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Fargo School District explores social media

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Fargo School District explores social media
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

From tweeting to friending, local school officials are adding social media lingo to their vocabulary.

However, while sites such as Twitter and Facebook may be effective for school districts to communicate to the public, it can open up new issues and potential problems.

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"We know this is going to be a part of the new reality," district spokesman Lowell Wolff said of social media.

But it comes with a lot of questions.

"If we had a Twitter page ... who would sign up? In a public school setting, how would you use that kind of power?" he said. "Those are the questions we're asking and beginning to answer."

That's why, this year, Fargo school officials are planning to draft district policies on how the district and staff uses social media.

It's part of the district's efforts to use social media and multimedia to be more transparent to the public.

In January, the district plans to officially launch what they call a Public Information Warehouse, a page on their Web site housing public documents.

"That's a big step forward," school board member John Strand said.

Since being elected to the board in 2008, he's been a proponent of making meetings more transparent to the public.

He's also pushed for podcasting board meetings, which Wolff said they could explore doing.

"Is it hard to do? No." Wolff said, adding it's inexpensive, however: "Do people really want to sit and listen to a dialogue of a board meeting?"

In the Twin Cities, district patrons in the Minnetonka School District do.

Since April, the district has streamed videos online of every school board meeting as well as events such as school board candidate forums and graduation ceremonies.

"I think viewing meetings online is the way of the future," Minnetonka visual communications coordinator Jake Sturgis said. "It's the most convenient for people to watch. And honestly, I think public access (TV) probably has a few more years left."

In October, the site got the highest number of views - 300.

"The numbers aren't huge," Sturgis said. "But I think it's serving the district well. It's great in terms of transparency." That's why Fargo schools may consider something similar in the near future.

"The more complete access to everything there is to the public, the better," Strand said. "The issue of public transparency - it's just paramount in my mind."

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