “Middle,” “High,” and “<strong>School</strong>” should be capitalized when directly following a school’s name.When listing a series of schools, the school name and designation should be capitalized.Example: The cosmonauts visited Hylton High <strong>School</strong> on Tuesday, then went to Beville, Benton, and Fred LynnMiddle <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> on Wednesday.<strong>School</strong> YearWhen listing the school year, list all four digits for the fall date, followed by the last two digits for the spring date.Example: 2006-07 school year. Not 2006-2007 or 06-07.SemiannualNo hyphen. Use semiannual when you want to describe something that occurs twice a year. Biannual also means“occurring twice a year” but the use of semiannual is preferred. Biennial means “occurring every two years.”SpacesUse only one space between sentences. This helps on the formatting end when text is translated into graphic or Weblayouts.Telephone NumbersTo better meet industry standards, use dots, not dashes, in phone numbers at all times.Example: 703.791.872025


Style Guide — ContinuedTimeDo not include the minute designation on times that take place at the top of the hour. Also, spell out “noon” whereappropriate, rather than listing 12 p.m. When listing start and end time, separate the times with a hyphen and do notdesignate a.m. or p.m. after the start time unless it changes from a.m. to p.m.Example: Use 7 p.m., not 7:00 p.m. The meeting will be held from 5 - 7 p.m. The training will take place from8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Administrators will meet from 10:30 a.m. – noon.TitlesWhen used in a sentence, job titles should be capitalized when they precede a person’s name but should appear inlower-case text when the title follows the name. With the exception of the Superintendent and <strong>School</strong> Board Members,stand-alone titles should be capitalized when they refer to a specific individual, but should remain lower case when thereferences are nonspecific.Example: Superintendent of <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> Steven L. Walts; Steven L. Walts, Superintendent of schools. The Principal ofSpringwoods Elementary <strong>School</strong> was delighted with the outcome. All area associate superintendents are expected tobe in attendance. Joe Smith, project manager.See Composition Titles; Departments and OfficesUnderlineAvoid underlining in any print publication. Underlines transmit poorly via fax and can often make printed text difficult toread. Use italics for emphasis or quotations for composition titles.See Composition TitlesWeb, Web page, Web site, or Web masterThe “W” in Web will always be capitalized, and the word Web will always be listed as a separate word followed by itscompound word in lower case.Web AddressesWhen used in a sentence, the Division Web site should be listed as pwcs.edu, not www.pwcs.edu, and school Web sitesshould be listed as pwcs.edu/school. Avoid breaking lines when using a Web address but do not use hyphens or otherpunctuation when more than one line is used.When listing an external (non-<strong>School</strong> Division) Web site, use the “www” predecessor in the Web site address (e.g.,www.google.com). However, do not include “http://” unless the Web address begins with something other than www. Ifthe site does not have a www at the beginning, include the http:// for clarity.Example: For more information, log on to pwcs.edu. If further clarification is needed, visit www.google.com orhttp://search.yahoo.com.World-ClassAlways hyphenate, italicize, and capitalize when referring to the <strong>School</strong> Division and its work. Also capitalize the “E” inWorld-Class Education.Example: Part of receiving a World-Class Education is learning how to be a World-Class citizen.26


Style Guide — ContinuedBrevity and Clarity in WritingIt is always best to keep written communications clear and concise. While it can oftentimes be easy to copy what’salready been written (i.e., stating policy word for word) or fall into using jargon, try to remember the reason you arewriting the document in the first place. Summarize rather than re-state, and keep your comments brief and to the point.Here are a few examples to watch for as you begin composing your documents.Instead of…Use…in order to .....................................................................................toshould plan to attend ..................................................................should attendutilize .............................................................................................useacts as ............................................................................................isas well as .......................................................................................andis designed to provide .................................................................gives (if suitable)to better equip teachers with the knowledge ..........................to help teachers understandthe next edition of “<strong>School</strong> Focus,” which airs .......................“<strong>School</strong> Focus,” airing…The award is given to recognize ...............................................The award recognizesTeachers of mathematics and science ......................................math and science educatorsPrincipal at ___...........................................................................Principal of ___ (preferred)M. Ed. .............................................................................................M.Ed.Funds will be used for the purpose of ......................................will be used forShe has been a recipient of the .................................................She receivedIf you have a frequently asked item you would like to see added to this PWCS Style Guide, please email your suggestionsto patters@pwcs.edu27


Style Guide — ContinuedTelephone ProtocolPart of doing business means doing business over the telephone. Since the telephone is such an importantcommunication tool in our daily work, the following helpful hints, and proven telephone techniques, will help to makeour telephone conversations more effective and our interactions with the public more customer-oriented.Create a Good First ImpressionThe First Impression you Give Someone is Usually the Most Significant and Lasting Impression.• Try to answer the telephone on the second ring. Answering a telephone too fast can catch the caller off guardand waiting too long can make the caller angry.• When answering the telephone, use a salutation – friendly greeting (e.g., good morning, good afternoon, hello);then state the name of the school/department/office/person for which the telephone is being answered; then“your” name; and end with “May I help you.” Examples:• “Good Afternoon, Marumsco Hills Elementary <strong>School</strong> Principal’s Office, this is Susan speaking,how may I help you?”• “Good morning, Old Bridge Elementary <strong>School</strong>, this is James Smith. May I help you?”• “Hello, ninth grade office, Betty Jones speaking. How may I help you?”• “Good afternoon, Department for Communications and Technology Services, this is Keith Imon. May Ihelp you?”• “Hello, Associate Superintendent Keith Imon’s office, this is Debbie Hoge. How may I help you?”• Smile – it shows, even through the telephone lines.• Ask the caller for their name, even if their name is not necessary for the call. This shows you have taken aninterest in them. Make sure that if you ask for their name, that you use it.• Speak clearly and slowly. Never talk with anything in your mouth. This includes gum.• Lower your voice if you normally speak loud.• Keep the telephone two-finger widths away from your mouth.Placing Callers on Hold• When placing a caller on hold, always follow these steps:• Provide a reason why you are placing him/her on hold.• Ask his/her permission to be placed on hold – if the caller asks why, providethe answer.• Thank the caller for holding.• Put the caller on hold.• When taking a caller off of hold, always thank him/her for holding.• For example, you may say:• “Please hold while I get your file? ............... Thank you for holding.”• “Would you mind holding while I see if Ms. Ward is available? ....... Thank you”28


Style Guide — ContinuedTransferring a Caller• When transferring a caller, always follow these steps:• If the caller needs to speak to another person or department, please transfer the caller directly to thedesired person’s extension, not to the operator. This will save the caller having to explain his/herrequests another time, and it will cut the number of times the caller needs to be transferred.• Inform the caller to whom he/she will be transferred.• Explain why you are making the transfer.• Ask his/her permission to make the transfer.• Provide the caller with the telephone number/extension, in case the connection is lost.• Announce the caller to the person to whom you are transferring.• Transfer the call.• For example, you may say:• “Mr. Jones in the Office of Community Relations will be able to assist you. Please hold while I transferyou to his office. Thank you.”Taking Phone MessagesWhen taking a phone message for someone, always be sure to include the following information:• The caller’s name and company name if applicable or student’s name (son/daughter) if applicable.• The time and date of the call.• Information as to what the call is regarding.• Note whether or not the caller has requested a return phone call, and if so, obtain the telephone phone number.Last Impressions• Before hanging up, be sure that you have answered all the caller’s questions.• Always end with a pleasantry: “Have a nice day,” or “It was nice speaking with you.”• Let the caller hang up first. This shows the caller that you weren’t in a hurry to get off the telephone with himor her.29


Media RelationsThere is no question that we live in a media-permeated society. Therefore, <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> needsto have effective, ongoing working relationships with the media. Contrary to what you may think, the news mediaactually report many more good news stories than bad. Good media relations means approaching reporters and editorsin an honest, well-informed manner. They want to hear from us. We need to think beyond media relations as “damagecontrol” or “spin.”Rapport with the MediaWhy develop rapport with the media?• The news media is the primary vehicle for informing the public.• A positive relationship, built on trust and respect, is the best safeguard against misinformation if a crisis occurs.Who in the school can assist in building rapport with the media?• Administrators and their chosen spokespersons should be the only ones to release information to the media.• All staff should be trained to be courteous and pleasant, and to help the media locate the administrator orauthorized spokesperson.How do you develop rapport with the media?• By being pleasant, accessible, and honest.• By understanding the media’s needs and trying to accommodate them in ways that do not compromise theschool’s mission. For example, know media deadlines and schedule media events so they can cover them withplenty of time to file their stories. Give them lots of leadtime — a week or more — so that they can make plansahead and alert their news editors or news directors to the coming story.How can you be proactive with the media?• Meet each reporter personally at a time when there is no story, and give him or her a complete packet of basicinformation on the school and its programs, including contact names and numbers, and an emergency contactnumber should a crisis arise during non-business hours.• Instruct the staff to refer media calls to the supervisor of community relations should no authorizedspokesperson be available.• Invite each reporter to visit the school. Let him or her know that you are accessible.• Be aware of other community events that might present a conflict for the media, and schedule yours at a timeconvenient for them.• Look for a local angle whenever there is a national education story. How does your school compare with thenational trend? If your school is better, how did you achieve this?• Recognize that reporters like to personalize stories by giving human examples. Try to identify in advancestudents that would serve as positive examples for the school. Verify in advance that they would be willing to beinterviewed in the media.30


Media Relations — ContinuedThe Ground RulesOur major responsibility is to the students and the protection of their learning environment. At all times, students’ rightsof confidentiality must be protected. When in doubt about what you can release to the media, check with the CommunityRelations Office.When Communicating with the MediaGeneral Guidelines:1. Be honest at all times.2. Be accessible to the media.3. Be informed of the facts.Credibility with the MediaDo’s and Don’tsDO:• Speak the truth.• Be as brief as possible.• Think before you speak.• If you don’t know, say you don’t know and offer to find the answer.• Return calls promptly.• Know and respect <strong>guide</strong>lines.• Be professional.• Be timely with information.• Be sensitive to reporters’ deadlines.• Stick to the topic.• Prepare and rehearse for interviews.• Keep staff informed, but limit who will give information to the media.• Stress positives of your school.DON’T:• DON’T refuse to speak to the press.• DON’T say “It’s off the record.”• DON’T say “No comment.”• DON’T use educational jargon.• DON’T hedge a question with devious answers.• DON’T play favorites with reporters.• DON’T disclaim responsibility.• DON’T blame reporters for occurrences out of their control.31


Media Relations — ContinuedInterview StrategiesYou may find yourself in a variety of interview settings: radio, TV, or newspaper interviews in person or by telephone.Preparing for an interview:• Define your objective.• Anticipate media questions.• Prepare and rehearse answers to questions.• Play devil’s advocate and develop answers to all the tough questions you can anticipate.• Have several (no more than three) key points to be made. Keep reiterating them.• Maintain eye contact.• Be aware if recording devices are being used. Make your own recording, or ask for a copy of the tapes made.Special tips for TV interviews:• Know what you want to talk about and have one or two basic points that can be made in “sound bites.”• Recognize that you know more about your subject than the reporter or interviewer.• Anticipate questions and prepare answers prior to the interview.• Rehearse out loud.• Watch your posture.• Look at the interviewer when responding and not at the video camera.• Avoid blinking, darting eyes that suggest nervousness and dishonesty.• Try not to fidget, cross legs, fold arms or rub your brow.• Thank interviewer and crew for making the interview possible.Answering Tough Questions• Don’t place blame on others.• Emphasize positives of yourself and your school.• Don’t repeat negative or misleading words stated by others.• Don’t be argumentative.• Don’t lie or tell half-truths.• Speak from personal experience.• Be positive and strive to be seen as a problem solver.• Correct inaccuracies.• If you have limits within which you must operate, identify them.Ways to Gain Control of the Question:• “Can I call you right back?”• “Who have you already spoken to?”• “What angle are you taking on this story?”• “I have to get that information. Are you on deadline?”• “What do you think?”32


Media Relations — ContinuedFor the toughest questions you may encounter:• Say nothing.• Clarify the question and then offer to get back to the reporter within a set time with the answer.• Restate your key points, regardless of the question.• Refer the reporter to the Community Relations Office.Resolving “Issues” with the MediaIf you think the media have treated you unfairly, call the Office of Communications Services to seek assistance anddiscuss options.News ReleasesTo request an official PWCS news release, contact the Community Relations Office. A news release can be used to callattention to upcoming events, report on past events, summarize test scores or results of a study, or clarify problematicissues.When writing a school-level news release:• Include the full name and address of your school on the release along with the name, title, and phone number ofa contact person for further information.• Write in journalistic form, including the five W’s (Who? What? When? Where? and Why?) in the first paragraph.• Double space text and type only on one side of the page. A one-page limit is preferable.• Be brief and state important information first.• Write using nouns and verbs. Avoid adjectives and editorial comments.• Round off numbers.• Attribute opinions to individuals as direct quotes.• Follow Associated Press <strong>guide</strong>lines:• Identify anyone mentioned by name with his or her full name and title on the first reference.• Identify an organization by its full name on first reference.• Abbreviations, acronyms, and last names are used in subsequent references.• For releases of more than one page in length, type “more” centered at the bottom of the first page and anabbreviated title and page number on subsequent pages.• Type and center on the page at the end of the release either “END” or “# # #.”Keys to effective writing:• Keep it simple.• Use active voice and no jargon.• Don’t be wordy.• Edit.• Pretest media releases with another staff member.• Remember those who have helped you. Thank editors and reporters, secretaries, teachers, administrators,students, parents, and anyone who was of assistance.33


Media Relations — ContinuedWhat is news?• News is timely — has to be current.• News is progress — departure from a trend.• News is novelty — a new way of teaching or an unusual accomplishment.• News is conflict — be ready with a resolution.• News is an angle — first, last, oldest, youngest, largest, smallest, best.What we might consider an important news item may not appeal to the general population. Do not equate the value ofan activity, event or award by the amount of news coverage it receives. Other intangible and uncontrollable factors playin to the decision of what gets covered by the media and what does not.34


Special EventsFrom groundbreakings to business partnership signings and graduations, special events offer wonderful opportunities tohighlight the achievements and aspirations of the <strong>School</strong> Division. Many will involve the presence of administration and/or <strong>School</strong> Board representatives, as well as important local and state dignataries. All should be planned to depict a World-Class <strong>School</strong> Division. Many planning requirements are based on Community Relations Standard Operating Procedure9-6.All events should be planned with their communication goals and message(s) in mind.Important questions to answer• What key message do you seek to communicate about your program, students, or initiatives?• Who is the audience for that message, and how will you get to them (through event participation, newscoverage, Web stories, etc.)?• What event setting and activities will communicate the desired message to the intended audiences? Usespeakers, backdrops, etc. that highlight the message.• Plan the event with you answers in mind.Types of Events/ResponsibilitiesGroundbreaking• For construction of new schools or facilities. Community Relations Services will plan and coordinate mediacoverage. If the school principal and staff are in place, they should be invited. Follow otherinvitations <strong>guide</strong>lines on the next page.Ribbon-Cutting Ceremonies• Ribbon-cutting ceremonies should occur prior to a school’s opening or shortly thereafter when thestart of a new school year. The principal should plan and coordinate ribbon-cutting events and requestmedia coverage assistance through the Office of Community Relations Services. Follow the invitation<strong>guide</strong>lines on the next page.Dedication• <strong>School</strong> dedications are to be held at the end of the first school year the building opens. <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> generallyform a committee as early as September to begin planning for the dedication. Follow the <strong>guide</strong>lines oninvitations on the next page.<strong>School</strong>-Business Partnership Agreement Signings (or Progress Announcements)• Partnership agreement signing ceremonies that commemorate formal school-business partnerships aregenerally planned as part of another school function such as a back-to-school night, an awards ceremony,or a specialty program ceremony. Such events provide the highest visibility possible for the BusinessPartnership Office. In the event a partnership signing cannot be “piggy backed” to another event, itis appropriate to plan a stand-alone event. Be sure to invite key representatives of the partnerorganization. Follow other invitation <strong>guide</strong>lines below.35


Special Events — ContinuedThe Business Partnership Office of <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> exists to foster partnerships between schoolsand community sectors that are mutually beneficial while serving the needs of the student. Be sure to highlight thestudent benefits at all partnership signings.Whom to Invite• <strong>School</strong> Community: Invite your school community to your special event through your school newsletter, aflyer, or a printed or emailed invitation. Four or more weeks in advance, contact the office of communityrelations services for publicity through the news media and the Web site.• Special Interest Groups: Keeping in mind the type of event you are planning, include on the invitationlist those who have a special interest in your school’s event. For example, if your school is named inhonor of a person, members of that family should be invited.• If you are planning a business partnership signing ceremony, include business officials such as the boardchairmen, president, and any other appropriate business representatives. In addition, the member of theadvisory council for the business partnership office should be invited to the signing event. Call thebusiness partnership office for this contact information.• Central Office and <strong>School</strong> Board: Include the Chairman and all the members of the <strong>School</strong> Board,Superintendent, deputy superintendent, associate superintendents, directors and supervisors on yourinvitation list, as well as other principals.• Elected and Appointed Officials: Invite the Chairman and all the members of the Board of <strong>County</strong>Supervisors, the county executive, and your school’s elected state legislators to the groundbreaking,ribbon-cutting, and dedication ceremony.Planning Timeline — As soon as possible (ASAP means at least a month in advancefor all but emergency-related events)• Create sample event rundown. Specify:• activities and timeline,• speakers and length/anticipated message content of their remarks,• locations and setting,• share these items with all key participants.• Establish Tentative and Confirmed Dates on all Calendars.• contact offices of the Superintendent, appropriate associate superintendent(s) and <strong>School</strong> Board tohave event listed on master calendar(s) as “tentative,”• inform the area associate (when appropriate) of the proposed event, providing a brief summaryincluding the date, purpose, location, speakers, and expected attendance. Request confirmation that thedate is not in conflict with any other function. Upon approval, confirm the date with theSuperintendent’s office and the Secretary to the <strong>School</strong> Board (as appropriate),• enter the date on school and PWCS Web calendars,• confirm availability of key participants,• get the event confirmed on the calendars of all essential participants (business partners, etc.),• contact the office of food services,• consult with media services about any special A/V needs.36


Special Events — ContinuedAt least three to four weeks before the event• Initiate promotional efforts:• consult with the Office of Community Relations Services — determine whether event’s media potentialwarrants direct community relations services involvement or modest promotional assistance. Establishpromotional responsibilities—coverage in the “Leader” and “Communicator,” Web stories andplacements, where appropriate—and secure updated lists of school and county officials, and mediacontacts as needed,• go to pwcstv.com to request an event announcement on Channel 18 (the new location ofPWCS-TV).• Contact the Office of Risk Management:• provide planned event details,• coordinate staff/police department security involvement, as needed,• invite Guests (see invitation lists),• RSVPs, if needed, should be due eight to 10 days before the event.• Generate event program draft and printing plan.• Utilize appropriate program templates to ensure proper staff and participant credits.Two weeks before the event• Request a framed certificate of appreciation for the honoree(s).One week before the event• Finalize plans and advance promotion.• Send news release/advisory (or confirm Office of Community Relations Services action).• Finalize and share event rundown.• Prepare and send draft remarks/talking points to Board Members, Superintendent and other high profilespeakers (or their designees) for approval/edits. Be sure to recognize all expected VIPs in emcee remarks.• Reconfirm A/V media support or services.• Notify staff and security of event parking restrictions, reserve spaces.• Finalize setup needs with appropriate staff.• Print event program.Event Day (and/or night before)• Final preparations and participant greetings.• Confirm that set up is complete and appropriate, modify as needed.• Confirm proper operation of all A/V equipment.• Mark adequate “Reserved Parking” spaces to accommodate VIP participants (<strong>School</strong> Board Members,Superintendent, deputy superintendent, associate superintendents, program partners, speakers, and otherinvited VIPs).• Assign a greeter to meet and seat all invited VIPs, noting their presence to ensure they receive anappropriate thank you note. Take note of any unexpected VIPs who should be recognized from the podium.• Start the event at the scheduled start-time.• End on time.37


Special Events — ContinuedFollow-up• Send thank you notes to all invited VIPs and speakers.• Coordinate with the Office of Community Relations Services to ensure prompt print, Web, and/or PWCS-TVcoverage of the event, as appropriate.Seating and Speaking Arrangements• For school-based events (e.g., <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> of Excellence, back to school nights, ground breakings, ribbon cuttings,partnership signings, dedications), program agenda time and talking points will be provided by Office ofCommunity Relations Servicesfor the <strong>School</strong> Board Chairman (or Vice Chairman in the absence of the Chair) andthe <strong>School</strong> Board Member that represents the school (according to magisterial district) based on confirmationof their attendance with the secretary to the <strong>School</strong> Board. All Board Members, the Superintendent, deputysuperintendent, and associate superintendents in attendance will be recognized and seated on stage or in closeproximity to the podium (depending on the logistics of the event). If the Superintendent and Board Chairmanare seated on stage, then all Board Members, the Superintendent, deputy superintendent, and associatesuperintendents in attendance will be seated on stage.• For Divisionwide special events and recognition ceremonies (e.g., Years of Service, Retirement, Classy Awards),program agenda time and talking points will be provided by community relation services for the <strong>School</strong> BoardChairman (or Vice Chairman in the absence of the Chair) based on confirmation of his/her attendance withthe secretary to the <strong>School</strong> Board. All Board Members, the Superintendent, deputy superintendent, and associatesuperintendents in attendance will be recognized and seated on stage or in close proximity to the podium(depending on the logistics of the event). If the Superintendent and Board Chairman are seated on stage, then allBoard Members, the Superintendent, deputy superintendent, and associate superintendents in attendance will beseated on stage.• For Divisionwide professional development days (e.g., welcome back events prior to the start of a new schoolyear, such as Teachers F.I.R.S.T.), program agenda time will be provided for the <strong>School</strong> Board Chairman(or Vice Chairman in the absence of the Chair) and for other Board members who wish to speak, based onconfirmation of their attendance with the secretary to the <strong>School</strong> Board. Talking points will be provided for the<strong>School</strong> Board Chairman (or Vice Chairman in the absence of the Chair). All Board Members, the Superintendent,deputy superintendent, and associate superintendents in attendance will be recognized and seated on stage orin close proximity to the podium (depending on the logistics of the event). If the Superintendent and BoardChairman are seated on stage, then all Board Members, the Superintendent, deputy superintendent, and associatesuperintendents in attendance will be seated on stage.• Reserved parking will always be made available for those Board Members who notify the Secretary to the <strong>School</strong>Board Cyndi Halsey that they will be in attendance at school-based and Divisionwide events. Please notify Ms.Halsey whenever you are in need of a new VIP parking pass.38


Special Events — ContinuedPlatform Protocol for Nonschool DignatariesBecause of the political nature of schools, elected officials may often be in attendance at school functions. Please use thefollowing priority list for individuals not connected with the school or <strong>School</strong> Division participating in a school function.• <strong>School</strong> Board Members should be placed in the most prominent seating arrangement. Place speakers in asclose proximity as possible to podium. At a school function, introduce officials for the State of Virginia asfollows:GovernorFirst Lady (if she is accompanying Governor)Lieutenant GovernorAttorney GeneralU.S. Senators (representing Virginia)U.S. Representatives (representing Virginia)Speaker of the House of DelegatesChief Justice of the Virginia Supreme CourtState Senators (<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> senators first, then according to seniority)State Delegates (<strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> delegates first, then according to seniority)<strong>School</strong> Board Chairman<strong>School</strong> Board MembersBoard of <strong>County</strong> Supervisors ChairmanMembers of the Board of <strong>County</strong> SupervisorsCity MayorsTown MayorsSuperintendent of <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong><strong>County</strong> ExecutiveCity Manager, followed by other government officials in no particular orderSetting for Business Partnership Signing• Signing ceremonies give much deserved recognition to businesses that contribute time and resources toschools and inform the school community of ways business partners improve students’ opportunities forsuccess. Allow 15 to 20 minutes for the remarks and activities that accompany a signing ceremony.• A table should be placed on the stage with three copies of each partnership contract ready for signing.• Seating on the stage should provide space for representatives of the <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> <strong>School</strong> Board,school, and business representatives. If possible, elected officials who are invited to be present forthe ceremony should be seated on stage.• At the conclusion of the ceremony, each business partnership should have an original copy of their signedpartnership agreements, other originals go to the school and the Business Partnership Office. The schoolshould display its original contracts in a prominent location.• The certificate of appreciation signed by the Superintendent of <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> should be presented to the businesspartner.• A suggested script to be followed for the partnership signing ceremony is included as an attachment to thisdocument.39


Special Events — ContinuedAdditional Resources• The Virginia Review Directory of State and Local Government Officials contains a basic protocol <strong>guide</strong> forVirginians, including the order in which VIPs are to be introduced, along with information on addressesand introductions, and special event planning. www.vareview.com.• Emily Post’s Guide to Business Etiquette• Letitia Baldridge’s New Complete Guide to Executive Manners (Chapter on Business Protocol).Sample Event ProgramVictory Elementary <strong>School</strong>2005-06Special Building FeaturesStory room for floor seating of small groups to a maximum of65; also suitable for chair seating of approximately 40 for communityuse.Cafetorium and stage provide space for dining, physical education,and large group assembly.Media Center includes reading area, AV production, AV storage,office, and workroom.Administration area includes general reception, administrativeoffices, workroom, record storage, and faculty lounge.State-of-the-art technology features include:• Local area computer network• Phone system to all administrative and classroom spaces• Building-wide TV distribution system for cable and internalprogrammed channels• Security detection and security camera monitoringsystems• Computerized temperature control system with all-seasondehumidificationVictory Elementary <strong>School</strong>2005-06PrincipalMs. Donna CudeAssistant PrincipalMs. Sue GrossSecretaryMs. Terry AllshouseBookkeeperMs. Jean HustwayteOffice AssistantMs. Tina JerseyBuilding EngineerMr. Rodney JamersonCafeteria TeamMs. Varina Greene - ManagerMs. Mary Higgins - HostessMs. Rosanne WestMs. Carole ColemanMs. Stacey ErvinCustodial ManagerMr. Amos Yongha KimCustodiansMs. Shelby ScottMs. Maria VenturaMs. Martha AbregoFirst GradeMs. Mabby BakerMs. April ArnoldMs. Ellen McNamaraMs. Beth SullivanMs. Tammy McRobertsSecond GradeMs. Laurie FoxMr. <strong>William</strong> LyonMs. Amanda ProchMs. Julie ShippMs. Tracy RobertsThird GradeMs. Mary Frances PollardMs. Tracy ChandlerMs. Sheryl RobertsMs. Lauren LeslieFourth GradeMs. Paula HermensMs. Maria TrochanMs. Melissa KwitowskiMs. Angela StoufferFifth GradeMs. Carolyn CornwellMs. Megan DanielMs. Heather PoormanMs. Shannon CostelKindergartenMs. Kelly WallaceMs. Sarah OzlMs. Helen BaumgardtSample Script forSigning Ceremony40


Special Events — ContinuedModel Event Rundown(For illustration purposes, hypothetical event information is shown in parentheses.)Thompson Inc. Partnership Results AnnouncementApril 1, 2007, 1 p.m.Purpose: Report on benefits of year-old partnership with Thompson Inc. (Five students receive high-tech scholarships forpartnership product; announce new plans; present check. Est. length 25 minutes.)Primary Message: The partnership has been a win-win-win for Hylton, our students, and for Thompson. And the benefitsare just getting started.Speakers: Carolyn Custard, Principal (emcee)Mary Bingham, StudentDr. Steve Walts, Superintendent of <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>Jane Doe, Exec. VP, ThompsonSetting/props:Hylton Computer Lab. Podium and two tables (speakers and project students). Photo blow-ups ofstudent project. Thompson banner.Rundown:Welcome and color guard intro Custard 1 minutesPledge of allegiance Custard/all 2 minutesIntro Speakers and VIPs Custard 1 minuteIntro event details Custard 3 minutes(student scholarships and extendedpartnership-points out photos; intros next)Personal perspective on results Bingham 3 minutesIntro Walts Custard 1 minuteDivision Thanks Walts 4 minutes(personal appraisal of results;value to PWCS; intros Doe)<strong>School</strong> Board Thanks Beachump 4 minutesThompson View; new plans; Doe 4 minutesPresent checkReceive Check Doe, Custard, 1 minuteWaltsThanks and goodbye Custard 2 minutes41


Critical CommunicationLetters About Special Safety-Related IssuesLetters home are an essential part of the PWCS commitment to keeping parents informed of important health or safetyrelatedissues and incidents. Proactive communication with parents is essential for maintaining a positive workingrelationship. Phone calls, email, Web sites and even newsletters provide effective means for contacting parents indifferent circumstances. Even when more immediate approaches are used, a letter sent home with students can be thebest way to keep parents in the loop. Such letters must always be approved by Area Associates and shared, in final form,with Risk Management and Communications. As noted below, advance coordination with Risk Management or HealthServices may also be needed.Letters Should be Sent About any Important Development• A safety-related issue (see instructions and examples below).• A change in school leadership.• Death or injury of a student or teacher (see sample on page 48-49).• Construction, repairs or other significant alterations to the school environment.As a simple rule of thumb, if you think something may be worth writing home about, err on the side of writing insteadof not writing. And do it as soon as possible.The <strong>guide</strong>lines that follow can assist you by identifying key messaging and content elements expected in all incidentcommunications. Examples found on pages 43-50 address a wide range of health and safety situations. Use them as astarting point to help streamline the writing and approval process.Communications staff involvement is not required, but will be eagerly provided if desired. Communications involvementis recommended in the case of unusual events, significant media interest, injury to students, ongoing dangers, or failureto have alerted parents in a timely fashion. Otherwise, following these steps and closely coordinating with Area Office(and Risk Management/and or Student Health, where appropriate) will be sufficient for getting your notification lettersout the door.• Start with an emphasis on student safety – Don’t just launch into descriptions of an incident.• Provide details, as necessary, and in the context of actions to ensure safety.• Highlight any standard protocols followed, and explain, where needed.• Note any injuries or other outcomes that might cause concern if inaccurately reported.• Avoid unnecessary external details — including no more than essential facts surrounding such things aspolice actions resulting that prompted lockdown or Shelter-in-Place. When such details are included, theiraccuracy must be confirmed through Risk Management.• Details concerning contagious disease exposure/outbreaks and PWCS responses must be coordinated withthe Health Department through <strong>School</strong> Health Services.• Describe special services/actions being taken of provided to ally student concerns.• Read your letter as a parent would.• They want to know a bit about what happened, but more importantly, what was done to safeguard theirchild. For example, if there were suspicious fumes in the building, tell them exactly what measures weretaken to identify and eliminate them, and to ensure student safety during the process.42


Critical Communication — Continued• Be sure you letter doesn’t raise more questions than it answers.• Look for opportunities to make the parent a partner in promoting safety — suggest they discuss the situationwith kids, where appropriate, to highlight good safety and conduct lessons.• If notification is late in coming, refer to your letters as an update, and explain why.• Incidents may have occurred late in the day, or adequate details were unavailable.• If word got out before your update, consider expressing regret for any resulting concern.• Close by re-emphasizing safety as a top PWCS priority and the primary reason for your communication.Please review some of the samples that follow. They offer the best illustration of how these <strong>guide</strong>linescan work in different circumstances.Sample Shelter in Place LetterDear Enterprise Parents/Guardians:In keeping with our ongoing commitment to effective communication with the schoolcommunity, I am writing to advise you of actions taken this afternoon to ensure the safety ofstudents during police activity in the area.At police request, and in keeping with PWCS emergency-preparedness <strong>guide</strong>lines, we brieflyimplemented shelter-in-place protocols, bringing all students indoors and securing the buildingfrom unauthorized entry. The actions came following reports of a burglary suspect nearby. Theall-clear to return to normal came after less than 30 minutes.Thanks to the professionalism of staff and the cooperation of students, we experiencedvirtually no disruption of our instructional activities. The handling of the situation is a furtherillustration that the safety of our students and staff remains our top priority.Please don’t hesitate to contact me, should you have any questions or concerns. Your ongoingsupport is crucial to the continued success of students and staff at Enterprise Elementary.Sincerely,Open with your message: We takeaction to ensure safety (and godcommunication)Provide external details only as neededto explain the situation. confirmaccuracy of any police involvementthrough Rish Management. Emphasizethat actions are taken according toexisting crisis plans.Highlight successEncourage continued communicationand parental support.Rachel EnglishPrincipal43


Critical Communication — ContinuedSample Weapon in <strong>School</strong> Letter, No Threat or InjuryDear Parents/Guardians:I am writing to advise you of a situation that occurred late yesterday, and of the stepsthat were taken to ensure the safety of our students and staff.Late yesterday afternoon, we became aware that one of our students may have carried aknife into the school in a backpack. The teacher immediately investigated, confirmed theexistence of the knife, and confiscated it, eliminating any potential risk to students. Thestudent who brought the knife will be disciplined in accordance with the <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong><strong>County</strong> <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong> Code of Behavior.The incident was handled promptly and effectively thanks, in part, to a second studentwho responsibly reported the presence of the knife to a teacher. Should your child beaware of this incident, please take the opportunity to remind them that they shouldalways report the actual or suspected presence of any weapon to an adult. With yourhelp and theirs, we can continue to keep our school a safe and effective place to learn.Please feel free to contact me at _____, should you have any questions.Thank you for your continued support.Open with your message: Serioussituation handled to ensure safety.• Provide only essential details.• Limit info. That could lead toidentification of student(s) involved.• Emphasize promptness andeffectiveness of response inensuring safety.• Note disciplinary steps will betaken.• Confirm accuracy of any policeaction with Risk Management.• Highlight student/staffactions in accordancewith policy that werehelpful.• Consider having parentsmake incident a “teachablemoment.”Encourage continued communicationand parental support.Principal44


Critical Communication — ContinuedSample Precautionary Evacuation LetterFebruary 17, 2006Dear Parents:As many of you may be aware, there was a fire at the Summerland Apartments thismorning just as our school day was beginning. Because of the heavy smoke in thearea, <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> school buses were quickly dispatched to transport ourstudents and staff to Woodbridge Middle <strong>School</strong> to ensure their safety.Notice of the situation was immediately posted on the PWCS Web site and relayed tosubscribers of the Division’s E-news and text messaging services.Children and staff members enjoyed lunch at Woodbridge. After firefighters madequick work of the apartment blaze, heavy fans were used to clear smoke from ourbuilding, and the air quality was tested before the students were transported back.Our staff and Central Office personnel handled the situation calmly and efficientlyin following emergency procedures. I am proud of how everyone, especially ourstudents, reacted to this precautionary evacuation. Some classroom time was lost, butthe experience reinforced a very important lesson: the safety of our students and staffis a top priority at Kilby and at all <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> Public <strong><strong>School</strong>s</strong>.• Establish nature of incidentrequiring evacuation.• Highlight your message:Action addressed situation toensure safety.Highlight efforts made to keepparents advised.• Provide only essential details ofexternal situation.• Highlight steps taken to ensurestudent safety (and comfort).• Celebrate effectiveness ofstudent/staff response.• Reinforce commitment tosafety.Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. And thank you for yourcontinued support of our school.Sincerely,Encourage continued communicationand parental support.Carolyn DeLaFleurPrincipal45


Critical Communication — ContinuedSample Lockdown LetterDear Parents/Guardians:I am writing to advise you of a school lockdown that was implemented around (time) today (choose appropriate):• to ensure the safety of our students and staff during a potentially dangerous (describe situation).• to ensure safety during a routine (describe drug or other search). (Provide other essential details)Students remained calm and (when appropriate) were kept appropriately informed throughout the situation. UnderPWCS lockdown protocols, (describe specific actions taken), to keep students and staff safe.The lockdown remained in effect until approximately (time), when we were advised by police that it was safe toreturn to normal conditions. Our staff handled the situation in a highly professional manner and our students behavedappropriately (note when appropriate).I am confident that our actions today demonstrate that the safety of our students and staff remain our highest priority.Please do not hesitate to call me at (contact number), should you have any questions or concerns. Thank you for yourcontinued support of (<strong>School</strong> name).Sincerely,(Name)(Title)46


Critical Communication — ContinuedGuidelines for Parent LetterPrincipals may choose to notify parents in writing to explain a critical incident. Guidelines and suggestions forcompleting such a letter follow. Attached are suggestions and samples of letters that have been written in recent years toparents of <strong>Prince</strong> <strong>William</strong> <strong>County</strong> students.Key Points• The letter should be written in a way the average person will understand.• The letter may become public and may be printed in local newspapers or portions may be read on radio ortelevision.• Create a new letter for each crisis situation. Do not write a generic letter covering all crisis events.• All letters should be on school letterhead paper.• The letter should always be signed by the principal or acting principal.Each letter should have three or four parts to effectively communicate information to parents.Part 1: Informs Parent of Crisis Event• Avoid lengthy details.• Avoid specific information that may not be public knowledge.• Do not include any unverified information or information that is subject to change.• Use appropriate terms when speaking of a staff or student death, e.g., died, killed, etc.• Avoid terms like: murdered, committed suicide, strangled, run over, etc.• Avoid euphemisms like: passed away, passed on, expired, lost, lost their battle, wentto their great reward or went to sleep.Part 2: <strong>School</strong> Response• Explain the services that are/have been available for students and staff.• Give the times when members of the school crisis team, trained <strong>School</strong> Division psychologists andsocial workers, and the PWCS Critical Incident Team have been available, or will be present to work withstudents and staff.• Mention that individual and/or small group counseling is available to assist students and staff.Part 3: Encourage Parent to Be More Aware of Emotional Needs• Offer suggestions for support.• Describe possible behavioral changes.• Describe signs that may indicate need for more help.Part 4: Other Information• Outline funeral or memorial services if known.• Offer to provide information as it becomes known.• It is not recommended to send young adolescents to the funeral services without a parent.• Offer telephone number or contact for further information or available resources47


Critical Communication — ContinuedSample Letter To ParentsDateAs many of you know, our school community experienced a death this week. (e.g., John Doe was killed in an automobileaccident yesterday.) As a result of his/her death, our school will provide an opportunity for students and staff to discussand work through issues related to the grief process.Your child will have the opportunity to participate in a group or individual counseling provided by the school’s crisisteam. Participation in these activities is voluntary. Staff will continue to be available as needed to help students deal withtheir grief.Please pay particular attention to your child’s emotional needs during the next few weeks, especially if he/she were closeto the deceased.1. Encourage your child to talk with you about the feelings he/she is experiencing concerning the death. Sharing similarexperiences which you have had may be very useful. Make yourself available to talk about the death and to answerquestions.2. Be aware that your child may not feel like himself/herself for a while. Talk about ways to feel better.3. Initiate a discussion of the death with your child. Research has shown that this helps the healing process.4. It is strongly recommended that you accompany your child to the funeral or memorial service, if you judge that this isnecessary.5. Watch for ongoing signs of difficulty which may indicate that your child may need additional help. Possible signs areprolonged sadness, withdrawal from social contact, changes in eating or sleeping habits, or other behaviors unusualfor your child.If you need assistance, please contact the school. Our school counselors can provide a list of school and communityresources.Sincerely yours,Principal of <strong>School</strong>48


Critical Communication — ContinuedSample Parent Letter For Staff/Student Death(Date)Dear Parents:As you may know, our school community experienced a death this week. (Name of student/staff), died as a result of(car accident serious illness, unexpectedly etc.) As a result of his/her death, our school will provide an opportunity forstudents and staff to discuss and work through issues related to the crisis and grief process.Your child will have the option to participate in group or individual counseling provided by members of the school crisisresponse team (and the district’s Critical Incident Team.) Participation in these activities is voluntary. Staff will continueto be available as needed to help students deal with their grief.Please pay particular attention to your child’s emotional needs during the next few weeks, especially if he/she were closeto the deceased.• Encourage your child to talk with you about the feelings she/she is experiencing concerning the death.Judiciously sharing similar experiences that you have had may be very useful. Make yourself available to talkabout the death and to answer questions.• Be aware that your children may not feel like themselves for a while. Talk about ways to feel better.• Initiate a discussion of the death with your child. Research shows that this helps the healing process.• It is strongly recommended that you accompany your child to the funeral or memorial service, if you judgethat this is necessary.• Watch for ongoing signs of difficulty, which may indicate that your child may need additional help. Possiblesigns are prolonged sadness, withdrawal from social contact, changes in eating or sleeping habits, or otherbehaviors unusual for your child.If you need assistance, please contact the school. Our counselors can provide a list of school and community resources.Sincerely yours,Principal49


Critical Communication — ContinuedSample Parent Letter For Student Death At <strong>School</strong>(Be sure to alert and work with Communications Staff for all related outreach)(Date)Dear Parents (<strong>School</strong> Community, <strong>School</strong> Family etc):We are saddened to inform you that the (Name of school) community experienced a tragic death. A (grade level ofstudent) collapsed while participating in her physical education class. <strong>School</strong> personnel, including the school nurse,responded immediately and emergency services were summoned. She was transported to (Name of Hospital) where shelater died.This is a traumatic event for students and staff alike. Your child has had the opportunity to participate in voluntary groupor individual counseling today provided by our staff and thecrisis response team. Our staff will continue to be available as needed to help students deal with their grief.Please pay particular attention to your child’s emotional needs during the next few weeks.• Encourage your child to talk with you about the feelings he/she may be experiencing concerning the death.Sharing similar experiences that you have had may be very useful. Make yourself available to talk aboutthe death and to answer questions.• Be aware that your child may not feel like “business as usual” for a while. Talk about ways to feel better.• Initiate a discussion of the death with your child. Research shows that this helps the healing process.• It is strongly recommended that you accompany your child to the funeral or memorial service, if you judgethat this is necessary.• Watch for ongoing signs of difficulty, which may indicate that your child may need additional help.Possible signs are prolonged sadness, withdrawal from social contacts, changes in eating or sleeping habits,or other behaviors unusual for your child.Our school counselors can provide additional information on school and community resources to help your and yourchild. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.Sincerely,Principal50


Critical Communication — ContinuedTemplates/Guidance to Come• Weapon (threat made)• Disease exposure/outbreak (requires direct involvement of Health Services)• Sustained evacuation• On campus/bus arrest• Bus accident51


Critical Communication — ContinuedContacts for Letter Development/Approval(Each in order of preferred contact)Area Offices:• Alison Nourse-Miller, Area I Associate Superintendent: Work – 703.791.7234; Home – 703.791.6976;Nextel – 703.675.0921• Melvin Brown, Area II Associate Superintendent: Work – 703.791.7236; Home – 540.371.1488; Nextel – 571.722.5477• Diana Lambert-Aikens, Area III Associate Superintendent: Work – 703.791.8800; Home – 703.680.1686;Nextel – 571.722.5092• Michael Mulgrew, Area IV Associate Superintendent:Work – 703.791.7238; Home – 540.720.9655;Nextel – 703.675.4209Risk Management:• Donald R. Mercer, Jr., Director: Work – 703.791.7209; Home – 703.221.6946; Pager – 800.819.0621• Patti Pittman, Administrative Coordinator: Work – 703.791.7208; Home – 703.754.2690; Pager – 703.213.0612• Ronald Crowe , Administrative Coordinator: Work – 703.791.7211; Home – 703.262.0119; Pager – 703.213.0603Health Services:• Clarice Torian, Director of Student Services; Work – 703.791.7257; Home – 703.730.6353; Cell – 703.786.9698• Teresa Polk, Supervisor of <strong>School</strong> Health Services; Work – 703.791.7266; Home – 703.791.6702; Cell – 703.472.4548Communications:• Ken Blackstone, Director, Communications Services: Office — 703.791.8015; Cell — 571.722.3577• Irene Cromer, Supervisor Community Relations: Office — 702.791.8721; Cell — 571.334.7824• Keith Imon: Associate Superintendent for Communications and Technology: Office — 703.791.8030;Cell — 571.722.442352

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