In the January 2019 issue of High School Today, an article on school newsletters focused on the potential for connecting department members and helping further professional development. Following are some additional steps to create an effective newsletter.
1. Select an appropriate and exciting format
There are a number of templates you can find on the Internet for newsletters. What is important is that you want to design a document that has lots of meaningful information in a limited amount of space. Like a newspaper, three or four different headlines on the page will allow readers flexibility in finding the information they find useful. The first page can also have a weekly calendar of home events so that readers can be aware of any school activities they can support.
2. Review results by highlighting team and individual accomplishments
This portion doesn’t have to be particularly long, but in a time when local media coverage of athletic events has greatly diminished, two to five sentences with short highlights from team results helps the community to feel connected. This space can also highlight a significant coach or student milestone such as years coached, league MVP awards or other meaningful accomplishments.
3. Publicize community and schoolwide events
Are there any particular school events that athletic teams and off-campus coaches need to review? Schools host a variety of activities that support the growth of all students. There could be an upcoming career night, SAT test prep presentation, or even “Coffee with the Principal.” With the additional announcement in a newsletter, more coaches can promote the events to meet the needs of all students.
4. Link a professional article for reference
Activity leaders have access to a number of professional articles they can share with others. Twenty years ago, activity leaders may have made photocopies for coaches, but today a web link can serve just as well and not violate copyright reproduction laws. For instance, creating a one-sentence description and a link to an NFHS article allows readers to become more familiar with professional networks. These articles can address a broad range of professional development topics and encourage coaches to try something new as they become exposed to an article they may not find on their own.
5. Write a short informational article specific to a school site
This part of a newsletter is site-specific. For example, a short section on how coaches can learn about on-campus resources to improve academic growth or a short “how to” on how to increase student citizenship can go a long way to help coaches and advisors understand the programs each school offers. This section can also be used to increase familiarity with operations such as the steps to appropriately fill out a purchase order. In any case, this is a space that allows the coaches to get site-specific professional development and become more proficient and timely in addressing the needs of a school community.
6. Advertise coach openings
Finding coaches is always a challenge; however, the department newsletter allows for readers to consider new openings and share information with their network. For instance, the soccer coach may learn about the football opening through the newsletter and may have a contact who might be interested. Keeping the community aware of open positions may lead to additional applicants that activity leaders may not find without the use of a newsletter.
7. Include the school logo and action pictures
Not only should the school logo be displayed prominently in the newsletter, but there should also be a number of accompanying pictures that highlight accomplishments and provide context to newsletter content. This doesn’t mean pictures will be used for everything, but having a selection of current pictures helps keep interest. Find coaches, yearbook staff or even community members who can take pictures or download images from social media to populate the newsletter. Don’t forget each picture should have a descriptive caption that explains to the reader what they are seeing.
Creating a newsletter requires some time and creativity, but designing and working with a focused template allows activity leaders to not only learn new things, but create a more involved and supportive school community focused on the success of all students.
Dr. Steve Amaro, CMAA, is a teacher, coach and athletic director at Freedom High School in Oakley, California. He is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.