How A School Administrator Can Deal With Unexpected Hiccups

Principals plan for every possible situation that can happen during a regular school day. By doing so, they can prepare to pivot on a dime to meet the current needs of staff, students, parents, and the school at large. Principals worth their salt can quickly organize recess on a rainy day, serve lunch when the cafeteria staff is down a worker, and teach a 7th grade History lesson when the substitute teacher doesn’t show up, all on a moments notice.

Unfortunately, principals can’t predict or plan for traffic.

It was a bright, sunny morning when I sent 94 excited third graders, nine parents, and three teachers on a field trip to visit a science museum in San Francisco, about an hour away from school. They were set to be back at 2:30pm, a half an hour before the end of the school day. This way, everyone would be picked up on time.

Then, at 1:45pm, I got the phone call.

“David, both buses are stopped in traffic on the freeway… There was a huge accident, it’s blocking most of the lanes. We’re going to be late for pick-up.”

The teacher who called me from the bus stated they would probably be very late with no indication of when they would arrive back at school.

Parents would start to arrive at the school to pick up their children in about an hour. I knew that I would have to send out multiple updates to inform parents of the progress of the buses so that they would not have to wait for hours in the parking lot. I needed to find a way to contact all of them quickly to inform them of the traffic and late return.

Different parents had different preferences for communication. Some liked email, others text messages. A few still preferred phone calls. On top of that, some parents had varying preferred languages. Clearly, coordinating and executing this type of ongoing communication was going to be a challenge.

Schools and districts in the US typically use one-way notification systems. And while there are a wide variety of tools that are out there, there was nothing that allowed me to effectively notify these parents of this urgent information.

To fill this gap, ParentSquare created an outstanding resource. The ParentSquare communication and parent engagement system allows you to easily contact all parents in their preferred method and language – automatically. That’s right- it’s all automated, so all you have to do is type the message and press “Send.”

More than just an automated communication system, ParentSquare provides many other types of features that promote parent engagement.

Parent involvement in education is crucial. No matter their income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school (National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, 2006).

Furthermore, in an address to teacher at Fox Senior High School in Missouri in 2009, President Barack Obama spoke about the need for parent involvement in schools. I always have to remind people that the most crucial factor in school performance are teachers. However, the single biggest ingredient outside of school is the parent (B. Obama, commencement address, April 29, 2009).

However, a recent study by Gallup found only 1 in 5 parents are fully engaged with their child’s school. This means that 80 percent of parents are not engaged with their child’s teacher or school. It’s clear there is a disconnect between the way teachers are communicating and the way most of the world is getting its information.

To all educators, I would highly encourage you to look into some type of parent engagement platform and parent communication system, if you haven’t already. Personally, I would recommend ParentSquare. They integrate with your student information system with ease, enable parents to communicate with teachers at the tip of their fingers, and provides full data dashboards for you as an administrator to see how many parents you are reaching and engaging. Please visit for more information.

Published by David Franklin

Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.

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