With the evolution of social media as a tool for communication, there is increased scrutiny on the dangers it can possess.
Snapchats can be screenshotted and shared with little to no regulation. Tweets can incite online rage and ridicule at a moment’s notice. Posting offensive things to Facebook may lead to expulsion or termination.
While there can be no doubt as to the risks involved with utilizing social media, Tullahoma City Schools (TCS) is attempting to fight the negatives with useful information for parents and students alike, as well as some more enjoyable content specifically tailored to bring a smile to the faces of the community.
Sandy Vaughn, executive secretary for TCS, has been in charge of running social media for the district for the past four years.
“When I came to (the) central office in November 2013, one of the first things Dr. (Dan) Lawson tasked me with was establishing a presence for TCS on Facebook and Twitter,” she said.
“As I began the very difficult task of selecting an assistant, I envisioned someone with the skill set to utilize existing technologies along with the capacity to learn new technologies to better communicate with our community and stakeholders,” said Lawson.
That led to the launch of the Tullahoma City Public Schools Facebook page and the Tullahoma City Schools Twitter account.
Since Vaughn has been at the helm of the district’s social media, the community engagement has seen a sharp increase.
“It was exciting to watch it grow at a very fast pace,” Vaughn said.
“Ms. Vaughn has certainly exceeded all expectations in that regard and has redefined her position to one of an integral partner sharing the message of our board of education and schools and at the same time securing valuable feedback from our community at large as she monitors our social media,” Lawson said.
As a general rule, Vaughn is in charge of posting pertinent information to the district’s social media pages, including school closings, general school news, weather concerns and school emergencies.
The utilization of social media as an informational platform has become increasingly important over recent years, with Twitter and Facebook frequently used as the real-time source of information about world events.
“As a consumer, we have grown to expect real-time feedback on the markets, the weather, world events and even those things that occur in our schools,” said Lawson.
Having the speed of social media aids in the district better communicating to the community, he said.
“Utilization of social media provides us an opportunity to better communicate as we face emergencies (and) weather concerns,” he said, as well as to spread “general information disseminations and to celebrate the amazing things that are taking place with our children.”
“We simply could not be as effective in sharing our work without the utilization of social media,” said Lawson.
In addition to the standard informative posts, Vaughn has taken to posting a number of sweet things on the Facebook page for the district, including biography posts on all new teachers and a new segment called “Kids in the Kitchen,” which features Robert E. Lee Elementary School (Lee) students learning how to cook.
The new teacher bios began a few years ago, according to Vaughn.
“There is always a new teacher orientation here at (the) central office at the start of the school year. I handed out a social media information sheet asking them to tell about their education, past teaching experience, hobbies, etc.,” she said.
When she started posting the bios, they were “a huge hit,” she said, so she decided to keep posting them.
“It is a great opportunity to introduce our community to our staff,” she said.
Besides the new teacher bios, Vaughn said she is open to sharing anything that teachers would like to share online.
“Every staff member in the district knows that they can email me pictures and stories of what is going on in their schools or classrooms,” she said, “and they do.”
Vaughn even joked that her willingness to post could even be “a bit of a nuisance to our staff,” with her regular emails to faculty to remind them to share with her.
That openness between Vaughn and staff members is how a new series highlighting elementary student accomplishments came to be, she said.
“Kids in the Kitchen” came from Lee teacher Ashley Gass, who asked Vaughn if the idea held merit.
“Ashley Gass emailed me…and said, ‘What do you think about doing (this)?’ I responded with an immediate ‘Yes,’” she said.
The first post in the series, posted on Aug. 10, explains that Gass’s fourth- and fifth- grade students at Lee would be preparing a recipe and showing off the finished product.
The posts include the recipe to the particular culinary creation highlighted each week, as well as photos of the students showing off the fruits of their labor.
So far, there have only been two posts in the series, but the posts have been well-received by fans of the district’s Facebook page, with over 70 likes between the two posts.
By far the most popular posts on Facebook and Twitter have been the videos of Lawson announcing school closings, said Vaughn.
“One of the most popular items has been Dr. Lawson’s school-closing videos. One of them had over 28,000 views and reached over 100,000 people,” she said.
In the videos, Lawson takes a humorous approach to informing the community of school closures, and has superimposed himself on various backgrounds to indicate the nature of the closure, from icy weather to illnesses. The videos have also featured the popular hashtag #DanCan as a nod to Lawson’s ability and authority to close schools for the day.
Since Vaughn launched the TCS Facebook and Twitter pages, the district has also opened its own Instagram account, which began in 2015.
Utilizing the three most popular forms of social media has definitively enhanced how the district connects with members of the Tullahoma community.
“It is a great source for not only touting our exceptional staff and students, but a great place to share information (school closings, orientation schedules, lunch menus, etc.) to a large number of people,” she said.
Vaughn said she looks forward to continuing her job and “having the opportunity to tell the TCS story on social media.”
Where to find the district
Those wishing to keep in the loop on all the district happenings are encouraged to like Tullahoma City Public Schools on Facebook or follow @tcspublic on Twitter and Instagram.
Community members may also follow each school individually on Twitter for more school-specific information.
Tullahoma High School – @TullahomaHS
East Middle School – @PanthersEMS
West Middle School – @WMS_Bobcats
East Lincoln Elementary School – @ELEtullahoma
Jack T. Farrar Elementary School – @JackTFarrar
Robert E. Lee Elementary School – @RELtullahoma
* Bel-Aire Elementary School – @BelAire_Bees
*This Twitter account is for April Norris, the principal at Bel-Aire. The school itself does not have a Twitter account, but Norris frequently posts updates on all the Bel-Aire Bees are doing at school.
Erin McCullough may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.