Best Practices for Engagement of Members in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond

With COVID-19 constantly changing the educational landscape, we must maintain frequent and open communications with our membership. Now more than ever, our school leaders are relying on local unions for guidance, information and representation.

In Wednesday’s "Summer of Learning" course, Doris Reed, AFSA’s national service representative, and Dr. David Dzidzienyo from the Association of Supervisory & Administrative School Personnel, provided valuable strategies for engaging and assisting members during these trying times. 

AFSA encourages locals to take these immediate steps to connect with administrators, and ultimately, become a stronger union.

  • Establish a direct line of communication with your school system: Districts are making key decisions about reopening that affect not only your members but your entire school community. Therefore, your local needs a channel of communication with the district leaders in order to address collective questions and concerns. Have your union leaders, namely your CEOs, act as the primary point of contact with your superintendent.
  • Effectively use emails: Email is the preferred method of communication for many members. AFSA recommends using an email service to track open rates and other useful information about your audience. To increase open rates, send the same message multiple times, eliminating the audience that opened the previous time. For example, if an individual opens the message on the first send, don’t include them in the second send. Also, members must use their personal emails for union communications, not their school district emails. Administrators and teachers have been fired for using school emails for personal matters.
  • Establish cluster/area reps within various units/sectors: To have a pulse on our district, we need union leaders representing every cluster. Representatives are imperative in corraling members to attend meetings, and helping the union address the particular needs of schools and sectors. Reed says, “These reps can help us better identify concerns within the membership, provide insight and, at times, more accurate information on a situation.”
  • Frequently hold tele-town halls: Locals should take full advantage of online meeting technologies to conduct union business while social distancing. Platforms such as Zoom enable us to host guest speakers, share important documents and conduct polls in real time. Having a moderator screen questions and comments in online chats keeps the conversation focused and running smoothly. “If you pose a question about a certain issue or concern, members can provide you with a response immediately,” Dzidzienyo noted. “That will help you make decisions on how to move forward.”

The current pandemic offers unique opportunities to fortify relationships within our unions and to re-engage inactive members. People are yearning for unity and security in this pandemic, and it is important our unions provide just that. 

"Don’t be disheartened, don’t give up. If you have the town halls, you may start out with 50 members, and they will tell 50 more, and it works,” said Reed.  “Stay strong. We’re all in this together.”