10 ways to build the “community school”

Something that we take for granted far too often is the power of “the school community.” Whether we always recognize it or not, schools play a vital role in our society, and as such their involvement and significance to our communities can’t be easily dismissed.

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Many times throughout the school year our facilities are used to host a plethora of activities from all different sectors of the community. Schools have and will continue to provide safe and centralized facilities that many communities have become accustom to when it comes to scheduling and planning local events. Though it may be faint, there is a hidden opportunity here when it comes to changing and ultimately improving the image our society has of schools.

The sad and unfortunate reality of the times is that as Educators working in education we are in desperate need of a new and improved “image.” I am not saying education is broken or that we need to change everything we are doing, but I am saying we need to do a better job of sharing the great things our schools are doing. Additionally, we need to take control and be proactive when it comes our own public relations. The time for sitting back and reacting to the negative news is over; it’s time to embrace the opportunities and attack with our own positive PR campaigns… here’s a good place to start:

invite parents to orientation and open house nights; provide food if it means you will get a larger turnout (establish a clear and achievable focus for the night)…

encourage teachers to communicate with parents about the direction of the class, as well as some of the awesome activities/projects that might be coming up

take pictures and make videos to compile archiveable resources to share with community members (make sure to follow all FERPA laws)…

start a Facebook page to share relevant information and celebrate great things going on in your school (Twitter & Google+ are also options)…

encourage your parents to visit your school as often and as frequently as possible (make visitations for your parents easy and simple)

greet & acknowledge parents when you see them in the community; it means a lot to them

when disseminating information and resources make sure you are updating frequently and consistently

ask your parents and community how they want to receive information; their opinions matter!

think about how you are involving your parents in their child’s education; do they really have a voice and are there opportunities for them to provide input?

consider the role your school plays as a vital part of the community; what and how could your school help and improve the community…?

Please share how your school is tapping into the power of the community while also sharing some of the awesome things your school is doing…?

4 comments for “10 ways to build the “community school”

  1. Ryan
    July 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I think a lot of this focuses on parents, which makes sense. I’d recommend readers to check out Larry Ferlazzo’s blog for more on this subject.

    In today’s political climate, I wonder if schools need to reach out to the entire community, as opposed to the community of people that are already in the school. Everyone that pays taxes has a stake in public education. How can we reach out to that larger community? Should we?
    Ryan

  2. July 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Justin,
    Thank you for the opportunity to comment. My company Innovations in Online Education can be a big help in reaching out “into” the community. We provide solutions for home instruction/summer remedial/ and supplemental course work. When we began summer school this season we had an online orientation nite for both students and parents thus engagiing both in the harnessing of new technology and “21st century skills”. We use the learnBoost site so that our client (the district), the students and the parents can monitor daily progress (grades and attendance). Then at the completion of courses we use Survey Monkey to see what we are doing right and what we can improve upon. We believe we can be an excellent resource for the school district to achieve the “community school”. Again thank you for the opportunity. I am available to consult with anyone that thinks that we may be of assistance. Fred

  3. bharrison
    July 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Justin,

    Thanks for sharing these helpful and engaging strategies. Another area I try to be intentional about is the communication I have with parents and families about difficult matters or discipline issues. Trying to maintain an open, invitational and collaborative stance is key for me. Problems are opportunities to either grow or diminish a relationship with a family. It helps me to remember that, in almost every case, the school and the family want the same thing and I see it as my job to work through issues in a way that honors that belief.

    Brian

  4. July 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Many community youth-serving orgs feel shut out of schools, and are looking for ways to collaborate that don’t interfere or create more headaches for busy school staff. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, CAP agencies, probation, etc. are working with the same kids and families that schools are, and have a lot to offer that schools can’t or don’t provide. Bring them in!

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