Sadly, I’m getting older, and nothing makes this more obvious than the holidays. More and more each year I find myself saying, “You know, when I was a kid . . . ” after which I launch into a story no one wants to hear about how toys used to be so much cheaper. Recently, I’ve realized that most of my stories revolve around how expensive everything has gotten, so when I came across an article about the $100,000 price tag for all the items listed in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” it was right up my alley.
It’s a disturbing trend, to say the least, but not all that surprising. Price hikes are as inevitable as taxes. In a typical economy, inflation is somewhat steady and manageable. However, when times are tougher and budgets are tighter, the emotional cost of everything rises as well. This is particularly evident in school districts.
When forced to choose between sports or arts, small classes or new computers, the people involved take passionate sides. How can districts ensure that they have enough capital to cover the emotional costs of making such difficult decisions? I have found that parents and community members really want to be heard and to fully trust that the district (and its leaders) has considered all sides of an issue before making decisions.
Districts which successfully establish an ongoing, open dialogue with their stakeholders build reserves of trust. In difficult times, they are able to draw on that trust and effectively manage crises. In this way, a community dialogue is like a good savings plan — save a little at a time and your trust reserves will be there when you need them.