Voices in Tech: Why social media is your friend

Q&A with Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent of Fall Creek School District in Wisconsin
By: | Issue: June, 2019
April 25, 2019

Some district leaders avoid social media for fear of getting burned for a post or lured into an online dispute, or because of the pressure to be everywhere—in their districts and online. 

The problem with not using social media as a leadership tool is that when school board or community members don’t see what the superintendent is doing, they will make up something, says Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent of Fall Creek School District in Wisconsin.

“You want to be in a spot where you can help craft the real story of what you’re doing as a leader,” Sanfelippo says.

Sanfelippo was a 2019 featured speaker for DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference®, which will be held January 14-17, 2020, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

How does social media fit into your overall district strategy?

We use social media in a way that spotlights our teachers and students, which creates a tremendous amount of pride in our community. I also think when the audience changes, the effort changes because you know eyes are on you. For example, we hold a street fair at the end of the year, during which teachers engage with their colleagues about a passion project that they’ve been researching. Last year, we livestreamed it, and we had 21,000 people watch. When 21,000 people watch your teachers teach their colleagues a topic, it changes everything. It changes the way our teachers teach. It changes the topics they choose. It changes the effort.

How have you benefited from using social media to tell your district’s story?

Eighty percent of the voting public doesn’t have kids in school, so the public doesn’t see what we do as an investment like our parents do every day. Technology has given us that platform to bring the entire community along with us. We’ve passed two referendums to renovate a school, and both were well received. Once we started talking about the great things that were happening in our district, we had companies partner with us and bring in technology.

Read: Voices in Tech: Student IT team revamps tech repairs

Members of our community need to see us as an investment, and they will if they know and understand what’s happening in this space.

What are your guidelines for social media?

You don’t always have to be right as long as you’re real. The thing a lot of people get wrong is that the only time you talk with your community is when you need something, so if you screw it up, you’ll get nailed for it. If you’re talking to them often and you screw something up, that just becomes part of the conversation, and you can apologize and move on.

How can district leaders get started?

Create a calendar of things that you’d like to feature. If you get to the point where you can tell five stories per week—one per day—about something you saw in the school, you’re going to create more credibility and momentum that makes you want to do it again.

Jennifer Herseim is an editor for LRP Media Group and program chair for Inclusion and Special Education at DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference.

Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.