Carole Dorn-Bell, Allerton Hill Consulting Partner

Financial Communications: The Wisdom of Star Trek’s Dr. Spock

As someone with older siblings I grew up with a steady diet of Star Trek episodes. Although I’m not a Trekkie, the characters are timeless. Spock was among the most unique and, frankly, interesting to me. He is a being that is governed by facts, logic and pragmatism. He is also aware of the limitations that come with his natural inclination toward logic and he makes room for other ways of thinking.

When it comes to school finance and in communicating about school finance with their public, it is not unusual that school systems simply do not communicate about the financials. Or, when they do, attempt it, they do it poorly. If we are being honest, it can be intimidating to speak to the financials, can’t it? Sure. But Spock would do far more, I assure you.

Without a doubt, there is an art and science to communicating about the financials. Here’s a broad guide that we find helps fiscal officers and other leaders get started.

When do you talk about it?

  • Talk about the finances always and constantly. This means that updates on your school system’s fiscal health should appear in newsletters, State of the School events, videos, etc.
  • In short, they should be included in the district’s overall communication plan. Use the natural school fiscal calendar as your starting guide as to what you should be talking about when.

Who do you tell?

  • Start internally and work out from there. That means making sure that you start with your school board and proceed to your school leadership, faculty and staff and community.
  • Again, use the natural school fiscal calendar as a guide.

How do you talk about it?

  • Pay attention to the 30,000 foot view. You want to be factual and eliminate jargon. Be relatable and use relatable examples.

Starting here is what Spock would undoubtedly call logical.

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