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Approaching Attendance Awareness Month in a Post-Covid World

In a recent episode of Productive Disruption, Director of Client Engagement Molly McGowan Gorsuch, APR, sat down with school communication leaders Marie Russell and Trinette Marquis, APR, to discuss the importance of developing strategic communication plans, and Marie’s process in creating one for Turlock USD’s attendance awareness campaign. 

Marie is Turlock USD’s Director of Communications, Family Engagement, and Outreach. Additionally, she was named the 2021-2022 Communicator of the Year by CalSPRA – the California state chapter of the National School Public Relations Association. Trinette is the Executive Director of CalSPRA and the CalSPRA Academy instructor who supported Marie in writing and executing her first communication plan.  

In the K-12 world, September has historically been dedicated as Attendance Awareness Month. The marketing campaigns may vary, but the heart of the initiative remains the same: student attendance is critical for academic success. Since COVID’s inception, attendance campaigns have been on hold for multiple reasons. At the instruction of state education departments, schools had to make sure they were not incentivizing sick or quarantining students to return to the classroom or intensifying the pressure they may have felt if they had to miss due to COVID. With the majority of districts back to normal operating procedures this year, promoting the importance of regular student attendance during September’s Attendance Awareness Month was once again appropriate – though Marie found her target audiences had changed.

It was the perfect time to utilize what she’d been learning from Trinette in CalSPRA Academy’s Strategic Communications course, which was project-based and required attendees to develop a communication plan. With the skills she gained from the course, Marie mapped out her first communication plan, which not only informed her choices for the creative deliverables of the campaign but also drove important conversations with her district leaders about the “why” behind campaign messaging. Ultimately, Marie incorporated pieces of the free toolkit annually provided to districts by Attendance Works but created unique deliverables to better fit Turlock USD. Marie wanted to ensure the messaging and graphics aligned with the district’s current climate and highlighted the “connectedness” students have with in-person learning while underscoring the importance of showing up every day to school. 

To learn more about the behind-the-scenes of Turlock USD’s communication plan, or about CalSPRA and support for school communicators, check out the episode of Productive Disruption. 

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