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The Role of School Boards and Superintendents in Crisis Management

Introduction by Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications

Ensuring the safety of students is a collective responsibility, with school board members and superintendents playing a crucial role. In today’s world, where school safety is increasingly at stake, it is imperative that these leaders receive adequate crisis management training and share lessons learned to effectively address the challenges they face. While there is often a focus on prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery in school safety training, the importance of crisis management is sometimes overlooked.

In crisis management, every decision and action in a K-12 system is magnified, and the stakes are high. The lasting consequences of mishandling a crisis, including loss of life, lost trust, litigation, and legislative repercussions, can impact a district for years to come. To navigate the complex landscape of crisis management, school boards and superintendents must be well-versed in effective strategies and proactive communication.

The article below, written by John McDonald, COO of the Council for School Safety Leadership, explores five key crisis management traps to avoid, such as the lack of a strong crisis communications plan, focusing on politics instead of student and staff recovery, and blindly accepting business partnerships without proper vetting. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of saying “no” when necessary and offers guidance on making mission-aligned decisions that promote student and staff recovery.

Hennes Communications is the preferred partner for crisis communications for the Ohio, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and Indiana School Boards Associations.  Last month, Bruce Hennes, CEO of Hennes Communications did a 3-hour pre-conference seminar and a 1-hour Master Class on crisis communications in Orlando at the National School Boards Association Conference.  At the same time, Thom Fladung, managing partner of Hennes, did a seminar on crisis comm’s at the Consortium of State School Boards Association in Tampa.  For more information, please call 216-321-7774 or go to


The Role of School Boards and Superintendents in Crisis Management

By John McDonald, COO, Council for School Safety Leadership

A community’s perception of how a district manages a crisis is often defined by what we say and, more importantly, by what we don’t say. Somewhere along the way, school leaders have become so concerned about litigation that they often fail to address the media and even the school community, leaving lingering questions that lead to greater frustration and lost trust. Trust is hard to earn and harder to keep, and lost trust limits the effectiveness of a school board and superintendent.

A strong crisis communications plan is critical to any chance of success, and great leaders are visible to their students, staff, families, and community. Understand early who the best spokesperson on behalf of the district is going to be. During the initial press conference, a principal should never face the media alone without the superintendent. While it is the principal who should be the voice of the school, the superintendent must be the voice for the district.

The school board president, at a minimum, should stand with the superintendent. If the school board decides to add its voice, then the school board president speaks to the media on behalf of the board.

For the rest of this excellent article, click here.

Photo Credit: School Board Meeting – canstockphoto88935311.jpg

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