District 225 expands communications department


Connor Fondrevay-Bedell, asst. news editor

District 225 is expanding its communication department in an effort to better interact with the community and to provide information to parents more easily, Interim Principal Dr. Rosanne Williamson said.

One of the biggest changes by the district was the promotion of Communications Manager Christina Salonikas, who was previously the Communications Specialist until Jan. 11, Salonikas said. Salonikas’ new position will allow the communications department to work with members of the administration.

“The communications manager is responsible for the district’s public relations and [the] communications department’s day-to-day operation,” Salonikas said. “Supporting the superintendent and members of the school district’s cabinet, the communications manager is responsible for assisting with creating and implementing comprehensive communication and outreach plans.”

The push to reshape the communication department was contemplated by the Board of Education before the pandemic, but the need for better communication was reinforced by the challenges Covid-19 created, Williamson said. Needing to inform parents and students about changes to Covid-19 testing policies, e-learning formats, and other updates showed that previous methods of outreach were not the best way to share information with community members anymore, she explained.

“[Improving communications] was something that was recognized [we needed to do] before the pandemic, [but] Covid-19 presented a lot of challenges and further [helped] to identify areas where we can improve,” Williamson said.

Efforts to improve methods of communication sharing information are already creating changes. The district began using Remind, a communication platform that allows the district to easily share information in real-time, according to a Dec. 14, 2021 email from the communications department. The new platform will help to avoid overwhelming parents with waves of emails and better communicate updates in changing situations, Williamson said.

The district is also creating new ways to receive input from community members, including using Thought Exchange, an online tool that allows the community to share anonymous feedback about important topics such as Covid-19 concerns, District 225 Superintendent Dr. Charles Johns shared.

“The district strives to be the key source for information about our schools in the community,” Johns said. “We use the information provided by the community to enhance our students’ high school experience and support parents as they support their students.”

The expanded communications department is beginning a job search for the position of a communications specialist, a role that will report to the communications manager and assist in operations for the department, Johns said.

Significant work remains for the department in improving the community’s opinion of South after two years of major events and challenges. An unscientific survey conducted by The Oracle of 472 students found that 54 percent of students have a worsening opinion of South and District 225 since the start of 2021.

The district’s effort to revitalize and expand communications is supported by Science Teacher Jill Serling. She said shifting to Remind was a smart move by the school because emails can get too long and discourage parents from reading them. Improving the school’s outreach to parents and the speed of sharing information will help prevent parents from turning to social media for possibly inaccurate information, improving the community, Serling said.

“When communication isn’t clear, efficient, and quick, people turn to social media and texts,” Serling said. “Due to the fact that [questions] are often answered secondhand by someone that has read or asked for information individually by the school, answers given have potentially been misinterpreted from the initial communication or they might not be substantiated.”

Beyond the ability to better share information through emails, websites, or texts, the effort to improve the communications department also shows the value of communication, Serling said. Communication is not just used between schools and parents, it is used between students and their parents, between students and teachers, and between teachers and the administration, Serling said.

“Communication is important in every facet of our lives, great communication brings clarity to individuals,” Serling said. “Schools have systems in place to function smoothly [and] communicating what those systems are is what keeps the daily operations running efficiently.”