‘Communicating’ new ideas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2008

AHOSKIE – They came from all parts of Hertford County.

Tuesday morning a group of local leaders met at Roanoke-Chowan Community College for a forum on “Strengthening the Communication in the Village.”

The community forum was sponsored by Hertford County Public Schools and allowed those from agencies and businesses in Hertford County to discuss better communication, teen pregnancy, drugs and gangs in small towns, the Early College Project and “What do we do as a village?”

“This is the village,” HCPS Community Relations Coordinator Ronald Gatling said. “We’re all in this together. We’re all trying to make Hertford County a better place.”

After opening remarks from RCCC President Dr. Ralph G. Soney and HCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael G. Basham, the group of more than 100 got down to work.

Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins, an assistant superintendent with Hertford County Public Schools, led the group in their dialogue about communication.

She reminded the group there were three ways of communication: words, vocalizing and visual. Dr. Rollins said only seven percent of communication came from words and another 38 percent came from vocal. Vocalizing, she said, allowed people to better understand the words because of inflection and tone.

The final way of communicating was visual, which allowed people to see body language and this made up most of the communication that exists between people.

“All three of those parts have to align for the message to be consistent and to be believed,” she said. “How many times do we say one thing and our face say another?”

She said that same alignment must occur in Hertford County if the groups represented wanted to present a message.

“All parts of this community have to be aligned and be consistent for our message to be believed,” Dr. Rollins said.

She also challenged the group to examine their own assumptions.

As an example she said, “Just because we are all educators, we assume we all feel the same way about children.”

She stressed that each group may have the best interest of Hertford County at heart, but that they should examine together what each felt that best interest was.

Dr. Rollins said it was important for the group to dialogue and not discuss. Dialogue, she said, allowed everyone to talk without trying to “win someone over.”

“The most powerful tool with dialogue is that it is a win-win situation,” she stressed.

After nearly half an hour of discussion, the groups presented their ideas for better communication between the entities that were represented.

They included:

* the possibility of a countywide website which would provide links to different organizations;

* continue community forums such as the one Tuesday morning to keep dialoguing;

* use a list-serve email for information and important messages;

* quarterly memos;

* to better reach the parents of students in the county because forums were good, but did not reach the parents who were necessary for education to be successful;

* make the websites of those who serve the county more user-friendly;

* use the flier messages on water bills and electric bills to communicate;

* not assume everyone can or does read;

* find an alternative, perhaps mailing, because sending items home with students does not work;

* have a genuine interest in children;

* encourage group meetings between teachers and a parent if a child is struggling;

* address problems as soon as they are known;

* celebrate success; and

* use more personal contact.

“It is important that our good words be followed by working together,” Dr. Rollins said. “We must put action behind it. If we sit here and talk and nothing changes we have wasted money and time.”

After the communication discussion, the group continued to meet throughout the afternoon.

Gatling also said the school district would compile a list of contact information to be distributed among the group to foster better communication.