In what may be a national first for a school district, the Los Angeles school system has hired a full-time social media director.
The move last month prompts an immediate question: What exactly does a K-12 school district's social media director do?
Answering it has been one of the first orders of business for Stephanie Abrams since she took the job of social media director at the nation's second-largest school district after a career as a television reporter, most recently for KCBS in Los Angeles.
In an interview by email last week, Ms. Abrams said she picked up technology as one of her beats during the latter portion of her TV-news career and was one of her network's early adopters of social-media platforms.
She said her salary of just over $93,000 a year as social media director, which has drawn some criticism locally, reflects duties and responsibilities that are far more demanding than simply overseeing the district's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
For one thing, Ms. Abrams said, she will be leading staff education about a new social-network-use policy implemented in February.
The policy advises employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District to keep work-related and personal social-network accounts separate, strongly discourages maintaining social-networking contacts with students through a personal account, and warns employees not to hold any expectations of privacy while using school-owned technology.
The district now has just over 1,000 Facebook "likes" on its new profile page, and gets approximately 5,000 daily visitors, Ms. Abrams said, with the expectation that the following will greatly expand during the next six months.
The district also has accounts on Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and is using its YouTube channel to post weekly video updates titled "@LASchools" that will also run periodically on KLCS, one of the city's public-broadcasting stations, Ms. Abrams added.
The district may expand to more social-media platforms, Ms. Abrams said, after conducting the school system's first districtwide social-media survey to determine, among other information, how many schools have their own websites and social-media presence, and how many students and parents in the district are engaging in social media.
Ms. Abrams also said part of her job description as social media director includes working closely with top administrators, especially during crisis situations, so that information about school lockdowns, early closings, and other student-safety issues can be relayed through its social-media accounts.
Ms. Abrams said she understands the criticism of her salary, $87,000 of which is funded by the Boston-based Goldhirsh Foundation, which has given funding to the LAUSD in the past and has also funded other initiatives aimed toward "social innovation," according to Tara Roth McConaghy, the group's executive director.
Given the school system's budget troubles, some in the district have suggested that any private infusion of money should be directed toward positions that more directly help students.
But Ms. Abrams added that, "given the scope of the work, which includes communicating via social media to more than 1,000 school sites, nearly a million students, and approximately 65,000 employees, plus my critical role in developing policies as we move forward, the district determined that the salary is within a fair range."
Countering Bad News?
While Ms. Abrams may be the first full-time social media director for a K-12 district... Continue reading this article by Ian Quillen at EdWeek.org
IAN QUILLEN is a writer for Education Week and Education Week Digital Directios as well as web producer of the latter. He also contributes to the blog Digital Education.