Required Reading Materials
Warner, C. (2009). Promoting Your School (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc. (US).
Chapter 3: Internal Communication
Chapter 6: Building Your Team
Chapter 7: Involving Parents in School
Chapter 8: Community Outreach
Chapter 3: Internal Communication
“Before you can sell the customers, you have to sell the sales force.”
You’ve heard the saying, “Bricks and mortar don’t make a school; people do.” The way your
school or school district is perceived by the community is due primarily to the image presented
by the people in it—your faculty, staff, and students. Unless you plan to put all the students in
the gym or cafeteria and teach them yourself and personally communicate with every parent
and patron, you need to have a plan for making each person in your school an active member of
the school team.
Each member of the school staff, from the custodian to the principal, is a key
communicator with the community. Even substitute teachers are involved in carrying the image
of your school back to the community.
Where do people most often go when they want the “inside story” on an issue or an
organization? They seek out someone they know and trust who is directly involved with the
source of information in which they are interested. All the favorable newspaper or radio or
television coverage in the world will not overturn the negative or inaccurate report given
firsthand by one of your employees to a neighbor.
Building good communication with your staff is vitally important. It is your best insurance
against negative and divisive talk that originates in-house. Positive attitudes about your school
are generated by the ripple effect created by good programs, good people, and good
management. Staff members feel these effects first and pass these feelings on to students, who
share them with parents, who transmit them to the community at large.
In order for all your school team members to be effective communicators and people
who willingly promote an affirmative message about their school, they need to have a clear
sense of the school’s mission and goals and be fully informed about the school’s program and
the issues that affect it. This includes all staff, not just teachers. Instructional support staff, bus
drivers, crossing guards, food service workers, secretaries, and custodians are all frontline
communicators and are just as much a part of the school team as you and the teachers.
Today’s leading superintendents recognize the connection between an effective
communication program and student success. They understand the need to demonstrate
accountability by delivering key messages about their schools and model good communication
Here are some wise words and tips, with a focus on internal communication, from some
What does communication look like in a “world class” system?
“It has to be tailored to your school district/system. Communication is everyone’s
responsibility—from food service director to the board president. It has to be strategic, planned,
flexible and it also has to be responsive.”
“It’s not just print or electronic; it must be mobile and multifaceted to reach out to diverse
“Nothing will set back a district faster than poor communication.”
“Everything the district does needs to be mission related, mission driven.”
“Recognize you have to invest in good communication if you want it to truly be a world-class
system, appropriately budget for it. Your school community must value communication and
“Good internal communication is essential. Whether it is the kindergarten teacher, the cafeteria
worker or the bus driver—build on open and honest communication with internal stakeholders
as well as having those conversations within your organization. Think of all those folks [district
employees] as ‘navigators’ or ‘key communicators’—everyone has a circle of influence outside
of their job.”
“We as educators need to be listening to our stakeholders as well—embrace what they are
saying about our school and our district, and determine where we need to move with our
“We need to make sure that the communication staff are helping us get an accurate database of
key communicators. Listen to their suggestions and input about where we need to go with our
mission. Sometimes, the folks who have the most influence are not necessarily the most
high-profile in your community—but they have credibility and others respect their opinions.”
“The cabinet [or executive council] needs to recognize that communication must be a major
function of everything the district does.”
If everyone is responsible for communication, how do you hold your staff responsible?
“Through the motivation and building capacity for people to see the power of good
communication; creating a culture of encouraging people. You have to be encouraged to start
small. Have the communication staff do a ‘mini audit’ at building level. By starting small with
some great successes, your efforts pay off in the long run.”
“If the administrative team understands the importance of great communication, then the culture
of the district will reflect that.”
“Practice good customer service. For example, talk to the secretaries about how they answer
the phone with positive messages, or receive visitors with smiles.”
“Ask, ‘How do we serve our customers?’ Look at the messages we’re sending.”
Source: National School Public Relations teleconference, Dec. 2007; panelists: Dr. Ken Bird Superintendent ofWestside Community Schools, Omaha, NE; Dr. Sandra Husk, Superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools,Salem, OR; and Dr. Rodney Lafon, Superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, Luling, LA.
TECHNIQUES FOR IMPROVING STAFF COMMUNICATION
Staff Meetings. Here are some suggestions that will assist you in transmitting information at staff
meetings, as well as make the experience more pleasant for busy staff.
● Post agendas for your regular staff meetings. When the staff know the topics in advance,
they come better prepared, and two-way communication is upgraded.
● Encourage participation and input from everyone.
● Stick to specific topics of interest to all. If you have subjects to discuss that involve only
one or two teachers, meet with them privately.
● If it is necessary to review materials, send the information out with the meeting agenda
so that pertinent questions can be asked during the meeting, which eliminates the need
for additional time on the subject later.
● Don’t waste staff time by calling a meeting to pass out information that could have been
distributed through mailboxes or e-mail. Whenever possible, chair the meeting
yourself—but have others actually present the material or the agenda. This gives you a
certain objectivity in observing how the staff relate to an issue. It also involves more
participants in the meeting.
● Limit the length of the meeting! By respecting everyone’s time, you create an
environment that allows you to deal productively with important issues. (Some
educational leaders limit staff meetings to an hour—and always serve beverages.)
It is critical to lay the foundation of trust and two-way communication with all staff so
issues can be dealt with before they are blown out of proportion. Although it takes time, the time
spent creating relationships and dealing with issues while they are small saves much more time
in the long run.
The system that has led educational leaders to several successful nonconfrontational
contract negotiations in the past decade follows:
● Every building has a representative from each grade who meets monthly with the
building principal to discuss any issues, concerns, or ideas that need to be addressed.
These are referred to as building chitchats. An agenda is created 3 days before the
meeting, with items from the staff and principal so each group may obtain the information
needed to discuss the items. In nearly every case, issues are resolved at this level.
● If an item continues to be an unresolved issue, it is taken to the district-level chit-chat,
which is also held on a monthly basis. This meeting is held in the superintendent’s office
with union leadership and others who may help resolve the issue. The building
representatives may contact their union representative, who will contact the
superintendent and have unresolved building issues added to the agenda. The
superintendent may add issues to the agenda, which is determined three days in
advance of the meeting so each group may obtain information and those involved may
be invited to attend.
b. District Council
● Once a month, a more formal meeting is held at the Central Office, facilitated by the
superintendent. Participants include one representative from each grade, principals, and
a school board member. The union or administration may place items on the agenda that
need to be discussed and communicated to the rest of the staff. This has served as an
excellent way to obtain information about items and assures that nothing is overlooked
by any constituent group.
c. Working Conditions Committee
● Once a month, a formal meeting is held at the Central Office with the support staff
representatives. The superintendent facilitates this meeting. Support staff, union leaders,
administrators, and a school board member all attend. The union or administration may
place items on the agenda that need to be discussed and communicated to the rest of
the support staff.
d. Learning Leadership Teams
● The Building Learning Leadership Team (BLLT) meets once a month. School is
dismissed early and the staff meets to work on Critical Building Issues (CBIs). The CBIs
must be linked to the School Improvement Plan and focus on student achievement.
● The District Learning Leadership Team (DLLT) also meets once a month. Members on
the DLLT include parents, community leaders, teachers, support staff, a board member,
and administrators. The DLLT starts with a luncheon and meets for an entire afternoon.
One of the agenda topics is a review from each building about how they are progressing
with their CBIs. This important topic assures that each building and the community
leaders know what the other buildings are focusing on. The DLLT uses group processing
techniques to determine Critical District Issues (CDIs), which they research and report
back to the school board in the late spring each year.
At North High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, most staff meetings are by affinity
groups— that is, secretaries, custodial staff, teacher’s aides, department chairs, and so
forth—so that the information shared can be as need-specific as possible. In this way, full-staff
meetings can focus on topics of general interest and concern, thus saving time for everybody.
Staff Relations Team. A good way of communicating in schools with large staffs is to develop a
staff relations team made up of teachers from each grade or subject level, several classified
employees, and building administrators. The team meets often (once a week, or every other
week) to discuss issues concerning the school and the district. Team members represent their
colleagues by bringing questions and concerns to the table for discussion. The team members
then pass on discussion results to their colleagues via grade-level and subject-area meetings.
Another way of communicating in schools with large staffs is to follow the lead of Gary
Phillips of Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Georgia. He divides his staff into four
cluster groups. Each of the four assistant principals then presides over a cluster. This
smaller-group approach allows for greater interaction and more effective communication.
Open Door Policy. Administrators who are available at all times to staff, parents, and students
set the tone for a positive, caring attitude throughout the school. An open door sends a powerful
message that you are there to help—or just to listen. But attitude is important as well. “The key,”
says Bob Kenison of Wauconda Grade School in Wauconda, Illinois, “is to be approachable.”
Deborah Binder-Lavender’s twist on an open door policy is to be available to both students and
faculty in the student commons. Every Monday at Thornton High School in Thornton, Colorado,
Dr. Lavender sits at a table from 1 to 3 p.m. and allows people to stop by without an
appointment and visit.
Be a Good Listener. Take time to get to know individual staff members. Ask about their families
and their hobbies. Be visible around the campus and pay attention to the feedback you receive
from staff. Eat lunch at different times and spend a few minutes visiting with staff members. Chat
with them about how the year is going, what their classes are like this year, how they like the
new math curriculum, and so on. Their answers will give you an idea of the image they are
presenting to parents and community members, and provide you with a valuable tool to target
areas needing improved communication.
Address Professional Needs of Staff. Do a “mini survey” at a staff meeting to determine what
needs the school should address to increase staff effectiveness. When planning staff
development programs, be attuned to staff suggestions and formulate programs that reflect
these recommendations. Encourage teachers and staff to participate in schooling, training,
workshops, inservice programs, and other activities that facilitate and improve their
effectiveness. Grace King High School in Metairie, Louisiana, brings in outside speakers to talk
on topics of current interest during teachers’ lunchtime. Off-campus school retreats afford an
excellent opportunity in a relaxed setting to share new teaching methods, to discuss the latest
trends in education, and to develop a closer relationship among peers.
Staff Recognition. Recognition for special efforts can take many different forms. It is important
that your staff feel they are valuable members of the team and that their efforts and input count.
The most powerful recognition is daily acknowledgment of each individual’s contributions to the
success of the school team. This can be as simple as a welcoming greeting in the morning or
verbal approval of a job well done. This personal touch is important whether you are from a
small rural area or a large urban setting. Principals Ken Griffith (Guernsey, Wyoming) and Ben
Grebinski (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) both attest to the effectiveness of this one-on-one
with staff. As Grebinski states, “The personal contact takes time, but it is more productive.” And
Griffith says, “We are a small rural high school, so the individual phone or personal contact is
still the most effective.”
Successful teams do not generally single out individuals for special recognition. By
rewarding one individual for being the best at something, you isolate him or her from the team
and send the message that the rest of the team is not as important. Focus on recognizing staff
through appreciation of efforts that promote teamwork.
Think about your personal leadership style. Do you offer praise freely, or is it given
grudgingly and on an infrequent basis? As an educational leader, whichever style you model will
be followed by your staff. The following are ideas for staff recognition:
● Write personal notes of appreciation.
● Take time to thank someone in person.
● Create a floating monthly award with an amusing theme.
● Hold drawings for free dinners or movie tickets donated by local businesses.
● Provide a special treat in the lounge such as doughnuts or ice cream sundaes.
● At full faculty meetings, recognize special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, births,
and so on.
● Hold a barbecue at the completion of a successful project or event.
● Give posters with a theme promoting teamwork that can be displayed in work areas and
● Sponsor an afterschool holiday get-together (and not necessarily on the last afternoon
prior to Christmas break).
● Provide special buttons or pins.
● Create a staff committee to organize recognitions. After all, it’s a team effort.
● Host an end-of-the-year party; you can enlist others to help you. But if this is the only full
faculty or staff social gathering of the year, you’ve waited too long to get everyone
Address Personal Needs of Staff. An awareness and willingness to find out and meet the
personal needs of staff members are greatly appreciated. Exhibiting this kind of caring attitude
encourages the staff to become involved in supporting each other as well. Here are some
suggestions for meeting personal needs:
● Sponsor a wellness clinic through the local hospital.
● Start a Weight Watchers at Work chapter.
● Organize an afterschool aerobics class.
● Create a cooperative child care group for staff taking evening classes.
● Hold a stress management workshop.
● Create a social activities club for single staff members.
● Develop a peer support network.
● Start a “sunshine fund” to provide flowers or small gifts for birthdays, weddings, births,
funerals, and achievements.
● Arrange for coverage of a teacher’s classes in case of emergency.
Staff Publications. Use your staff newsletter or e-mail to communicate information that does not
need to be covered in a staff meeting. Many principals feel the need for a written bulletin (for
faculty and students)—issued daily so that news doesn’t become old news. The school bulletin
from Dodgeville High School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, is always printed on bright orange paper
to draw attention to it and to distinguish it from other printed material.
Use E-Communication. Send announcements and important need-to-know information through
all-staff electronic mailing lists. Create an all-staff E-Newsletter with current news and
announcements at the district or school and distribute weekly. Post alerts and crisis information
hotlines on the school or district’s home page. Post crisis response letters (communication to
parents and the school community informing them how an issue is being handled/addressed,
with the safety of children/students at the school(s) being the top concern); post information on
the school’s Web site, or distribute it through the staff electronic mailing list and to your key
communicators before you send it to the media, to keep staff in the know and rumors under
Intranet for Staff. Create an intranet for all personnel with updates and employee surveys. Post
staff responsibilities during a crisis, the staff E-Newsletter, and daily or weekly announcements.
Consider posting monthly podcast messages for employees.
Telephone Messaging Systems. Broadcast important crisis information updates or district
reminders from the superintendent or principal through the district’s phone messaging system.
Caution: Verify facts and send only need-to-know information before transmitting crisis
Encourage teachers to contribute monthly grade-level or department reports for a
newsletter to update the rest of the staff on curriculum items and to pass on successful teaching
Faculty/staff handbooks should include information about school and district policies,
insurance and disability, absences and leaves, school philosophy, curriculum, staff conduct,
retirement, grievances and complaints, evaluations, records, professional growth, and salaries.
Consider a school supplement to the district’s handbook that will cover any relevant local school
issues or policies. The teachers at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix, Arizona, have
prepared such a supplement. To help teachers find strategies to enhance their teaching in block
scheduling, teachers devised a handbook about teaching in the block that is full of helpful hints,
answers questions, and addresses the concerns that are most likely to arise.
Staff Business Cards. Solicit local business funds to provide all employees at your
school—faculty and staff—with their own business cards. This builds a sense of pride,
self-worth, and ownership in your school. It says, “I am a professional, and I’m proud to let
people know where I work.”
Staff Crisis Updates. All staff members should be familiar with your crisis plan (see Chapter 11)
and have a clear understanding of their roles. For them to function effectively in a crisis,
however, they must have current information about the situation. Don’t wait for regularly
scheduled staff meetings to share crisis updates. If staff members are to effectively
communicate the true status of a situation to concerned parents and community members, they
must be apprised of current information as soon and as often as feasible. They need to get their
information from you directly and not through the grapevine. When people are aware of
situations but don’t have accurate information, they begin to speculate. Speculation turns into
rumor, which turns into misinformation that can be damaging to the school and difficult to undo.
With proper information, your staff can assist in diffusing the impact of crisis situations on
New Staff Orientation Program. Involve your veteran staff members in creating an orientation
program for new staff. You could develop a special kit of “survival” materials to help them
become acclimated. Establish a mentor or buddy system to pair newcomers with veterans
teaching at their grade level or in their department. Hold monthly meetings for newcomers and
their veteran partners so they might share their experiences.
Welcome Substitutes and Volunteers. People who spend time in your school as substitutes,
student teachers, or volunteers become a part of your school team as well. Get to know them
and encourage their participation in school activities. Include them in staff meetings when
appropriate. Remember that they, too, are important sources of information to the community
about your school.
Assemble welcome packets that include important information about your school:
demographics, a map of the campus, a list of staff members, and so forth. Include a name tag
that identifies each newcomer as a substitute, volunteer, or student teacher.
Make a sign in the lounge welcoming substitutes. Take a photo of each sub and place it
on the sign, along with the sub’s name and the class in which he or she is subbing. This makes
substitutes feel welcome and serves as an icebreaker with other staff members. Do the same
for volunteers and student teachers.
Be a Cheerleader. As an educational leader, you set the tone for your school, so don’t be afraid
to lead the parade. Look for things to celebrate, large and small, and when you can’t find any,
invent some. Positive attitudes are contagious, so spread yours around!
TECHNIQUES FOR IMPROVING STUDENT COMMUNICATION
The very best ambassadors for education are students. If students are not excited about
learning and proud of their school, then school has failed them by not providing the kind of
environment that nurtures success. This environment does not require the newest building or
latest technological equipment. It does mean that educators must create, within whatever limited
resources are available, a warm and caring climate that fosters self-esteem and a desire to
Society places an enormous burden on schools. Today, educators must be all things to
all children—and then some. Amazingly, educators continue to be up to the task, by willingly
accepting the challenges and overcoming great odds on a daily basis. But as mentioned in
Chapter 1, educators are often reluctant to toot their own horns. Students will do it for you if you
include them in your communication network.
Be Enthusiastic. When you are excited about something, your students will be, too. Let the kid
inside you show and children will respond tenfold. For many children, the enthusiasm shown for
them and for their school is the only positive reinforcement they receive—and enthusiasm is
Be Visible. Every child on campus should be able to identify you as the principal, no matter how
big your school. Join in student activities. Jump rope. Shoot a few baskets. Participate in an art
class. Eat lunch in the cafeteria. Attend athletic events, music concerts, and drama productions.
Let students know that you are more than just the person who enforces the rules and metes out
the punishment. Demonstrate your interest in students’ activities with your presence.
Personalize Contact With Students. Work at learning the names of the students who aren’t in
your office all the time for discipline or who aren’t on the student council or the honor roll.
Conducting personal interviews with students allows administrators and guidance personnel at
Archbishop M. C. O’Neill High School in Regina, Saskatchewan, to receive more accurate
information about student issues, concerns, evaluations, and procedures. Another way to
contact students and parents is to have an automated phone call-out system like they have at
Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway, California. Even though you may not speak with
students or parents personally, at least you know your message reached someone at the home.
Use Positive Body Language. Students are very sensitive to your body language and have an
innate sense of your response to them. Learn to smile, wink, and nod in nonverbal
acknowledgment of a child’s presence. Remember that your most difficult student may be from
an abusive home, and you may be the most caring presence in his or her life.
Student Recognition. Create as many ways as possible to reward and recognize students. You
and your staff can design awards and certificates that meet specific needs. You are limited only
by your imagination in what can be recognized. Let students create peer recognition awards as
well. Recognition helps students build pride in themselves, their work, and their school. By
praising students for their contributions to the school team and by recognizing individual and
group efforts, you will build a positive school family that supports learning achievements.
Included at chapter’s end are some sample “Student of the Month” and “Recognition of
Outstanding Scholarship/Excellent Attendance” certificates. To make these certificates special,
have them printed on heavy, high-quality paper.
Create a Student Relations Team. Create a team of student representatives who meet with you
each month to discuss issues and concerns, similar to the staff relations team. Involve them in
establishing school rules and planning special events. Encourage them to take ownership of
their ideas and decisions.
Student Communication. Establish a student newspaper. Publish a book of student poetry or
creative writing. Encourage students to communicate through both the written and spoken word.
Students can also take an active role with the daily announcements. These can be done using
video or audio. Let the media classes have an active part in the production. Such student
involvement is characteristic of Halifax County High School in South Boston, Virginia.
New Student Orientation. Just as you involve veteran staff in welcoming new staff members,
involve students in creating an orientation program for new students. Put together a student
survival kit and set up a buddy system to make new students feel a part of the school.
Chapter 6: Building Your Team
“Building a better school is a team effort. If you’re the only player on the field, don’t expect to
One of the driving forces behind the move for education reform is the concept of shared
decision making. A by-product of the national focus on educational improvement is a renewed
interest in participating in the educational process by the various constituencies of a school.
● Staff members are no longer content with the traditional top-down management structure
and are demanding the opportunity to have a voice in designing the system within which
● The business community has recognized that if it wishes to impact outcomes of
education and the quality of workers available to operate its enterprises, then it must
take an active role in the schools where those outcomes are developed.
● Parents desire input into their children’s instructional program so that it reflects their
family philosophy and values, as well as the academic ambitions they have for their
To operate effectively within this new school reform/improvement environment, staff,
parents, and community members all must have the opportunity for meaningful input into the
educational process. Many of the methods schools have long used to communicate with their
publics are no longer sufficient to meet today’s needs. If these publics are to have valid input
and involvement in school and district decisions, they must be informed about the critical issues
facing their schools.
Educators face an enormous challenge in changing from a traditional authoritative,
top-down management style that controls decision making to one in which all those affected by
decisions share in the decision-making process. Shared decision making is not easy. It takes
careful planning, strong communications skills, patience, and long-term commitment.
In setting goals and determining school agendas, the successful schools in the new
century will be those that include all of their publics, not just those designated as professional
educators. By involving all those in the community who have a vested interest in successful
educational outcomes, you will be able to tap into many more areas of expertise and create a
tremendous resource base to assist your school in preparing students to become productive
WHO MAKES UP THE TEAM?
Wise educational leaders have long used faculty advisory committees to provide feedback and
assist in developing new programs. The advent of effective schools research has led to the
formation of school improvement teams with increased responsibilities and a membership
expanded to include parents and community members. A significant outgrowth of expanded
responsibility at the building level is the formation of school site councils that seek to empower
these team members by increasing their involvement in decision-making activities involving
such critical areas as budgeting, staffing, and curriculum development—areas long thought to
be the exclusive province of professional educators.
There are numerous ways to structure your team. It should be large enough to provide
appropriate representation of all groups, yet not so large as to hamper communication and the
cultivation of collegiality among its members. Several examples illustrate the wide range of
1. Many districts around the country have created school advisory site councils, which are
typically composed of five teachers, one support staff employee, and four parents/patrons. The
principal serves as the chairperson and ex officio member. Members apply for the councils and
are appointed by the superintendent’s administrative council. Appointments are carefully
considered to provide a balance of grade-level representation as well as demographic and
philosophical orientation, thus ensuring that the council accurately reflects the interests of the
local school community.
2. Magic City Campus High School in Minot, North Dakota, has emphasized teaming and
collaboration through its 2000 Committee, which is working to improve the teaching/learning
process and guide the school toward the 21st century. The committee is composed of three
principals, three counselors, four teachers, three parents, and one media specialist.
3. Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a residential school in Sitka, Alaska, is using the Total Quality
Management (TQM) teachings of W. Edwards Deming. Applying the TQM model, the students,
staff, and administrators worked together to develop a consensus about the purposes of the
school. Their 15-point model, Modified Deming Points for Continuous Improvement of
Education, is at chapter’s end.
4. The Faculty Advisory Council at East Burke Middle School in Icard, North Carolina, is
composed of the head custodian, cafeteria manager, military reserve officer, PTA president, four
team leaders, special education team leader, guidance representative, principal, and assistant
principal. This team meets for a full day in July, setting goals based on the mission statement,
previous goals, and teacher expectations. During the school year, it meets weekly and covers
“concerns” first and then the principal’s agenda.
5. The School Council, made up of the principal, three teachers, four parents, two students, and
two community representatives, has a major role at Swampscott High School in Massachusetts.
This council conducts an annual needs assessment, identifies the educational needs of
students, reviews the annual budget, and develops an annual School Improvement Plan.
6. Thornridge High School in Dolton, Illinois, takes a different route utilizing the team concept.
Principal Gwendolyn Lee created a Principal’s Cabinet, which consists of students representing
every club in the school. This provides a broader base for student input than relying on the
regular student government groups.
Regardless of the structure used, the key is to allow for representation by all interested
segments of your school community. Your collaborative efforts will be successful only if you
allow for a diversity of opinions and remain open to new ideas and new approaches to problem
solving. The most successful teams are able to find common ground and arrive at decisions
through consensus building, thus ensuring the continued interest and involvement of team
members. Remember, the operative word is inclusion.
SUCCESSFUL TEAMS COMMUNICATE WELL
No group of people can function as a team unless there is complete and open communication
among its members. Effective teams have developed intensive communications systems, both
formal and informal—and ongoing.
Clearly, two-way communication builds trust among team members by providing the
information that they want and need on a timely basis. It allows for feedback and inspires
respect, pride, and cooperation among members. When team members are well-informed and
understand their responsibility for the decisions that lead to change, they are then able to help
others in the school community improve student attitude and learning by understanding and
adapting successfully to proposed changes.
For the members of your school’s team to communicate well, they also need to
understand how they communicate with each other. As the leader, you should be sure to
periodically make time at meetings to discuss communication techniques and talk about the
process of communication used by the team.
You might consider videotaping one of your meetings and analyzing the effectiveness of
the team’s communication skills. Can you identify the interactions that block progress and those
that move the team ahead? Is the atmosphere nonthreatening? Is it supportive? Can you tell
from the conversation whether team members have a clear understanding of their goals and
what is expected of them, or does there appear to be no direction to the discussion?
People work together best when they understand how their skills and personal needs
interrelate with those of other team members and the goals of the school. Once committed to
the team concept, members should be able to create a partnership that functions to resolve real
issues and provides a sense of accountability for outcomes. It’s pretty basic: buy-in equals
THE LEADER AS FACILITATOR
Even the most dedicated team will fail without a skilled leader to guide it. This leader can no
longer be concerned with managing people—giving them specific orders and directions and
dictating the course and focus of their efforts. You must instead begin leading your team by
creating a shared vision that encourages innovation, creativity, responsibility, and accountability.
Along with developing this shared sense of purpose, good leaders also treat team members as
valued professionals who have important contributions to make.
Instead of managing and supervising, educational leaders must be coaches and
facilitators while at the same time overseeing the planning and implementation of the team’s
projects. An Implementation/Monitoring Plan chart to help you get organized and keep on track
can be found at chapter’s end. Leaders recognize that true change must be generated from
within the school system, and that the best ideas must come up from the classroom rather than
being handed down from the administration. Leaders strive to create a feeling of ownership of
both achievements and problems, as well as a sense of belonging and community.
As a leader, you have the task to help others become comfortable with change and
realize their own potential. Learn to identify and cultivate other leaders within your school to
assist in mobilizing your community to restructure for the future. True leaders carry a vision that
looks beyond the immediate to the future, beyond the probable to the possible.
The late Larrae Rocheleau, former superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School in
Sitka, Alaska, admitted that, after over 30 years in education, only a few years ago did he come
to clearly and fully understand the difference between a manager and a leader: “A manager
works in a system; a leader not only works in the system but also on the system.”
DEFINING THE TASK
For teams to be effective, they must first be knowledgeable about their purpose and then have
confidence in their ability to accomplish their task. Once teams realize that things can no longer
be accomplished in the same old ways, they become more open to the ideas of others—be they
superintendents or bus drivers. Today’s economy asks that everyone be willing to consider
doing more with less, to create new solutions to accomplish both present and future goals.
According to the National School Public Relations Association, successful practitioners
of school-level management team building have identified nine challenges to creating
successful teams that the educational leader must work to resolve. These are as follows:
1. Differences of experience and education
2. Value conflicts
3. Diverse reasons for joining the team
4. Members with single-item agendas
5. Lack of trust
6. Fear of failure and rejection
7. Communication blockers
8. Purposeful disruption of team efforts
9. Incorporating new members into the team without a clear rationale for their participation
GETTING TO WORK
Once you have assembled your team and agreed on your purpose, it is time to go to work.
According to school public relations practitioners, seven key elements, when followed in
sequence, offer the best chance for success. You are basically replicating, in microcosm, the
strategic planning process of developing a marketing plan (Chapter 2).
1. Conduct a needs assessment. To identify your primary goals, you must first assess your
needs so that you can plan appropriately. Collect and analyze your data, paying special
attention to the differences between current practices and the ideal outcomes desired.
2. Set your goals. Make sure all goals are clear and understood by everyone on the team.
Determine the measurable indicators of success for each goal.
3. Develop your improvement plan. Identify the objectives needed to reach each goal and
develop action steps for each. Designate areas of responsibility for team members and develop
timelines for the various parts of the plan. Provide training as needed on an ongoing basis.
4. Implement the improvement plan. Each team member should be involved in and accountable
for his or her assigned responsibilities.
5. Reflect and adjust. Review progress and reflect on the outcomes on a regular basis to
determine the effectiveness of the plan. Adjust your strategy as necessary to maintain the focus
of your efforts and stay on track to your goal.
6. Evaluate. Based on your identified indicators of success, did you meet your goals? Use your
evaluation to begin the planning cycle again.
7. Communicate. Throughout the entire planning process, it is important to communicate not
only with the team but with the rest of your staff and community as well. Build support for your
efforts by sharing information about the process and the results.
Teams that both understand what they have been empowered to do and know that they
have the commitment and administrative support necessary to accomplish their goals will be
successful, not only in that task but also in establishing the type of community involvement
needed to create true educational change—and reform—from within the school, not imposed on
Modified Deming Points for Continuous Improvement of Education
1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of students and service. Aim tocreate the best quality students, capable of improving all forms of processes andentering meaningful positions in society.
2. Adopt the new philosophy. Educational management must awaken to the challenge,must learn their responsibilities, and must take on leadership for change.
3. Work to abolish grading and the harmful effects of rating people.4. Cease dependence on testing to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspections on
a mass basis (standardized achievement tests, minimum graduation exams, etc.) byproviding learning experiences which create quality performance.
5. Work with the educational institutions from which students come. Minimize total cost ofeducation by improving the relationship with student sources and helping to improvethe quality of students coming into your system. A single source of students cominginto a system such as junior high students moving into a high school is an opportunityto build long-term relationships of loyalty and trust for the benefit of students.
6. Improve constantly and forever the system of student involvement and service, toimprove quality and productivity.
7. Institute education and training on the job for students, teachers, classified staff, andadministrators.
8. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people use machines,gadgets, and materials to do a better job.
9. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the school system. Create anenvironment which encourages people to speak freely.
10. Break down barriers between departments. People in teaching, special education,accounting, food service, administration, curriculum development and research, etc.must work as a team. Develop strategies for increasing the cooperation among groupsand individual people.
11. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for teachers and students asking forperfect performance and new levels of productivity. Exhortations create adversarialrelationships. The bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to thesystem and thus lie beyond the control of teachers and students.
12. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on teachers and students (e.g., raise test scores by10% and lower drop-out rates by 15%). Substitute leadership.
13. Remove barriers that rob students, teachers, and management (principals,superintendents, and central office support staff) of their right to pride and joy ofworkmanship. This means, inter alia, abolition of the annual or merit rating and ofmanagement by objective. The responsibility of all educational managers must bechanged from quantity to quality.
14. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.15. Put everybody in the school to work to accomplish the transformation. The
transformation is everybody’s job.
Chapter 7: Involving Parents in School
“Not every teacher is a parent, but every parent is a teacher.”
One of the most valuable things a parent can teach a child is the importance of education.
When parents exhibit interest in their child’s school, the child gets a sense that school is
Schools clearly work best when parents take an active interest in their children’s
schooling and encourage them to do well. Research has demonstrated over and over that
parent involvement is a critical component of the learning process. The evidence has shown
that programs designed for strong parent involvement and schools that relate well to their
communities have students who outperform other schools. Children whose parents help them at
home score higher on aptitude tests than those whose parents don’t help. Schools in which
children are failing have been found to improve dramatically when parents become involved.
In The Evidence Continues to Grow: Parent Involvement Improves Student
Achievement, Ann Henderson (1987) summed up the research as follows:
● The family provides the primary educational environment.
● Involving parents in their children’s education improves student achievement.
● Parent involvement is most effective when it is comprehensive, long lasting, and well
● The benefits are not confined to early childhood or the elementary level; there are strong
effects from involving parents continuously through high school.
● Involving parents in their own children’s education at home is not enough. To ensure the
quality of schools as institutions serving the community, parents must be involved at all
levels in the school.
● Children from low-income and minority families have the most to gain when schools
involve parents. Parents do not have to be well educated to help.
● You cannot look at the school and home in isolation from one another; you must
understand how they interconnect.
EFFECTIVE EDUCATORS SEEK PARENT SUPPORT
Because parent involvement starts at the building level, it is up to the educational leader to help
bridge the home–school gap and make involvement a reality in every community. In a study of
six New Jersey counties, the education researcher Benjamin Bloom (1976) identified five factors
that were found in successful parent involvement programs:
1. Climate. Successful programs exuded a warm, caring environment and made parents
feel like important members of the school team.
2. Relevance. The programs were based on what parents cared about. Concerns were
identified by surveying parents.
3. Convenience. Successful programs made it easy for parents to get involved. They
provided transportation, child care, and so forth, to encourage participation.
4. Publicity. The programs used several mediums to reach parents, such as newsletters,
flyers, public service announcements, and local media. Parents were personally invited
to participate. Schools with large non–English-speaking populations communicated in
whatever languages were required to reach parents.
5. Commitment. The staff made parent involvement a goal and demonstrated their
In their book Parents on Your Side, Lee and Marlene Canter (1991) describe the four
qualities shared by teachers who have been successful in involving parents in the educational
1. Effective teachers know they must have the support of parents.
2. In every interaction with parents, effective teachers demonstrate their concern for the
3. In all situations, effective teachers treat parents the way they would want to be treated.
4. In every interaction with parents, effective teachers demonstrate professionalism and
The same qualities obviously apply to principals and staff. Educators, as a team, must
work together with parents to build support for the school’s program and activities. Educators
need to provide multiple ways for parents to participate so that they can begin at their own
individual comfort level. Educators must help parents improve their skills so that they can better
respond to the school’s request for assistance.
WAYS TO INVOLVE PARENTS
Volunteer Programs. Many parents want to be involved in their child’s school on a more active
level than just encouraging excellence or helping with homework. There must be activities
available in which they can participate. Educators must see that these opportunities exist and
must be open to projects that parents initiate. Whether it is participating in PTA, raising money
for the school band, helping in the library, tutoring, or assisting the school nurse with eye tests,
parents can be a tremendous asset to schools that lack the personnel, resources, and time to
organize and carry out the “extras” that add to a school’s effectiveness. If someone on staff can
encourage and coordinate volunteer activities, that’s great; if not, perhaps a trusted, energetic
volunteer will take on the job.
At South Park Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas, parents headed up the production
of the school’s first-ever yearbook. When parents act as chaperones at school dances and on
bus trips, or as monitors at athletic events, less rowdiness and fewer disciplinary problems
occur. It is vitally important that parents who volunteer as chaperones be apprised of school
procedures on how to handle problems as they arise. For busy parents to volunteer, they have
to feel needed and wanted. So it is up to you or your volunteer coordinator to get the word out
that your school welcomes volunteers.
Early Parent Involvement. Missouri’s Blue Springs School District has a rich tradition of parental
involvement in its schools. For many generations, Blue Springs parents have become active
members in the learning community. This begins as early as a child’s birth. The district has
offered the Parents as Teachers Program since 1985, and what began with only 13 families has
grown as of 2007–2008 to more than 4,000 families of children ages birth to 5 years. Certified
professionals go into homes and share developmentally appropriate learning activities for the
child that will enhance their developmental progress. These parents become part of the learning
community and emerge as partners in the education of their child. The parents that participate in
the Parents as Teachers Program are also more likely to remain involved in their child’s formal
Student Recognition. Parents have a great sense of pride when their children are recognized. It
is no secret that the best-attended events on campus are those at which children perform.
Create as many ways as possible to reward and recognize students. In designing awards, you
are limited only by your imagination in what can be recognized. Let students create peer
recognition awards as well. Recognition helps students build pride in themselves, their work,
and their school. Praising students for their contributions to the school team and recognizing
group efforts will foster a positive school family that supports learning achievements. There are
several examples of student recognition certificates at the end of this chapter, as well as an
in-house form for positive phone calls to parents. To recognize students and their parents,
Patrick Savini, director of the Sussex County Vocational-Technical School in Georgetown,
Delaware, hosts an Honor Roll Breakfast. It is an extremely popular and well-attended event.
Parent Workshops. Offer a daylong workshop for parents that provides a variety of sessions
focusing on parenting skills. Use the expertise of your own staff, as well as invite speakers from
community social service agencies. Sessions can cover a broad spectrum of topics, from
discipline to stress reduction. At Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway, California, refresher
classes in math for parents have been very successful. Parents preview a month in advance the
concepts that staff members will be presenting to their children in pre-algebra and algebra. To
better facilitate planning for these events, survey parents in advance to determine their
Grade-Level Curriculum Handbook. Create a handbook for parents that explains the curriculum
and skills that students are expected to learn at each grade level. If possible, include a calendar
of studies so parents know at what time of year their children will be studying certain topics.
Provide a list of supplemental activities that parents can do with their children to reinforce skills.
Home Visits. Encourage teachers to make home visits prior to the first day of school. Personal
contact maintained year-round facilitates parent involvement by building a personal relationship
and providing a sense that parents are part of the school family. Sussex County
Vocational-Technical School in Georgetown, Delaware, with a student population of about
1,100, has a home visitation program for parents of all incoming ninth-grade students.
School Visits/Calls. Is your school open to visitors? Are your teachers open to inquiry from
parents? Develop a process that parents will feel comfortable using, a process that announces
that your school is willing, even enthusiastic, about receiving communication from parents—and
this includes visits. Of course, there will be times when a visit is inconvenient and a parent can’t
sit down with a child’s teacher or administrator. But if the response to parents’ overtures is
always positive, they will not feel rebuffed and will sense that the school is interested in their
children’s welfare and progress.
Open House. Although having an open house a few weeks after school opens is the traditional
way, experiment with a schoolwide open house during the first week of school. Parents are
eager to meet teachers and to experience their children’s school environment. There may not be
a lot of the children’s work to display, but there won’t be many complaints to hear, either.
Sharon Lewis, a fifth-grade teacher at Simpson Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona,
holds her open house the week before school starts from 4 to 6 in the afternoon. She mails
invitations and then follows up with a phone call. That extra phone call is what really brings in
the majority of the parents. She invites the principal and any special teachers who will be
involved with her students. Over the years, she has discovered that the attendance is much
better than for the schoolwide open house held later in the fall.
Take-Home Resource Materials. Make supplementary study materials and videotapes available
for parents to check out and use with their children at home. Include study guides to assist
parents. Some districts now have programs that allow parents to check out computers.
Parent Room on Campus. If there is an extra room in your building, create a place where
parents can review resource materials, watch educational videos, and network with each other.
Meetings in Parents’ Homes. Don’t always ask parents to come to the school to meet with you.
Invite parents to host small-group meetings on single topics in their homes. Changing the
territory can often facilitate more open communication.
ESL for Parents. Offer English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes in the evening for parents.
Provide child care during this time. Blue Springs Schools in Missouri have made this a very
Educating the child alone does not meet all of the needs of these families so we
also provide opportunities for our limited English proficient parents to learn skills
that will assist them to become more fluent in English. Evening classes are held
for any adult that is in need of assistance in learning English and child care is
provided so they may attend classes. This is a free service for our community
and has resulted in many families being better acclimated into our neighborhoods
Friday Folder. Send all papers home in a special folder once a week. Include a sign-off sheet for
parents to verify that they received the information.
Notes and Cards Mailed Home. New Castle (Indiana) Middle School sends congratulatory notes
to honor students and Students of the Week for perfect attendance or for special
accomplishments. Cards are given out for birthdays, and condolence cards are mailed home
when a death in the family occurs.
Coffee With the Principal. Hold a regular coffee klatch and invite parents to drop by and chat.
Consider finding a neutral site off campus, such as a nearby fast-food restaurant or a favorite
community meeting place.
Doughnuts for Dads. Hold an early morning doughnuts and coffee get-together to catch dads on
their way to work. Create a Fathers Club or Mothers Club to take on special projects. Principal
Andrea Martin has added “Muffins for Mom” to her outreach program for parents at Winnfield
Kindergarten School in Winnfield, Louisiana.
Church Support. Work with local clergy to set up alternate ways to reach the community
regarding the importance of family involvement in schools. Some churches allow their
parishioners to set up tables for petition signing or for bond election handouts. This is usually
done just outside the church entrance or during coffee time after services.
Parent Committees. Offer parents the opportunity to serve on curriculum committees or ad hoc
project committees. Consider implementing a parent–teacher forum as Principal Peter Sack did
at Swampscott High School in Massachusetts. A nonprofit educational foundation was founded
by the educators and parents of Custer County High School in Miles City, Montana, to raise
money to provide scholarships for graduating seniors. Principal Fred Anderson says that it has
grown from awarding 1 scholarship in 1992 to awarding 41 scholarships last year. Booster clubs
for athletic teams, band, drama, and so on are a wonderful way to unify school, parents, and
community. The Fayette County High School Athletic Booster Club in Fayetteville, Georgia,
supports a variety of activities and pulls in business support from around the city. In the planning
stage is an Academic Booster Club.
Career Day. Hold a career day and invite parents to talk about their jobs—or do the reverse and
have students shadow parents at work.
College Preview Night. Invite parents to hear from representatives of local colleges and
universities. Provide scholarship information.
Parent Talents. For a change, invite parents to showcase their talents and perform for the
students. Or your school might prefer a parent/faculty/staff talent show with students serving as
judges. Parents can also be effective in reinforcing skills being taught in the classroom. During a
unit on persuasive writing, the owner of an advertising agency in Sedalia, Missouri, who was the
father of a middle school student, came to class and instructed students on the steps needed to
write an effective advertisement.
Athletic Competitions. Seek parent volunteers to participate in a basketball or volleyball game
(or league) between parents and teachers or parents and students. Open Gym one or two
nights a week reserved for students, parents, and staff fosters camaraderie among that group.
Social Services Referral. Be prepared to assist parents who need support from social service
agencies by providing them with referral information.
Families’ ‘50s Dance. Greenacres Junior High in Washington holds a PTA-sponsored “‘50s”
dance the first Friday in May each year. The idea originated several years ago after two suicides
had occurred. The school wanted to find a way for families to come together in the school
setting and have fun. It has grown through the years and now attracts over 450 people dressed
up and dancing to 1950s music. Principal Sharon Jayne says that Elvis drops by each year.
Family Fun Night. Host an evening for families to play games or watch a movie together, to
swim, or to check out sites on the Internet in the computer lab.
Parent Buddies. Involve the PTA or other parent volunteers in being buddies to new parents at
the school. Parents are more likely to get involved if they are made to feel welcome immediately
and helped to get oriented.
Grandparents’ Day. Sunnyslope Elementary School in Port Orchard, Washington, has a special
day for grandparents to visit the school. It’s quite popular with both students and grandparents,
and many grandparents come from quite a distance to be there for this special occasion.
Monthly Parent Activity. Offer a regular activity focused on ways parents can assist their child in
school. One session might focus on homework, one on self-esteem, and so forth. This is a
wonderful way for parents to emphasize group awareness of a problem and to work together
and support each other in developing parenting skills. “ParenTalks” are held monthly at Cascade
Middle School in Bend, Oregon. Principal Marion Morehouse feels that it is important to
introduce parents to current educational research and issues. The interaction of these groups
(parents with the school, or with each other) provides administrators with an outstanding
opportunity for parental feedback.
CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE AMERICAN FAMILY
To excel, children need support and reinforcement at home—the place where they spend the
bulk of their time. Researcher Benjamin Bloom has observed that the home environment is a
major factor in whether children are motivated to learn, whether they achieve academic
success, and the number of years of schooling they complete.
But in too many instances, the home environment is the least supportive of students or
the least encouraging of learning. Today, it seems that society has determined that it is up to
educators to take the lead in creating a nurturing, supportive, responsible learning environment
Principals and teachers must not only educate and inform parents about the importance
of their role, they must also provide training and resources so that parents can be successful in
that role. True educators feel a responsibility to motivate parents to motivate their children.
One of the greatest challenges facing education today arises from the demographic
changes that encompass culture, race, age, and socioeconomic status—in short, just about
every aspect of American society. A very real gap exists between schools and those they serve,
and that gap is slowly widening to become education’s version of the Grand Canyon. If schools
are to bridge that gap, school leaders must design new and effective ways to communicate with
the changing population that schools serve. Some facts about today’s families include the
● In 1955, an estimated 60 percent of households consisted of a working father, a
homemaker mother, and two or more school-age children. That family now represents
less than 10 percent of households.
● About one in four school children now lives in a one-parent family.
● Children in single-parent homes are about five times more likely to live in poverty than
children with both parents at home.
A study conducted by the Knowledge Network for All Americans (Lloyd, Ramsey, &
Groennings, 1992) found that most families are inadequately preparing children for the
demands of today’s world. The following are some of the survey’s findings:
● Many children in America are not born healthy, do not receive adequate nutrition, do not
live in safe homes and neighborhoods, and do not get preventive health care, thereby
experiencing impaired educational development.
● Many parents are not providing their children with character education that encourages
responsible, constructive behavior.
● Far too many children enter school unprepared to learn, and leave high school without
the basic knowledge and skills to get decent jobs or to enter college.
● Most self-reliant, academically achieving, well-rounded, and healthy children have
parents who have created a stable, supportive family.
These findings concerning American families come as no surprise to any experienced or
observant educational leader. But along with changing family structure, schools must also be
prepared to deal with racial and cultural differences that may lead to negative interaction and
conflict if not handled appropriately. Not only are today’s families structured differently, they look
and think differently as well.
● Fifteen percent of students entering public school today speak a language other than
English, and this figure is expected to increase.
● More than half of all students in public and private schools in 53 of the largest U.S. cities
are from ethnic minority groups. In many schools, the minority is the majority.
● The 1990 U.S. Census showed that the African American population in the United States
had increased by 13 percent, the Hispanic population by 53 percent, and the Asian
population by 108 percent. In contrast, the Caucasian population increased by only 6
● According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimation for 2005, approximately 45 percent of
American children under the age of 5 were minorities. The total minority population in the
United States that year was 98.3 million. In 2006, the nation’s minority population
reached 100.7 million. Hispanics accounted for almost half (1.4 million) of the national
population growth of 2.9 million between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006. In 35 of the
country’s 50 largest cities, white people are or soon will be in the minority.
A study conducted by Don Davies (1988) of the Institute for Responsive Education examined
relationships between hard-to-reach parents and the school. The conclusion was that most of
the parents in the study were, in fact, reachable, but that schools were either not really trying to
involve them or not knowledgeable about or sensitive enough to overcome cultural and
social-class barriers. The six primary barriers that limited school involvement for the
hard-to-reach parents were identified as follows:
1. Children from families not conforming to middle-class norms are often seen by school
officials as those who will have trouble in school.
2. Communication between schools and poor families is mostly negative. Most of these
parents are contacted only when their children are in trouble.
3. Teachers and administrators appear to think of these families as being deficient, and
they concentrate on the families’ problems rather than on their strengths.
4. School staff tend to believe that the problems of parents who are hard to reach are the
fault of parents, not the schools.
5. Many poverty-level families have a low assessment of themselves in their abilities to be
involved in their children’s schooling.
6. Most parents from all groups studied expressed a strong desire to be involved in their
Educators must be especially careful not to further alienate parents by labeling them as
hard to reach. Instead, take a look at your own attitudes and the methods you and your staff are
using to communicate. Educators must assure all parents that they have a part to play in their
An important area to consider in trying to involve parents is communicating in the
appropriate language. You need to make an extra effort to include non–English-speaking
parents in your programs, as the language barrier may be all that is keeping them from
participating. These parents are often some of the most supportive toward schools and, once
welcomed, will give unselfishly of their time.
From The Parent Institute (1992) comes 10 ideas for involving hard-to-reach parents:
1. Commitment. The school must want to involve parents and be willing to work hard to get
them involved. You must personally reflect this commitment.
2. Strong personal outreach. If parents have had a negative experience in their own
schooling, they may hesitate to get involved. Personal contact by someone at your
school can often bridge the gap.
3. Nonjudgmental attitude. Research shows that low-income parents (like most parents)
want to help their children and will implement suggestions offered by teachers—if they
really understand what is being asked. When teachers reach out, these parents will help.
4. Creativity. Traditional methods of parent involvement often do not work. Creative
approaches are more likely to work, such as an ice cream social on a Sunday afternoon.
5. Informal workshops that solve parents’ problems. Formal meetings are often
unsuccessful with hard-to-reach parents. They may prefer interacting with their children
at “make and take” workshops or working on community projects. Helpful social,
economic, or medical advice could also be provided in conjunction with the event.
6. Flexibility. Holding meetings at times and places convenient to parents—not
7. Child care. The number one reason mothers do not attend evening meetings is that they
have no one to care for their other children. Providing child care will assure a higher
attendance rate from moms.
8. Support from the top. Make sure you stand at the door to greet every parent who
9. Parent volunteers. Parents will always have more credibility with their friends and
neighbors in the community than anyone from the school. Encourage parents to ask
those they know to take part in school activities.
10. Follow-up. Telephone parents the day after a meeting to thank them for attending. If they
don’t have a telephone, write a note. Be sure to follow up with some form of thank-you to
every parent who helped.
PARENTS NEEDED FOR POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SUPPORT
To further persuade you that parents are essential to the well-being of your school, just remind
yourself that only one-fourth of American households have a school-age child in them. This
means that the families who consider themselves to have a strong stake in the quality of your
school are vastly outnumbered by those who may not care one way or another. What’s more,
some of these households without children may consider tax-supported expenditures for
schools for other people’s children to be a waste of money.
When it comes time to seek out community support for a bond or budget election, to
whom do you turn for political support (that is, for votes)? Parents who identify with their child’s
school are more likely to turn out to vote for school issues—and to vote affirmatively. They are
also a potential advocacy group for encouraging others to vote for educational needs. Schools
need political support to thrive and survive, which means parents are more important than ever
before. In that same context, the fewer parents there are, the more important they are to the
Chapter 8: Community Outreach
It takes an entire village to educate a single child.
The American school system is the institution responsible for teaching children the history and
ideals of the culture and the language and thinking skills that will allow them to become
productive members of society. In earlier days, children were expected to learn hands-on
applications under the guidance and tutelage of family members and friends, or they were
apprenticed to local crafts workers. Moral instruction was provided by home and church. The
entire community assumed a share of the responsibility for educating its children. Townsfolk
joined together to build and care for the school building, search for a teacher, and protect the
school environment from harm. The teacher was held in high esteem within the community and
was often provided housing as well as a salary.
Communities are still responsible through their tax dollars for building and maintaining
public schools and paying the salaries of educators who teach and care for children. But,
unfortunately, many of today’s taxpayers believe their responsibility to the school ends there and
are loath to contribute additional resources once their own children are grown. Teachers are
expected to be skilled professionals who continually work on their professional growth, yet they
are often paid less than hourly laborers who dropped out of high school.
Still, it is essential for educators to remember that the financial support for public schools
is community based; that is, the voters or their elected representatives determine the future tax
dollars that provide the resources for schools. If the community believes that its schools and the
professionals who work there are dedicated to their task, then the community will support school
efforts and will contribute the resources necessary to get the job done. However, if the
community believes otherwise, it will withhold critical financial support. There is little in the way
of alternative means of support when a community loses faith in its schools. But when a
community believes in its schools, almost nothing will be impossible for you and your team.
In recent decades, the nation has shifted away from the concept of the local school
being the focal point of a community of responsibility to the concept that (a) schools are just
another consumer service, or (b) schools are essentially charged with relieving the community
and parents of the collective burdens that once were shared by all. No longer perceived as a
responsibility shared by the community, the well-being of children has become almost solely the
province of parents and schools.
With the growth of the concept of site-based management and other forms of
decentralized decision making, education may now be in the early stages of coming full circle.
To meet the needs of students in the 21st century, it is imperative that schools take the lead in
reinitiating community involvement and support. Thus, educational leaders must encourage all
members of the community—parents, other adults, the elderly, and business, civic, and religious
groups—to once again make educating children a priority. Schools must form alliances and
coalitions to provide the social services needed by children and must work collectively with the
community as a whole for economic progress through better education. A major trend for
strengthening community involvement and support is community schools. Gerald Tirozzi,
executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, states that “The
community school concept—keeping the school open in the late afternoons, weekends, and
summer months—enhances the potential for parents and the community to engage in a broad
range of school-based programs and activities.”
If there is to be true educational reform, schools must be willing to change, and the
community must also be committed to providing the resources and support to sustain the
change process and usher in a new era of improved education. As an educational leader, you
must inspire your community to renew guardianship of its schools—and its children—in order to
guarantee the nation’s future.
GETTING THE COMMUNITY INVOLVED
Communicating with your constituencies is important, but communicating is merely the first step
in getting people involved. There are infinite numbers of ways to interest your community in its
school. The only limitation is your imagination and resourcefulness. It is vital that educators be
open to all options. Don’t focus just on fiscal resources, but seek out in-kind services and
mutually beneficial personnel resources. Create programs that give the community a vested
interest in education—and in the local school.
Most adults like to be around happy, energetic, positive youngsters, so encourage
student programs that interact with the community as much as possible. The Ninilchik, Alaska,
schools post notices of all school events at local businesses, which sends a solid “everybody is
Tutoring. Research has proven that one-on-one tutoring has a major impact on at-risk students.
Most people who volunteer in schools do so because they have a desire to positively influence a
child’s life. Tutoring programs that are structured so that the tutors are able to build a
relationship with a student, serve as a role model, and observe a child’s progress on a regular
basis are the most successful at recruiting and retaining volunteers. Elderly and retired persons
constitute a superb talent bank. In addition, companies that might not financially support a
special project may be more than willing to offer employees release time each week for tutoring
students. Everyone wins in this kind of program because of the valuable service provided and
the goodwill generated.
Mentoring. Afterschool programs provide excellent mentoring opportunities. City agencies, such
as police and fire departments, often encourage their officers to get involved in school and
community programs, and these officers make outstanding role models for students. A nearby
military base is another good source of mentors. These groups are sometimes overlooked when
recruiting mentors because it is assumed that they are too busy, yet they often have flexible
schedules that allow time for working with students. Mentors can participate in athletic activities
or provide homework assistance, as well as just be there to listen, to be a friend, and to take an
interest in individual students.
Flowing Wells Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona, used community partnerships
to build a comprehensive afterschool student mentoring program. “NCWM,” or No Child Without
a Mentor, is the program’s motto.
Planning, process, and partnerships ensure that the afterschool programs in the Flowing
Wells District truly benefit students and the community. Planning starts with a commitment from
the Governing Board to have a “24/7” school in a community where “all of our people take care
of all of our students,” explains Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Clement. Transforming words into
actions is based on clear guidelines for programs, from requiring that service learning projects fit
into the curriculum and include reflection activities, to a maximum requirement of $1 per student
for celebration food and drinks.
Partnerships are the foundation for all of the district’s afterschool programs. Community
partners work with students and teachers to define their service learning projects. Partnerships
include Big Brothers Big Sisters—Project MAX (Mentoring Academic Experience); IBM Exite
(Exploring Interest in Technology and Engineering); Learn and Serve, Girls 2 Girls mentoring;
21st Century Community Learning Centers; TestGear; and YES (Youth Enrichment Services).
School–Business Partnerships. Now one of the most prevalent forms of community involvement,
school–business partnerships are an important part of many school programs. These can take
several different forms, but basically, an individual school is matched with a business or civic
Successful partnerships have specific goals and objectives, and both parties have a
clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. The key is that the partnerships are
cooperative and provide positive experiences for both parties.
According to Bret Lovejoy, former executive director of the Association for Career and
Technical Education, “Businesses are in desperate need of highly educated and skilled
employees, and they are eager to involve themselves in school activities if it means better
prepared graduates to help local businesses compete.” Like members of every other interest
group, business leaders have to believe they are going to benefit from their efforts. They have to
understand that schools are serious about delivering on their promises. They have to know that
if they are solicited for support, they will be able to have a say in how that support is directed. If
educational leaders are creative in their approach and honest in their purpose, the private sector
is poised to be the greatest supporter in America of a reformed and improved school system. A
sample of the Minot, North Dakota, School District’s resolution advocating Education–Business
Partnerships is included at chapter’s end.
For schools with vocational/technical programs, school–business partnerships are a
natural. Don Bosco Technical High School in Boston, Massachusetts, has long had a number of
successful intern and apprentice programs in place. The experiences of Golightly
Vocational/Technical Center in Detroit, Michigan, indicate that programs involving business and
community leaders as advisors, consultants, and mentors for programs and students are the
most effective in developing and maintaining partnerships.
Mountain View Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, has a partnership with a branch
of a local bank whereby the bank provides a computer and assists the school in setting up a
simulated bank where students apply their math skills.
John Jacobs Elementary School, also in Phoenix, has a partnership with a nearby resort
hotel. Several mornings each week, the ESL teacher and her aide go to the hotel before work to
teach a class for the non–English-speaking housekeeping staff. The principal gives leadership
and team-building workshops for the hotel’s management. In return, the hotel provides meeting
rooms for school inservice meetings, student self-esteem training, and special events, and gives
free dinner certificates for staff recognition drawings.
Cooperative school–business programs might offer internships, shadowing, guest
speakers, and hands-on experiences. South Park Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas, has
had a great deal of success with its “Adopt-a-School” program. Another successful program has
been established at Swampscott High School in Massachusetts. An extensive internship
program and a second semester senior release program places students on a volunteer basis in
a variety of business and social service agencies.
Elections. “The Blue Springs School District has passed 23 consecutive bond elections because
of the outstanding support we are fortunate to have in our community,” says Dr. Paul Kinder,
superintendent of the Blue Springs School District in Blue Springs, Missouri. “These bond
campaigns are conducted with many of the same components of 20 years ago, while other
portions have been modified to meet the changing information-gathering style of our
constituents. Each bond election includes first prioritizing the possible facility issues from our
CAC (Citizen’s Advisory Committee), and then our Board of Education makes the final decision
to place the issue on the ballot. We conduct studies about our voting public and target our
message to those voters. We spend a great deal of time analyzing our public and assessing our
“Our last bond election in 2005 included an informational DVD created by the
communications department in our district. This DVD assured that consistency of the message,
in its entirety, was shared. It gave our patrons a visual image of the needs in our district and an
auditory connection to add to their schema.”
Coalitions. If schools are to better serve student needs, they must look at building coalitions with
various community groups. Coalitions can identify and target community objectives and assist in
finding appropriate support for school projects. These can include both curriculum and facility
needs. Creative educators need to work with community leaders to determine ways in which the
mission, activities, resources, and employees/members of various organizations can assist in
supporting the schools. The Corporate Academy was established at Thornton High School in
Colorado. Students interested in an internship are paired with companies such as EchoStar to
learn all aspects of the business.
A Wellness Fair is an example of such a coalition. Work with local health care
professionals and hospitals to host a Wellness Fair on campus. If you hold it on a school day, it
will give you an opportunity to provide school tours for community members when they have
finished their wellness evaluation.
Join with local emergency and public service agencies to sponsor a community Safe Kid
Day. Have safety vehicles and equipment on display, give lessons in cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR), hold a bicycle rodeo, give search and rescue demonstrations, and show
safety videos. If there is a local canine unit at a state or federal agency, call on its services;
demonstrations by narcotics “sniffer” dogs are always popular. Recruit a local business or the
PTA to donate a bike and other gifts for a giveaway drawing as an incentive for attendance.
Cooperative Events. Holding joint events in conjunction with another organization or business
can bring the entire community together in positive interaction. Workplace Orientation is a
program for ninth and tenth graders at Angola High School in Indiana. Students are bused for
one hour every day to business classrooms in the community. Another successful
school–business event is held in the Spokane Valley in Washington State. Tidyman’s Foods, a
grocery store chain headquartered in Spokane, partners with Greenacres Junior High School to
sponsor a three-day Freshman Business Conference for selected students at a local hotel.
Businesses as well as other groups can join with schools to foster meaningful interaction.
Sunnyslope Elementary School and the Phoenix Symphony held a special outdoor
spring concert for the local community. Members of the student strings group (stringed
instrument players) performed with the symphony in a program that was memorable for all
involved. Consider other fine arts groups that might be willing to collaborate with your students,
such as opera companies, dancers, artists, poets, vocal performers, and puppeteers. The
Northern Lights, a vocal group from the Music Department at North High School in Sheboygan,
Wisconsin, presents 30 to 40 concerts a year for community organizations.
In addition, North High athletes serve as outstanding school ambassadors by speaking
to students in lower grades about study habits, drug use, and alcohol consumption. These
young men and women seem to get this type of message across better than adults.
Benefits. Reverse the usual trend and have your school hold a special carnival or fair or
“whatever-a-thon” to raise money for a local charity rather than for a school project. Sponsor a
“Clean Up the Community” day for students, staff, and parents to pick up trash and to repair and
spruce up joint use areas.
Publications. Bonanza High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, puts all of its school
publications—community and athletic newsletters, announcement bulletins, brag sheets, special
announcement flyers, various pamphlets and handouts—in the lobby so that any person who
walks through the door, day or night, can pick them up. Kent County High School in Worton,
Maryland, puts the school newspaper and yearbook in local doctor and dentist offices. Belleville
West High School in Belleville, Illinois, has produced a school video that communicates a
positive image of excellence to anyone who wishes to view it.
Speakers Bureau. Tap into the knowledge, experience, talents, abilities, and skills of staff
members who would be willing to speak to groups and organizations on subjects of community
interest in which the staff member is expert.
Don’t forget to include yourself in this speakers bureau, but only if you feel comfortable in
front of an audience. Most educational leaders have a great deal of platform experience, but if
you don’t, consider joining Toastmasters or another similar speech improvement organization
that will give you the experience and know-how you need. In fact, you might want to survey your
staff to determine if they are interested in starting such a group on campus.
Principal Richard Olthoff has compiled a summary of the Major Magic City Campus
Teaching-Learning Programs that his school, in Minot, North Dakota, has developed and
implemented over the years. It is included at chapter’s end. When preparing a speech to give
about the school, it is a handy reference guide. When answering questions from the audience,
he is able to recall programs that might otherwise be forgotten at that moment. A word to the
wise: The best impromptu speeches are those written well in advance.
Foundations. A school foundation generally raises funds to provide scholarships, grants, and
incentive awards for students and staff. Alumni are excellent resource people to involve in
establishing a foundation to benefit your school. These are most often found at the district level,
but there is no inherent reason a foundation could not exist at the building level. At East Burke
Middle School in Icard, North Carolina, a tax-exempt, nonprofit, business partners’ association,
Partners for Progress, has been established.
Holiday Activities. Schools can play an active role in the community during the holidays by
holding food and clothing drives, offering the talents of art classes in decorating businesses and
storefronts, and supplying musical groups for business or organization functions.
School Facilities. Make your building available for civic theater, basketball leagues, community
group meetings, dance recitals, arts fairs, adult night classes, and so on.
Personal Contacts. Network! Get actively involved in leadership positions in the community, join
a local service club, serve on the boards of local charities or youth organizations, have breakfast
with members of the Chamber of Commerce, keep local legislators informed of your needs.
Encourage, by word and example, your staff members to do the same. Don’t neglect to continue
to cultivate these resources after the initial contact is made.
Another key component to community outreach is customer service. While some of what
has been previously mentioned fits in this category, different districts take different approaches
to what works.
Here is a snapshot from Mount Vernon City Schools in Illinois.
Horace Mann once said, “The public school is the greatest discovery made by man. . . .Education is best provided in school embracing children of all religious, social and ethnicbackgrounds.” The public schools have a civic mission to perpetuate community values,beliefs, and customs and to promote the democratic society and American way of life. Theemployees, students, and schools of District 80 fulfill our civic mission in several ways. Thesuper-intendent’s appointed term from the governor on the Illinois Commission onVolunteerism and Community Service just recently expired. A concerted effort has been madeto instill a sense of responsibility to students and staff to volunteer in our community and toprovide community service. This not only allows the district to keep the community informedabout what is happening in the schools, but also shows that District 80 is a key player in thecommunity. Several examples of certified and classified staff fulfilling their civic mission follow:
● All administrators belong to a civic or community organization and attend themeetings. (i.e., Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Health Board,Hospital Board, various churches, Minority Affairs and Human Relations Commission,Red Cross Board, YMCA, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Boy Scouts).
● The teacher union annually raises funds to send students to summer camps. Lastsummer, 43 different students were granted “scholarships” to attend camps.
● Each school annually participates in the citywide cleanup day to help beautify the city.● Groups of students visit nursing homes and businesses during the school year to do
band or orchestra performances, paint seasonal scenes on windows, read reports,and do art work.
● Teams of staff members play in golf scramble fundraisers for the United Way, KAREfoundation, cancer, and other community causes.
● District 80 staff collects the gate receipts for the annual Cedarhurst Craft Fair, whichattracts over 15,000 attendees. Many also volunteer with civic groups in the foodcourt.
● Students and staff help collect funds for the KARE Foundation (Kids At RiskEducationally), and take over 100 students Christmas shopping for clothes.
● The Early Childhood and Middle School staff participate in the community Children’sHealth Fair.
● The competitive sports program provides entertainment for community members.● The music department has an annual “Night on Broadway” or theatrical performance
to provide entertainment for the community.● The music department provides numerous concerts for the parents and community.● Patriotic events to honor 9/11, American veterans, and the history of the Star Spangled
Banner have been held.● Coin drives are held annually to raise money for charitable events.
In addition to individual school employees’ commitment to the Mount Vernon community, thedistrict officially encourages community collaborations and community use of the schoolfacilities. One of the beliefs listed in the Strategic Plan for the Mount Vernon City Schoolsstates, “Quality education results from a partnership that is shared among the home, school,and community and that the school should operate as a member of the community.” Someexamples of formal partnerships that have been created to illustrate this belief follow:
● A Learn and Serve Grant with Casey Middle School and the United Way whereagency representatives discuss their mission and Middle School students decidewhich agency they will collaborate with in service learning projects
● A formal agreement with the YMCA where they use the Primary Center for theirafter-school day care program. District 80 provides the site, healthy snacks, and use ofcomputer lab, media center, and material free of charge to keep the cost to parents ata minimum.
● A formal agreement with the YMCA and Jefferson County Sports Authority to use thegymnasiums free of charge for evening sports programs
● Formal agreements with community groups to use the District 80 facilities on anas-needed basis free of charge for activities or fundraisers (Red Cross, Rotary,Children’s Health Fair, Hospitals)
● The buildings are used for neighborhood watch meetings.● The buildings are used for community meetings for the County Board and City of
Mount Vernon.● The Central Office is a polling place.● A Pre-school for All Grant has allowed District 80 to formally collaborate with St. Mary
School and Southtown Youth Programs and house our state Pre-K program in theirsites.
The best way to garner parent and community support is to involve them with the schools.Schools must find ways to create customer awareness and serve them however they can.Because this is a priority in District 80, we enjoy an excellent relationship and support fromlocal government and community organizations.