4 Things Your Online Staff Can Do The Last Few Weeks of School

header-mayWhile some schools will be in session into June, the beginning of May signals the final couple weeks for many. Many advisers and editors wonder what they should be doing with their staffs in the final weeks. Here are four things you and your staff should be doing:

  1. EVALUATE THE YEAR THAT WAS – Take some time as a full staff to evaluate the year that was. What were the highlights? What were the lows? What did the staff get better at as the year progressed? What do staffers feel their individual strengths were? What were the strengths as a staff? What areas of coverage did the staff excel in? What were some holes in coverage that the staff missed? Evaluate the presence of photo and video on your site. Take a look at your Google Analytics results and compare site traffic from the 2014-15 school year to the 2015-16 school year. What do you notice with site traffic when you compare the two years? Revisit the goals you set at the beginning of the year, evaluate how you did with those goals and what the next steps are. Once that is done as a large group, consider having the returning staff members discuss what was learned and set some early goals for next year. I think it’s important for the goals to be set by non-seniors as they will be the ones returning next year and working to deliver on whatever goals they set.
  2. CONTINUE COVERAGE – Just because the year is winding down doesn’t mean the staff site should start hibernating for summer early. There’s a lot that goes on in the last few weeks of school. Work to make sure your news site covers all the end of year musts: teachers retiring, graduation preview, senior awards night preview and recap, sports season post seasons and season recaps, finals schedule, AP testing schedule, summer camp offerings, etc. That’s just a short list. Obviously, any big, breaking news should still find its way to the site as well.
  3. SCHEDULE STORIES FOR NEXT YEAR – If there is some down time, the end of the year is a great time to schedule a few posts for the first day and first week of the next school year. The beginning of a school year is a crazy time with people working to shake off their cobwebs from summer and get moving in something other than first gear. Often times, this means student websites don’t see any new, fresh content for weeks as staffs undergo training and get organized. While many things like new teacher introductions or new policies might not have information available just yet, staffers can follow the format many first day newspaper staffs follow and kick up some coverage that would be great for the first week of school. Consider scheduling columns from current seniors giving advice to students of each grade level next year. Write a post highlighting imports events the first quarter of school. Generally, things like homecoming, parent conferences and open house dates are already set and that information would be great for people to put on their calendars. Evergreen features are also great options.
  4. CHANGE PASSWORDS – As the guard changes from one staff to next, it’s a good idea to change passwords for things like social networks and website access. Many social networks will not only require that you change the password, but you also need to see if there are any connected apps and it’s a good idea to revoke access to them as well. These are generally found in the network’s settings. You can read a little more about that here in a past post. For the website, don’t delete users. That can potentially erase bylines and cause for a messy archive. Instead, change each user’s access to its most restricted level and staffs should be fine. Users then can keep their bylines but can’t get in and post on the backend anymore. For master admin passwords, I keep a spreadsheet of each site/app/network and the corresponding username and password for each. When the next year starts, I share the necessary info with the appropriate individuals.

Sarah Nichols also wrote a post a few years ago about things staffs should consider when closing out the year. You can read it here, it’s got some more great ideas.

Do you do something different with your staff to close out the year? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 19th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He created The Next 26 and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull and on Snapchat as aaronmanfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

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