School & District Management

Schools Chief’s Blog Offers Tips

By David J. Hoff — February 23, 2005 1 min read
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The writers of Web logs have shown their power to oust media executives and rewrite major stories in a presidential campaign. Now, a Chicago-area administrator hopes such a “blog” can help in persuading communities to provide adequate financing for schools.

Ray Lauk, the superintendent of the 2,200-student Lyons Elementary School District 103, has launched one of the online diary-style logs to offer strategies for winning passage of school funding referendums.

“Blogs are the way that the next generation of parents communicates and receives news,” Mr. Lauk, 45, said in an e-mail exchange with Education Week. “School leaders had best get on board with this new medium!”

On his blog, Mr. Lauk offers advice based on his district’s successful campaign last March to increase the school property-tax rate by 50 percent.

The first step, he writes, was to establish a committee of community leaders that outlined two plans for the district: one based on its current finances, and one they believed would best serve the needs of the K-8 district.

The former included closing two of the five elementary schools, increasing class sizes to 38 students, and adding $450 in annual student fees. The latter would keep all of the schools open, maintain smaller classes, and keep fees modest.

Even though Mr. Lauk writes that he knew what the committee would find, he wanted community leaders involved in the design to understand the issues facing the district.

“It was critically important … to have the community go through this process in order to have the ‘buy-in’ and support for the new direction of the school district,” he notes in his third entry on the blog, which he began in November.

Mr. Lauk hopes his blog will help other school leaders—and his own career. He is starting a consulting business on the side to advise school officials on how to win public support for referendums. “While I am providing a lot of information for free [on the blog],” he wrote in an e-mail, “I hope that some school districts will need assistance tying it all together into a logical, well-executed plan.”

Mr. Lauk’s blog is at www.schoolreferenda.blogspot.com.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2005 edition of Education Week

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