Responding to e-mails is a daily necessity for school board members and administrators.
Unfortunately, taking the time to type out a thoughtful, polite reply to each e-mail is not always possible. In fact, most of us have sent an e-mail and later had to follow up with "That's not what I meant!"
Here are eight e-mail "Do's" and "Dont's" for school boards and administrators:
1. When addressing a student issue, limit your e-mail to one topic (and one student).
2. An e-mail communication should be phrased in the same way you would phrase a letter or memorandum written in your professional capacity. Remember - your business e-mails are school district records and may be obtained by parents if the e-mails are “education records” pertaining to a student, and in litigation by someone who is suing your school district.
3. Your e-mail can be re-distributed to the entire world by any recipient, and once distributed, it never goes away. Don’t put anything in an e-mail you are not willing to see on the front page of the newspaper or the lead story on the 6 o'clock news.
4. Don’t use e-mail to discuss confidential information unless you are sure that all recipients understand that it is confidential (or if it is a communication with your school district's legal counsel).
5. The “Reply All” button is dangerous. Don’t use it unless you are sure that you want “all” to get your message.
6. Use the same level of professionalism in an e-mail as you would in any other written correspondence. Parents should be referred to as “Mr.,” “Mrs.” or “Ms.,” or as “[Name of student]’s father” - not as “Mom” or “Dad.” Also, stay away from “emoticons” or e-mail abbreviations such as “LOL, “IMHO,” etc.
7. Don’t hit the “Send” key when you are angry. Avoid responding to angry e-mails in kind.
8. E-mails about student issues should only be addressed to people who have a legitimate “need to know” about the issue you are discussing.
Communication is tough enough when you are discussing an issue face-to-face. However, e-mail communication is even tougher because it removes tone and body language - leaving you with just words on a computer screen. Choose your words wisely!