BY: LAUREN REVEAL, FEATURES EDITOR
At first I was somewhat taken by surprise by the invitation to video chat with the man who runs the informative, and sometimes snarky, DCPS Twitter page. Upon reflection I realized that for Andy Le, the digital communications manager at DCPS, it only makes sense to use social media for an interview.
Le controls the DCPS website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, as well as text messaging services, emails, and even the robo calls. For most of us at Wilson, we know him as the guy who keeps us waiting for snow day announcements.
According to Le, DCPS has to wait for D.C.’s other agencies to make a decision on snow days before they can make the call. “I’m up, and then when I get notification, I push it up through all of our digital communications channels,” he said. Unfortunately, this means that all of the angry tweets begging for school to be cancelled don’t make a difference.
However, Le said students’ tweets can be used to inform DCPS: “When the sidewalks aren’t shoveled around certain schools people tweet like ‘Hey the sidewalks need to be shoveled’… I send it over to the operations team who then sends someone out to take care of that kind of safety stuff.”
Le started to work at DCPS because of his love for public education. Both he and his wife, a teacher, are involved in education. “I think education is one of the most powerful tools to do well in society,” he said.
Before Le’s arrival, DCPS had a Twitter and a Facebook, but neither was used regularly. In response, he created a job to control all of DCPS communications. “It’s sort of tiring but it’s also really fun,” he said. And believe it or not, he finds tweets from high-schoolers hilarious, and if those tweets are creative and profanity-free, he may retweet them.
As high schoolers, we know that the easiest way to get through to us is social media. Le sees this too. For DCPS, it was not difficult to get parents to like the Facebook page or follow the Twitter, but it was harder to capture students’ attention. “I try to come up with interesting content that I think you guys would like,” Le said. “My mantra is, ‘The message of your communication is the response that you get,’ so if I’m not getting responses… then I’m doing something wrong.”
Through the Turkey Bowl, basketball championships, and of course snow days, the DCPS Twitter was able to gain student support. “I really wanted to develop a relationship with our students,” he said.
The DCPS social media is not only there to inform, but also to entertain. On their website they post articles about schools, students, and teachers. Just last week they wrote an article about Wilson. If students have ideas for stories to put on the website, Le said he would love for them to share those ideas. As he reminded me a few times, he sees everything that is tweeted at DCPS, and some of these tweets may be story ideas.
But social media is not Le’s passion in life. “Social media is just a tool. Five years ago, Twitter was something really small and random, and five years from now who knows what it will be,” he said. “It’s all about communicating online and digital communities. That is the way I sort of think about it… Tools to me aren’t really that important; it’s the engagement and the quality of the conversation.”
Although it still perplexes him that high schoolers would follow their school system’s Twitter account, Le still loves the support. Follow @dcpublicschools, tweet your ideas at them, and every once in a while tweet something sassy about why the two inches of snow haven’t cancelled school yet. Andy will enjoy it.