Summer 2006 A special report on improving community engagement in your district. What is public engagement and why is it important to education? What is public engagement? If you ask ﬁve different people in different communities you will likely get ﬁve different answers. There is no one deﬁnition and no one way to go about it. As school systems and communities search for ways to address challenges facing them, the process of public engagement is also evolving. Just as every community is unique, with needs speciﬁc to those who live there, the process for engaging will vary in response to those needs. An engagement revival The process of involving people in their government and civil institutions is not new, and in fact goes back to the foundations of our democracy. We are seeing a revival today of the concept of holding “town halls” to address a variety of community issues. Even the president has used the town hall model to convene meetings on national issues through the use of satellite technology. Public engagement has been used successfully at government and civic levels to support movements such as community revitalization and civic engagement projects. We are now beginning to see public engagement techniques used in education in an effort to increase and improve on traditional parent and community involvement programs. It is a natural ﬁt for education and has the potential to engage the public in a new level of participation in their schools. Deﬁning public engagement The Annenberg Institute deﬁnes public engagement as “a purposeful effort, starting in either the school system or the community, to build a collaborative constituency for change and improvement in the schools.” They have identiﬁed three characteristics common to today’s public engagement efforts: inclusiveness, a focus on change and consensus. Another proponent of public engagement, says Jerry Bryan, APR, vice president of communications for Sverdrup Corporation, has been instrumental in education reform in Missouri. He says that “Engaging the public is not a new and better way of selling your ideas or enlisting support. Public engagement is not driven by more power, but less—not gaining What is public engagement, continued on page 2 3 characteristics of public engagement: • inclusiveness • focus on change • consensus In this Issue Key communicator network Why is community engagement so important? Best practices What research says about good community relations Tips and trends Principles of authentic community engagement Media do’s and don’ts Bond and budget battles Demographics What is public engagement, continued from front page control, but giving it up.” No matter how public engagement is deﬁned, its key components are active listening, deliberation, collaboration and shared responsibility. The goal is creating healthy communities Public engagement is more than just bringing people together to share their thoughts and ideas. It is about connectedness and collaboration as a “village.” Instead of seeking out ways to get the community to relate to the schools, educators need to move out to the citizens. School stakeholders must ﬁrst work to create healthy, functioning communities before they can focus on school reform. School issues cannot be treated in isolation from other community concerns. see the connections between what is happening in the community and what is personally valuable to them. When we engage our community members in face-to-face deliberative dialogue about the things that are important to them, we begin to create a shared sense of direction and a willingness to share responsibility. If the public isn’t participating in your schools, if they aren’t voicing their opinion in the decision making process, if they aren’t assuming any responsibility for the success of education in your community, they will surely be pointing the ﬁnger of blame when they don’t agree with the district’s direction. Annenberg’s report, Reasons for Hope, Voices for Change (available at www.annenberginstitute.org/images/ reasons.pdf), demonstrates this clearly with case studies that show how high proﬁle issues at the school level can often mask core community concerns about values and quality of life. Face-to-face essentials The work of the Study Circles Resource Center, a nonproﬁt, nonpartisan foundation in Connecticut, is based on the belief that combining dialogue and action in a respectful, face-to-face setting has great potential for responding to the challenges facing American democracy. Developing responsibility through dialogue What is implied in all the research done to date is the importance of faceto-face interaction. Today’s technology allows us to communicate with people on the other side of the world in seconds, yet there is something impersonal and detached about these forms of communication. We build public relationships by helping people These four reasons are central to why they believe meeting face-toface is essential: 1) Face-to-face discussion affects people at a basic emotional level. It helps to hear and see others express their feelings. It makes it difﬁcult to remain indifferent or disengaged. 2) There is a unique incentive for people who live in the same community to listen to each other. They may be neighbors or work together; it provides a reason to ﬁnd common ground. 3) Face-to-face groups in a community-based program can lead to action. Action evolves naturally. Results can range from task forces to new policies. 4) Citizens want to see they are not alone in their efforts. Many care deeply about social issues but feel isolated and powerless. This helps them feel they are part of something bigger and that they can make a difference. Getting started in public engagement The decision to move from more traditional communications models to public engagement is a signiﬁcant one. The next logical question is, “Where do we start?” While there is no one way to implement public engagement in a school district, there are some general guidelines that can be followed. The most important thing to remember is that public engagement is not a quick ﬁx. Like any signiﬁcant change, public engagement takes time, trial and error, practice and reﬁnement. Begin with the right issue. The difference between public engagement and other decision making processes is that the schools and the community have an equal voice in the outcome. Schools are viewed as part of the overall community concern. For example, a public relations campaign would address the passage of a bond referendum; a public engagement model What is public engagement, continued on page 3 2 Spring 2006 What is public engagement, continued from page 2 would address community growth. One place to start is to form a schoolcommunity steering committee to guide your public engagement project. Frame the issue It is important that educators think “outside the box” in public engagement. If we want the public to have a stake in the issue, then the issue must be examined from all possible points of view. For example, a teacher may view community growth in terms of class size; a businessperson may view growth in terms of proﬁtability. Both perceptions of the issue are valid, but neither individual may have considered the other’s viewpoint. One approach to issues framing is to hold a meeting where a cross-section of students, staff and community are represented. The issue is discussed at length and all possible solutions are put on the table. An outcome of the meeting could be a discussion guide that represents a variety of points of view. This guide can be used with group meetings throughout the public engagement process. The structure of the meeting is important; it is not a time for the school board or community leadership to sit at the front of the room and preside. Community Engagement Create community conversation The crux of public engagement is face-to-face dialogue on issues. The public must be given an opportunity to study the issue, to discuss pros and cons, to express the values that drive their opinions and to arrive at multiple approaches to addressing the issue. While educators should participate, discussions should not be driven or over–managed by school personnel. The outcome of the conversations is that participants see that everyone has a stake in the issue; therefore everyone has a responsibility for the solution. Solutions may be individual or organizational. For example, if one outcome of community growth is less individual attention for students, a civic club may take on student mentoring as a project. Another group may address another part of the community infrastructure, such as adequate roads. Bring stakeholders together After enough time has passed for groups to study the issue (several months), it is a good idea for the steering committee to host a community-wide gathering to cap off the project. All participants in the community conversations should be invited and the meeting opened to the public at large. The structure of the meeting is important; it is not a time for the school board or community leadership to sit at the front of the room and preside. The gathering should be a more relaxed affair. It’s a time for additional conversation on the issue as well as a time for people to ﬁnd out how to get involved in solutions. Some communities have found it beneﬁcial to host a “fair” where all groups addressing the issue have a table. Meeting participants can learn more or even sign up to help. Other public engagement tips Assure that key leaders are involved. Like a bond issue, if you don’t have buy-in from the school board, top administration and key community leaders, your efforts are likely to fail. District employees should be involved throughout the project at all levels and represented along with community members on the steering committee. Don’t forget students! They should be encouraged to participate and can be trained to moderate conversations. The media should be invited to participate in the project as well as to cover it. Media outlets that are focusing on civic journalism will want to be involved. Community conversations often work best when facilitated. Educators and others in the community can be trained to moderate conversations. Remember, issues are perceived differently by different stakeholders. Public engagement is a process that allows individuals to arrive at their own solutions to a common concern. This requires school district leaders to relinquish some control in order to gain the power of common ground. Source: National School Public Relations Association 3 Key Communicator Network Building support for your schools Personal, face-to-face contact is the most effective communication method when building support for your schools. ting up an active key communicator network. Essentially, a key communicator network is a network of opinion leaders who establish solid two-way communication between an organizaPeople talk to people... and those people talk to other people. That, how- tion and its publics. These opinion ever sophisticated and well-planned a leaders talk to a lot of other people, and their audiences tend to listen to school district’s communications program may be, is how a large proportion what they have to say. They agree to correct misinformation and to disof school news gets around. seminate accurate information about One problem is that this communithe school syscation system is unreliable and usutem. They also ally one-way. Bits of information ﬁlter keep in touch outward from the schools into the with school ofcommunity along informal channels ﬁcials and imwithout regard to accuracy or commediately report pleteness. Thus, rumors form, spread misperceptions and become difﬁcult to counteract. and inaccuracies The information that ﬁlters back to before they are school ofﬁcials is often too late for a widely spread. meaningful response, and sparks that A key commucould have been quickly snuffed benicator network come ﬁres of major proportions. allows a school School board members and admindistrict to get istrators from every school district accurate news out to the staff and can cite examples of situations where community quickly. It enables school rapidly spreading rumors have caused ofﬁcials to deal with potentially harmmisunderstandings to multiply. In ful rumors before they are blown out these cases, crises that could have of proportion. And it costs very little to been headed off happened so quickly set up and maintain. that the usual newsletters and news Why? releases were useless. Research shows that people tend to What? believe their friends and neighbors A simple solution to mitigate a seri- more than they believe the media or ous problem is to control this grapepublications. Marketing research supvine system of communications by set- ports this view by revealing that peo- ple make major purchases based on what others tell them about a product or a service. In fact, Whirlpool found that people put much more stock in what friends and neighbors said about their products than what they placed in ads. It is reasonable to assume that people make decisions about schools in the same way. Thus, school ofﬁcials must spend time cultivating relationships with key employees and community members, and keeping them informed if they want to gain understanding and acceptance of their school programs. Studies have found that mass communication generally does not change minds but only reinforces existing positions, thus activating the opposition as well as supporters. One-on-one communication, on the other hand, is quiet and speaks directly to the target audiences. The aim of one-on-one Key communicator network, continued on page 5 4 Spring 2006 Key communicator network, continued from page 4 communication, through a network of key communicators, is to build support, thus deﬂecting the effects of criticism, should it come. In this regard, it should be noted that the media rarely launch crusades of their own. They usually report the ideas of others. A well-organized, oneon-one campaign targeting opinion leaders anticipates issues and discourages attacks by going straight to the people who bring issues to the media. The late Patrick Jackson, a well-respected public relations practitioner, says opinion leaders are critical for a simple, but seldom expressed, reason. “Publics, or groups, don’t act en masse. They follow leaders who are pacesetters. These persons jump-start behavior within the group. Left to their own devices, publics may choose to be led in any direction. The choice is whether or not to inﬂuence this direction.” Beneﬁts of formalizing a key communicator network Being person-to-person in nature, the program enables school ofﬁcials to establish two-way communication and get a quick pulse of the community. The program helps to bridge the distance between school ofﬁcials and the community—they get to know school ofﬁcials as people, not some distant ﬁgureheads in an ofﬁce or board room. Regular communications to key opinion leaders offers more opportunities to convey the many successes of positive accomplishments in the schools. A major beneﬁt of the program is rumor control or a controlled grapevine whereby volatile issues or confrontations are quickly communicated to these opinion leaders. Communicating negative news or problems to this group also establishes candor and openness and ultimately will establish credibility and trust between school ofﬁcials and the citizenry. Who? Key communicators are adults and students who talk to and are believed by a large number of people in the community. They may or may not be in positions of authority or ofﬁcially recognized leaders. In fact, most are not recognized as being the formal power structure of the school district or the community. They may be barbers, beauticians and bartenders. They are frequently dentists, gas station owners, ﬁreﬁghters, post ofﬁce clerks and news agency owners. Within a school, they are often secretaries, lunch ladies or custodians. In one way or another, however, these opinion leaders have an interest in the schools of their community. Interestingly, opinion leaders that make up a successful key communicator network are seldom the loudmouths who complain at every school board meeting. They are more likely to be the people who only speak when they feel it is important and when they have a valid statement to make. They are the people to whom others ask, “What do you think about ... ?” Key communicators should represent the many different demographic segments of the community as well as the various segments of the school district staff. Having a good two-way communication system in place internally is extremely important. Employees resent hearing school information ﬁrst from community residents. Key communicators are everywhere, but even though they are highly inﬂuential, they may not be highly visible. Their distinguishing characteristics are that their peers respect them and other people trust their opinions. Critics should deﬁnitely be invited. In a group of 10 people, one or two critics usually add a needed bit of credibility to the undertaking. Experience has shown that after involvement in a key communicator process, critics frequently become supporters without having a negative effect on others. Where? The work of key communicators is carried out at their churches, homes, businesses, organization meetings, clubs or schools. Only one initial meeting of the key communicators is usually necessary, and should be brief and to the point. Much of the two-way communication between a key communicator and school ofﬁcials is by phone, brief mailings or in person. Key communicator network, continued on page 20 Community Engagement 5 Why is community engagement so important? Because schools cannot do it alone America’s public schools can be traced back to the year 1640 when the Massachusetts Puritans established schools to: 1. Teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills, and 2. Cultivate values that serve a democratic society (some history and civics implied). The creators of these ﬁrst schools assumed that families and churches bore the major responsibility for raising a child. The responsibility of the school was limited and focused. From 1900 to 1910, we added • nutrition • immunization, and • health to the list of school responsibilities. From 1920 to 1940, we added • vocational education • the practical arts • business education • speech and drama • half-day kindergarten • physical education – including organized athletics, and • school lunch programs (We take this for granted today. It was, however, a signiﬁcant step to shift to the schools the job of feeding America’s children onethird of their daily meals.) In the 1950s, we added • safety education • driver’s education • music and art education • foreign language requirements are strengthened, and • sex education introduced (topics escalate through the ‘90s) In the 1960s, we added • advanced placement programs • consumer education • career education • peace education • leisure education, and • recreation education In the 1970s, the breakup of the American family accelerated, and we added • special education (mandated by federal government) • Title IX programs (greatly expanded athletics for girls) • drug/alcohol abuse education • Head Start • parent education • behavior adjustment classes • character education • environment education, and • school breakfast programs appear (Now, some schools are feeding America’s children two-thirds of their daily meals. Sadly, these are the only decent meals some children receive.) In the 1980s, the ﬂoodgates opened, and we added • keyboarding and computer education • global education • ethnic education • multicultural/ non-sexist education • English-as-a-second-language (ESL) and bilingual education • early childhood education • Jump Start, Early Start, Even Start and Prime Start • full-day kindergarten • pre-school programs for children at-risk • after school programs for children of working parents • alternative education in all its forms • stranger/danger education • anti-smoking education • sexual abuse prevention education • health and psychological services are expanded, and • child abuse monitoring becomes a legal requirement for teachers In the 1990s, we added • HIV/AIDS education • death education • expanded computer and Internet education • inclusion • tech prep and school-to-work programs • gang education (in urban centers) • bus safety education • bicycle safety education • gun safety education Why is community engagement so important, continued on page 7 6 Spring 2006 Why is community engagement so important, continued from page 6 In the ﬁrst years of the 21st century, we have superimposed upon everything else • a layer of high-stakes, standardized tests Community engagement is strategic; transforms schools and community C All of the items added to the list have merit, and all have their ardent supporters. They cannot, however, all be assigned to the schools. ommunity engagement is a process of strategic listening and involvement that informs, educates and motivates a community to play a meaningful role in deciding the future directions of their schools. For a school district it’s a whole new way of dealing with its publics. It transforms both the schools and the community. The people of each community must come together to answer two essential questions: What do they want their children to know and be able to do when they graduate, and how can the entire community be organized to ensure that all children reach the stated goals? Community engagement is a necessary function of public education today. If school districts and board of education members begin to embrace the notion of public engagement they will reap the beneﬁts. The bottom line is that schools can’t do it all. Schools can’t raise America’s children. Strong, consistent public engagement results in greater trust, parent involvement, increased funding, more impetus for education reform and responsible media participation. And in most states we have not added a single minute to the school calendar in ﬁve decades! Adapted from: The Burden by Jamie Vollmer, www.jamievollmer.com. See Jamie at MASB’s Fall Leadership Conference, Nov. 9-12, 2006 in Detroit. Visit www.masb.org. When schools switch from communication to engagement common terms and key words change. For instance: Previous communicate public hearing talk to and tell protect turf inﬂuence top down hierarchy strategic plan New deliberate with community conversation share and discuss seek and ﬁnd common ground understand bottom up network values and vision A common pitfall of public engagement is waiting for a crisis or need to communicate. Community engagement must be constant and ongoing. Results take time and instant gratiﬁcation is not going to happen. But what will happen is a long-lasting, trusting relationship between the school and the community. There are many tools that can be used to listen to your community. From community surveys and board input sessions to focus groups and community forums—the main commonalities are two-way communication and face-to-face. Community Engagement 7 ✯ ✯ 2006 Education Excellence community relations winners Learn from these award-winning best practices Welcome NICE Babies NICE Community Schools Aspen Ridge Elementary Schools Coordinator: Nancy Langness 906.485.3175 x 259; [email protected] Breakfast Club Hartland Consolidated Schools Hartland High School Coordinator: David Minsker; 810.746.2212 [email protected] Cyber Citizens Southgate Community Schools Southgate Anderson High School Coordinator: Theresa Kassuba 734.246.4611; [email protected] For the past seven years, NICE Community Schools has welcomed each and every child into their doors beginning at birth. The NICE Babies Program reaches out to families in the district who have a new baby by offering two home visits from a parent volunteer who brings age-appropriate gift bags loaded with information on health, immunizations, education, toys, books, safety equipment, etc. The visits are followed by personal invitations to the Family Resource Institute-sponsored play groups. Ofﬁcials in NICE recognize that many new parents in their community were young and had limited access to the importance of early literacy, safety, health-related knowledge and educational toys. Hartland High School is using breakfast as a way to make student connections. When reaching out to the community about what’s happening in schools, students are often overlooked for their input. Assistant Principal Dave Minsker recognized that students have the most to gain from school improvement. It was developed to help diminish negativity, allow communication and earn respect within the student body. Seniors are looked to by the rest of the school for leadership and acceptable behavior. Business Service Technology (BST) students at Southgate Anderson High School have found a way to share their knowledge about technology with seniors in the community. Cyber Citizens provide BST students a hands-on, real world application for the material they learn in class. The students plan lessons to help seniors at a nearby retirement complex learn how to use computers and the Internet as education, communication, research and entertainment tools. Students must problem-solve in order to overcome barriers to learning encountered by the elderly. Organizers of the program truly believe it takes a community to raise a child. Parents who have questions about child rearing and who need communityrelated support ﬁnd answers and solace in the program. Reaching out early on increases the chance that parents and children enter the school system willing to be there and prepared to learn. One of the most transparent indicators of the program’s success is that the district’s MEAP scores are higher than the state average. Given the potential risk factor of much of the district, this speaks volumes. How NICE! 8 The Breakfast Club is a once per week meeting of juniors to help them understand the concepts and responsibility of leadership before they become the leaders as seniors. Students are the key ingredient in a successful school climate. The Club builds these relationships and helps create a more positive school environment. This program is unique in that it solicits input directly from the students rather than one-way communication from the administration. Since Breakfast Club began, the incidents of truancy, insubordination and disrespect have decreased from 40 to 25 percent. Students have started feeling better about their school and it is reﬂected in a more respectful school environment. The success of the program is measured ﬁrst by the response of the seniors. Staff at the retirement community reports a buzz and excitement among the residents on days when students are coming. Friendships have grown and there are celebrations throughout the year. Students are evaluated both for their classroom learning and assessment by performance and product in their teaching skills. Evidence that seniors are able to perform the technology skills is in the end products they create. They’ve learned to download pictures, e-mail friends and family, research everything from medication to vacation and much, much more. Spring 2006 What research says about good school-community relations When researchers look at the many policies and characteristics that point to effective schools they are reluctant to identify one single factor that creates higher achievement from one school to the next. The Educational Research Service (ERS), in its review of the literature on effective schools, notes that exemplary public school performance results from many policies, behaviors and attitudes that “together shape the learning environment.” Four ERS ﬁndings, however, support the importance and effort associated with effective school-community relations: Leadership of the building principal, school climate, meaningful parental and volunteer involvement and proactive community relations. Principals One researcher described the building principal as the “straw that stirs the drink,” the ubiquitous presence in the school’s hallways and grounds, the role model who sets an unignorable example. Such principals were variously described as taskoriented, well organized, skilled in working with community groups and in getting things done inside the school and with other school constituents. School climate Effective principals and their schools generate key factors in the school climate, identiﬁed as a key element in student achievement. They ﬁnd ways to praise student success and progress, both in the school and the community. They create a sense of Community Engagement family, helping new people for instance, and they acknowledge and anticipate conﬂict. Such principals build on trust, communication and closeness to parents and community. Effective principals make customer service a top priority. They invite feedback and consciously work on customer satisfaction. Parental, volunteer involvement A recognition program from the U.S. Department of Education selected 250 schools that had successful community-based programs. Research clearly indicates that children are more likely to achieve success if families take an active role in their education. Good schools are proactive in promoting and teaching parenting and child-rearing skills that support the parent as a learning-teaching partner with the school. These schools also open two-way communications that value parental feedback and a partnership approach with the family and school. Research also supports community volunteerism as an approach to effective schools when such programs are strongly supported by the principal and staff, are properly structured and managed, are based on solid research, and include meaningful ways to reward and recognize the efforts of all volunteers. with its school. One researcher described an exemplary school: “…it makes a singular attempt to get its students and community involved.” Research indicates that effective schools “create” a positive, constructive twoway relationship between themselves and the community, which in turn relates back to the principal. The leadership quality of these successful administrators found they were comfortable in dealing with parents, used a variety of communication tools in dealing with staff and constituents, were turned into community issues, and took speciﬁc steps to involve the public. Other research notes that effective schools share 10 characteristics that deal with school-community relations. Effective schools are: 1) student centered in a 2) supportive environment, with 3) positive expectations, that 4) value feedback, and ﬁnd ways to 5) reward people, create 6) sense of family, keep the 7) school close to the community, practice 8) two-way communications, strive 9) for achievement and 10) build trust and respect for one another. Proactive community relations When various groups—including senior citizens—are pulled into the schools, the community shares the achievements, needs and vision of that school. The community reconnects 9 Tips for writing communication policy For simplicity’s sake, an effective communication program can be considered to have four basic elements. All four must be taken into account if a communication program is to be effective: • The board’s concern for an ongoing, open, two-way communication program. • The area with which the program will deal. • The responsibilities of school personnel. • A speciﬁc policy on the media. • An explanation of how board meetings are run and how citizens can participate, contribute and make suggestions. • A statement on the individual and collective roles of board members. • Guidelines for citizen committees and other citizen advisory groups. • Guidelines for district publications. • A policy commitment • A provision for internal (school) communication. • A component for external (community) communication. • A commitment of funds. A policy commitment is the basis for effective communication—you need to communicate in two directions—within the schools and with your constituents in the community at large. While policies differ from district to district, a policy statement on school community and public relations might include: Source: Illinois Association of School Boards. Beyond policy: A continuing role It is important to remember that the board’s role in effective communication extends well beyond the limits of its policy book. The board’s continuing role as a communicator should include: • Relationships with governmental, educational and other agencies, other school districts, state and national associations, civic groups and the business community. • Outreach and publicity, including use of the media, board notices and minutes, action summaries and other board publications. • Public participation, including volunteerism, school organizations and special advisory committees. • Public activities, involving board members with staff, students and community organizations. The size and educational priorities of a school district will affect the extent to which each of these elements is emphasized in the board’s policy and the district’s community relations program. Your district’s total communication effort will be only as good as you and your colleagues on the board insist that it be. If you want effective community relations, then make communication a matter of policy. Source: Illinois Association of School Boards. 10 Spring 2006 Before you communicate, target your audiences Building public conﬁdence in the schools is everyone’s job. But if it’s not organized, it becomes no one’s job and more than likely doomed to failure. The public’s perception of what’s happening in the schools is just as important as what really goes on each day. These perceptions often differ from reality. More than 75 percent of the average American community now is comprised of taxpayers without children. Raising taxes and maintaining support for public schools with this group that does not have direct contact with schools, teachers and students presents a unique challenge to local school ofﬁcials. The solution: Look inward at two broadbased categories of school audiences or groups. By analyzing the community in these two areas, school boards will realize how diverse their communities can be. Secondly, one realizes there is no “best way” to communicate. Rather various groups may need a variety of methods to understand the policies of the district to become better informed on speciﬁc issues. Such vehicles might take the form of a newsletter, focus groups, advisory committees, school visits, faculty meetings, community outreach programs, coffee klatches and other “face-toface” communications. The process is almost endless. But the exercise is quite revealing for a school board’s understanding that there is not just one public it must address. Consider there are two-groups of people in your Community Engagement school district-internal and external audiences. Internal-Those groups within the family of education or directly associated with the school system, or a school building: Principals, teachers, custodians, secretaries, food service workers, maintenance staff, teacher aides, superintendent, school board members, solicitor, students, substitute teachers, student teachers, guidance counselors, central ofﬁce administrators, school psychologist, department chairmen, employee labor unions, bus drivers, volunteers, home and school visitor, crossing guards, librarians, coaches, intermediate unit personnel, social workers, nurses. External—Those groups who are outside of the family or have indirect relationships with the school system, or a school building: Government ofﬁcials, business and industry, taxpayers without children, parents, delivery people, college recruiters, visiting teams, friends and neighbors of students, friends and neighbors of employees, PTAs/ parent groups, media, senior citizens, police department, ﬁre department, social and civic organizations, churches, real estate agents, sales representatives, visitors, consultants, advisory committees, nonpublic schools, preschools, vocationaleducation schools, auditors, doctors and dentists, barbers, beauticians, bartenders, booster groups, speakers, alumni, dropouts, exchange students. The foregoing lists are only representative of a typical district or building. Each community will differ. But by working through this exercise, local ofﬁcials can organize a school community relations strategy to more accurately focus on the information needs of both employees (or internal groups) and the 75 percent of the community (external) which is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the school system. Source: Illinois Association of School Boards. 11 10 principles of authentic community engagement It’s common for education stakeholders to assert the need for community engagement in schools. In fact, the term “community engagement” has become something of a buzzword. But what does it really mean? How does it work? Authentic community engagement re-establishes the connection between schools and communities, creating more effective schools and healthier neighborhoods. Done well, authentic community engagement leads to schools that are central to the life and learning of the entire community and that embody community values. In addition, community engagement fosters community ownership of schools and education reform, helping to sustain important school improvements. Based on the experience of KnowledgeWorks Foundation and others, the following 10 guiding principles are critical to authentic community engagement. 1. Involves all sectors of the community. Important stakeholders come from all segments of the community, including parents, teachers, students, neighbors, businesses, community-based organizations and others. Schools perform best when all stakeholders are involved. 2. Asks the community to en- gage on important questions and acknowledges its views and contributions. It also connects with and inﬂuences ofﬁcial decisions. Authentic community engagement is not about getting a community to “buy-in” to a decision that has already been made. It is about soliciting community input to inform and make local decisions. 3. Involves the community early in the process. In order for community members to provide input and become educated on the subject at hand, they should be involved early in the process. Community meetings should not be held solely at schools. There are numerous places where community members are already accustomed to gathering. Potential spaces include a favorite local restaurant, church, or community member’s home. 5. Consists of more than one meeting and allows time in the process to make informed judgments. While opinions can be developed quickly, it takes time over multiple meetings to form judgments on signiﬁcant courses of action that are based on a community’s value system and a solid understanding of the relevant information. Time between meetings is critical to digesting previous discussions and information in order to inform future discussions and decisions. 6. Is driven by aspirations that communities hold for their future. Rather than centering on others’ ideas about what will be important to a community, a community’s values and aspirations should inform discussion and action. Authentic community engagement re-establishes the connection between schools and 7. Has a learning component 4. Offers opporcommunities, creating that helps build community awaretunities for people and knowledge around the more effective schools and to gather at conve- ness subject at hand. Communities can nient and comforthealthier neighborhoods. make better decisions if they have able locations at a variety of times. 12 access to current research and local information. Spring 2006 8. Allows for sustained involve- ment by community stakeholders. Authentic community engagement encourages stakeholders to remain involved in the implementation of decisions and in future school issues. Authentic community engagement creates a sense of ownership within a community, which is a key factor in sustaining school improvement efforts. 9. Utilizes community partner- ships and expertise. Communitybased organizations are often particularly well-suited to assist schools in leading and facilitating the community engagement process due to their established credibility in a community and ability to engender trust. These organizations often understand a community’s unique needs, aspirations and context. 10. Employs clear, open and consistent communication. Schools, their partnering community engagement organizations and community members, must be open and honest with each other in order to build trust. The goals and purposes of the initiative must be made clear to all. All stakeholders should understand the engagement process, decision steps, meeting protocols and commonly used language and terminology. Community Engagement How connected is your district to your community? A checklist ___ District’s mission/philosophy includes families and community ___ District education provides the qualities and skills valued by the business community ___ District goals, standards and levels of student performance are in sync with the community ___ Community attracts desirable business growth ___ You have a method of collecting data to support this ___ General knowledge of district’s mission, goals, standards, student performance levels and accountability by: ___ School system regularly involves members of the public in meaningful activities ___ staff ___ Citizens are given real opportunities to deliberate on the issues facing education ___ elected ofﬁcials ___ Community is/was involved in development of a strategic plan ___ School board is involved in a results-oriented accountability system for student achievement ___ School administrators and staff embrace community connections and engagement ___ parents ___ students ___ business leaders ___ media ___ Public and private agencies and organizations address needs of children in community ___ Work collaboratively with district ___ Incorporate or reinforce student achievement goals in services they provide ___ Volunteers are provided meaningful and appropriate opportunities ___ School district hosts broad cross sections of public ___ Business connections are welcomed ___ Community involved in civic and/or school activities ___ Recognition is given ___ A mechanism is in place for effective, meaningful dialogue and discussion between the community and the board of education ___ School involved in civic and/or community activities ___ School facilities viewed as “community facilities” Source: Shelley Carr, director of communications, Olympia (Wash.) School District 13 Tips for effectively lobbying your legislator A s school board members you are often called upon to contact your legislators to let your views on speciﬁc legislation be heard. If a legislator is not hearing from school board members about a particular issue he or she will either make a decision based on personal judgment or will respond to someone else who does make contact—often public education’s opposition. These tips will help you make your voice heard in Lansing. • Make direct, personal contact with your legislator. • Take time to read. Review as much background material on the bill or issue as possible. • Know when and where to contact your legislator. The best times to ﬁnd a legislator in the ofﬁce are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The best approach is to call ahead and make an appointment. • Show appreciation for support. It is usually a waste of time to lobby legislators who are in support of your position. It does help, however, to let them know you appreciate their support of your position. • Save time. Save time by making it clear who you are and what organization you are working with. • Keep your cool. Particularly if your legislator disagrees with you. Try to avoid prolonged or controversial argument. Allow your legislator to express doubts, questions or opinions without interruption. A calm, reasonable attitude and wellprepared reasons for your position may change minds. Remember, if you need information or assistance, contact MASB. And be sure to inform MASB staff of your legislator’s position and reaction to your communications. • Keep the conversation on the issue. Keep to the issue at hand and don’t spend too much time on social conversation. • Be knowledgeable. This goes back to reading. Be knowledgeable about the bill you want to discuss, including its current status in the legislative process. • Be brief and to the point. If you have expert knowledge or speciﬁc data about a bill, you can be of great help and very inﬂuential to your legislator. Be sure to give them the data in writing as well. • Relate examples. Give your legislator examples of how legislation will affect your district and students. • Be sure to have a clear proposal to offer. Give substantive reasons for making changes and factual information to justify your positions. 14 Spring 2006 Meeting with a member of the legislature Requesting a meeting with a member of the legislature: • Find your representative or senator and contact information on the MASB Web site: www.masb.org. • Send a fax or e-mail to the scheduler requesting a meeting • Include the date and time of day you would like to meet with the member • Offer to meet with staff if the member is not available (i.e. education legislative assistant) • Include the name of the legislation or issue you would like to discuss • Provide a phone number and/or e-mail address where the scheduler can reach you • Follow up with a phone call in one week if you have not heard back from the ofﬁce At the meeting • Be on time. Staff in most ofﬁces are busy and work on tight schedules. Remember that their time is valuable. • Establish a rapport. After introductions and handshakes, talk about things you might have in common. Maybe you have a mutual friend, or perhaps you both went to the same elementary school. Remember to be aware of time and the issue at hand. Thank your senator or representative for all that he or she does to represent your state or district. • State your purpose. For example, you might say, “Senator Levin, we are here to talk with you about No Child Left Behind. Our professional associations, the National School Boards Association and the Michigan Association of School Boards, would like to have your support for its recommendations to improve the No Child Left Behind Act.” • Make the issue real. Personalize the results of the legislation. For example, relate your own story about the legislation to the impact it has on your students and school district. • Paint the little picture, as well as the big picture. After you discuss how the issue has affected you or someone you serve, provide statistics on how it affects people in the district, state or country. Legislators are people; they are sympathetic to stories about real people. • Make a clear request. Tell your member of Congress exactly what you would like him or her to do, and do not leave without learning the legislator’s position on your issue. For example, you might say that you would like your legislator to vote for legislation that would provide stable school funding. Then, ask the member or their staff to outline the legislator’s current position. • Select a spokesperson. If several people will attend the meeting, select a spokesperson. If everyone there will have a role, select one person to move the meeting along in a timely manner. Community Engagement 15 Writing a letter to your legislator Personal letters from constituents can be powerful. Personal letters show that you really care about the issue, but faxed or e-mailed letters are just as acceptable. Never underestimate the power of a constituent’s letter. To make your letter effective: • Keep it short. Be concise and limit your letter to one or two pages. • Use the appropriate address and salutation. Use the correct title, address and salutation, and remember to proofread after completing your letter. For Representative: The Honorable John Q. Smith U.S. House of Representatives Address City, State, Zip For Senator: The Honorable John Q. Smith U.S. Senate Address City, State, Zip Dear Senator Smith: Identify yourself. Let your legislator know that you are a constituent, a school board member and member of the Michigan Association of School Boards and/or the National School Boards Association. Be polite. Like most of us, legislators will respond better to positive communication. Start by recognizing their support on other legislation. Explain your position. Talk about how the legislation has affected the students you serve. Include any MASB recommendations in your letter. Dear Representative Smith: Ask for a response. Be clear about what you would like your legislator to do—for example, vote for a piece of legislation, co-sponsor legislation, or offer an amendment—and request a reply to your letter. Establish yourself as a resource. You are an expert in your ﬁeld and can offer to provide additional information regarding public education, the issue and the effect of proposed legislation. Write legibly. Handwritten letters can be as persuasive as typed letters, but your handwriting must be legible. Generally, writing in a professional capacity related to your employment lends credibility. If your letter is part of a letter-writing campaign, a handwritten letter gives the appearance of a grassroots “ordinary citizen” communication, rather than a communication from a special interest group. Tips for writing letters to the editor 1. Length: Always check with the editor or read the editorial page for word limits. Many daily newspapers limit letters to 250-350 words. Some weeklies have no limits. If you exceed the limit, your letter will be edited and you could lose your key points and messages. 2. Message: Don’t ramble. Start with the main point you want to make. Use subsequent paragraphs to add examples or supporting evidence. 3. Style: Use simple words, short sentences and paragraphs. Avoid three and four syllable words. Limit sentences to 1520 words max. Paragraph after two sentences. 4. Vocabulary: Don’t use words like ‘utilize’ or ‘employ’ when you really mean use. Write to the level of the average eighth grader. A good example of this type of writing is found on the front page of the USA Today. 16 5. Address: Address your letter “To the Editor”—you don’t need a name for the inside address. 6. Signature/Identity: You MUST sign your letter, then type or print your name. This authenticates it. 7. Caution: Don’t commit libel—that is, don’t call people names or accuse them of illegal acts, no matter how angry you are about something. Your letter probably won’t get printed if you make false allegations, libel someone or use derogatory words. However, misspellings are often printed exactly as you wrote them with the term (sic) behind the misspelled word. (That’s Latin for “as is”). 8. Purpose: If your letter-to-the-editor exceeds 500 words, you probably should consider submitting it as an “Op-Ed” piece, develop it more and add a couple of additional points. Op-Eds can be limited to 700 words, but frequently exceed that. Spring 2006 Media interview guide; do’s and don’ts Before you interview: • Know your local reporters, their deadlines and the types of stories they cover. • Know the subject of the interview. Ask the reporter ahead of time the topic of the story and the kinds of questions he or she would like to address. Anticipate probable questions and plan your responses. • Review any background information and gather information to give to the reporter. • Know your goal for the interview. Consider the three major points you’d like to make. These are your key messages. During the interview: • Concentrate on communicating your key messages. • Always speak in plain English. Avoid jargon. • Speak in “headlines.” Offer conclusions ﬁrst, brieﬂy and directly, then back it with facts or details. Don’t over-answer. Short answers are better. • Always be honest. Never lie to a reporter. • Three acceptable responses to a reporter’s question: I know and I’ll tell you; I don’t know; and I know and I can’t tell you. When you don’t know, try to ﬁnd out and get back to the reporter. The last response—I know but I can’t tell you—should be used rarely, as in cases of student conﬁdentiality. Do’s and don’ts: • Don’t repeat a reporter’s negative statement. Frame your reply as a positive statement. • If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it. Always assume that the microphone is on or that the reporter is taking notes, even if you don’t see a notebook. • Never say “no comment.” • Relax, stay calm and be yourself. Show enthusiasm and smile. If you get angry, don’t argue with the reporter. Count to 10 and calm down. Take time to think before you answer a question. • Don’t tell a reporter how to write the story and don’t ask to see a story before it is printed. When dealing with a negative news story: • Don’t try to cover up bad news. Be the ﬁrst with good news and bad. • Use your district spokesperson so the facts are consistently portrayed. • Don’t lecture the reporter about how this story will “hurt” education or the school district. • Don’t say what you don’t know. Stick to the facts. Don’t inject personal opinion or guess what might have happened. Say what you know and stop. • Always explain why you can’t respond. • Follow the open meetings/public records laws. preparation + key messages = success Community Engagement 17 Bond and budget battles: avoid being defeated There is no magic formula for passing nity. A bond or millage plan born in ada bond or millage issue, but there are versity will most likely result in defeat. some common selling tools that have You are in trouble if there are old stood the test of time…and voters. wounds outstanding in the community If your board is unable to reach that have never healed—or at least been properly addressed. unanimous agreement on a spending plan, regroup and develop another apVoters like to send a message. If you proach before bringing your proposal to have issues that the public is still anthe voters. A board of education must gry over, often a bond or budget vote, be united–if not in spirit, at least in they are used as a way to send a mesvotes–when it comes to matters of the sage to the board. Anything from sellpocketbook. A unanimous vote is siming or closing a school to eliminating ply mandatory. A unanimous vote sends transportation and cutting staff and a strong message to voters that their programs can outrage voters for years elected or appointed ofﬁcials believe in to come. the spending plan being advanced. While your board undoubtedly had Since boards of education usually sound reasons for doing what it did, consist of philosophically and socioand had the best interest of the stueconomically diverse individuals, your dents, school system and community board represents an excellent meter at heart, one must remember that the for judging how a particular spending road to defeat may be paved with the plan will be received by the communi- best of intentions. In short, if your community feels mistreated or perceives itself as having been shut out of the decision-making process, the air must be cleared and trust be rebuilt before going to the voters. It cannot be stressed enough that a campaign must be citizen-led and staff supported with a uniﬁed, credible board of education. ty. If your board is experiencing rough sledding in trying to reach consensus, you will most certainly ﬁnd similar pockets of resistance in your commu- Research and public opinion is often overlooked when trying to pass a spending plan. The district must gauge the public and understand what the community wants. The board must know their community demographics, attitudes and expectations. Once this is understood, it is much easier to devise a plan that will actually meet the needs of the community. And, if the public knows that the board and administration took the time to validate their concerns, “yes” votes are more likely. The main voter inﬂuences are economics, perceived need, district trust and individual interests. The issue must be reasonable. If economic times are tough, kids can probably survive without a new pool or performing arts center. Every single communication and correspondence must keep the kids at the forefront. After all, making adult-convenient decisions don’t usually beneﬁt kids or achievement. Every vote counts. We all know that many school elections result in a low voter turnout. There are more than 35 Michigan school districts with millage issues decided by 20 votes or less. It is crucial to do whatever it takes to get your voters to the polls. Whether you provide transportation, baby-sitting or feeding them dinner, every vote counts! Marketing a millage or bond campaign 1. Designed to stimulate a speciﬁc action (get the “yes” vote out on election day). 2. Targets highly speciﬁc audiences (senior citizens, single parents, realtors, farmers, business owners, etc.). 3. Fills identiﬁable public needs (employable graduates, responsible youth, better property values). 4. Uses emotional appeal to get results (neighbors who care, we’re Bond and budget battles, continued on page 19 18 Spring 2006 Demographics: know your community I t is virtually impossible to effectively communicate with your community members and voters without knowing who they are, their expectations, preferences, interests, etc. School board members and administrators should absolutely know the following speciﬁc demographical information about their community. • Age What is the average age of your voter? • Education Does the average citizen have a high school diploma, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, more? Education attainment often relates to the expectations of the community. • Occupation What are the major industries and employers in your community? Do you live in a white-collar or blue-collar community? • Ethnic background Are you communicating and disseminating your message the same way for different backgrounds? • Income level There is often a connection between income level and participation. It is also important that board members know and understand their school demographics such as average teacher salary, graduation rates, teacher-to-student ratio, number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, current school district budget, number of students and school buildings, and community demographics including unemployment rate, largest employer, how many school-age children live in single-parent homes, how many residents live at poverty level, etc. • Lifestyle How do people live? Do they rent apartments or own homes? • Behavior and preferences Is your community conservative or liberal? Republicans or Democrats? • Interests What do community members like to do in their spare time? What are the major inﬂuencers in your community? Perhaps it’s business, politics, civics, family, religion? Bond and budget battles, continued from page 18 counting on you to make a difference, do it for the kids). How should campaign literature be used? • To kickoff a voter canvass effort. • To keep the millage issue visible to identiﬁed “yes” voters. • To provide information to undecided voters. Community Engagement • To remind “yes” voters just prior to Election Day. • To squelch rumors and answer questions. A brochure is not a millage campaign A campaign brochure should answer: how much money is needed?; what will the funds be used for?; what will happen if the millage/bond does not pass?; and how much will it cost the individual voter? Rule of thumb: Note the number of times the words kids, children and students are mentioned. If kids aren’t the focus of the brochure—rewrite it! 19 Key communicator network, continued from page 5 To better communicate with their key communicator network, school ofﬁcials in the Rockwood Public Schools in Eureka, MO, set up a telephone messaging system. When news breaks, the district can record a 30-second message relaying the facts of the situation and telling callers to dial another number for more information. If a crisis develops in one school, the system is customized to allow calls to the key communicators serving just that school. The key communicators can then tell their neighbors about the news they just heard and they can give them the number to call to get the same information. Also remember, with the prevalence of e-mail, communication can be instant. When? A good time to start a key communicator system is in the fall. While key communicators are most helpful in a time of trouble or turmoil, you need to establish mutual trust and credibility with them before you can depend on them to call you when they hear a rumor or to set someone straight who’s spreading misinformation. Once the key communicators are identiﬁed, it’s critical to communicate with them regularly on a personal, one-on-one basis. Their phone calls to school ofﬁcials should be returned immediately, and their requests for information answered promptly. If they are expected to share good news, they must have that information in a timely and understandable fashion. In addition, school ofﬁcials should contact key communicators whenever there is a need to get information out quickly in order to counteract rumors or to defuse a potential crisis. Key communicators can then make a point of getting the information out to the people they meet in the course of their normal activities. Key communicators should, in turn, contact school ofﬁcials when they hear rumblings, rumors, questions or ideas from people in the community. They provide a quick, informal reading of the pulse of the community when a major decision must be made or when a sensitive issue is about to erupt. How? It’s not too difﬁcult to set up a key communicator system, but it does take some effort. Here’s a step-by-step guide: 1. Begin by contacting members of your staff and others from your community that represent various churches, clubs, civic associations, occupations and so on. Be sure to include all socioeconomic levels. 2. Explain that you are trying to compile a list of people in the community who are not necessarily visible leaders, but who are respected and listened to and/or who are in a position to interact with a number and variety of other people. 3. Ask them to survey their friends and neighbors for the names and addresses of people they feel ﬁt this description. Chances are, your identiﬁers will come up with lots of names. 4. Tell them to give those names and addresses to your key communicator organizer who will combine the lists and determine the names that appear most often. These are the people who will become the nucleus of your key communicator system. Study the list of names to be sure that all identiﬁable groups are covered. Since students and employees are prime relayers of information about the schools, be sure that the key communicators from within the schools are part of this list. In addition, analyze each key communicator in terms of overall district impact or speciﬁc school or area impact. 5. Send a letter to each person on the list to explain the concept and point out how they can assist the district. Assure them it will entail only one meeting and ask them to attend that brief meeting (at a speciﬁc time and place) to discuss the program. Point out that you are not asking them to do anything that they aren’t already doing but that you want to be sure they know some important information about the schools. 6. Follow up with a personal phone call. Letters alone attract only about half of those invited to meetings, but a call by the principal or superintendent will usually generate a larger turnout. Key communicator network, continued on page 21 20 Spring 2006 Key communicator network, continued from page 18 7. Hold the meeting at a school or in the district ofﬁce. Keep the agenda and the tone informal. Explain the key communicator concept and illustrate how it might work by sharing speciﬁc examples of things that have happened in your district. (Most schools and districts already have small, informal key communicator groups working for them, and explaining how such a group has helped your district is a solid argument for setting up a slightly more formal system.) Caution: Don’t structure this group; never appoint a chairperson or form committees. 8. Emphasize that the key communicator program is built on two-way communications. You will keep them informed of what’s going on, and you would like them to tell you about rumblings in the community, questions that seem to be following a trend or rumors that are ﬂying. 9. Keep them informed. Send them a monthly letter, background reports, school board agendas and minutes—anything you can that will help them help you. 10. Return their calls promptly. Nothing will turn off a key communicator more quickly than not getting your attention when they have something to report or a question that needs answering. 11. As the year progresses jot down instances when you contact or hear from your key communicators. This will help you to evaluate the program. In addition, ask the key communicators for their assessment of the program, if they receive enough or too much information, and if they know others who should be included. 12. Periodically review the list of key communicators to make sure it continues to represent your community. Setting up a key communicator program is easy and inexpensive, and, according to Don Bagin, originator of the concept and publisher of communication brieﬁngs, “It has worked wherever it has been tried.” The key communicators concept simply harnesses an existing, potentially damaging natural force—the grapevine —and turns it to the advantage of the school system. For more information on community engagement and setting up a key communicator network, contact Jennifer Rogers, director of communications and public relations, 517.327.5908, [email protected], or register for CBA 106: Community Relations Leadership. Visit www.masb.org for a complete CBA course schedule. Sharing the bad news: Communication strategies for budget cuts and layoffs • Involve representatives and major stakeholder groups on the front end, well in advance of any action. • Have an action plan and communicate it broadly across the system. • Avoid speaking in absolutes. Factors beyond your control change continually. • Communicate options under consideration, including worst-case scenarios. • Set timelines that consider the human toll of potential actions. • Keep your frontline managers in the information loop with current and timely news. • Be sensitive to the fact that paranoia penetrates a school system during times like this. Don’t make it • • • • • worse by engaging in idle talk that can and probably will be misconstrued. Ensure that the school district is the ﬁrst source of bad news, not the rumor mill or secondhand sources. Deliver bad news with compassion and respect. Yes, we must satisfy the lawyers, but put a face and heart on all negative announcements. Consider the impact of cuts and curtailments on those who remain, from the emotional as well as workload perspectives. Exhibit responsible leadership by staying calm and remaining focused on your ultimate mission— student learning and achievement. Remember that “this too shall pass.” Source: National School PR Association Community Engagement 21 Millage and/or bond issue campaign Calendar and timeline Assuming school elections are held in May, here is a sequence of events for a typical election cycle: November: — Board announces need for study of possible bond issue/millage/headlee — Citizens/board panel undertakes study — School employees and citizens involved with input to various committees — Study committees report ﬁndings to board December: — Hearings held on ﬁnal recommendations — Citizens committee for campaign formed — Voter research/database developed — Campaign committee forms subcommittees for action January: — Pre-election survey completed and reported to board — Board determines ballot issue and establishes election date February: — General information mailed to community — Finalize voter database — Recruit volunteers for various tasks — Establish phone bank — Fundraising March: — Completely inform school staff on campaign and issues; seek active support — Brochure development—campaign committee — Contact media and keep informed — Fundraising April/May: — First general mailing to target voters by Campaign Committee — Phone bank for “yes” voter ID — Absentee Voters — PTA, PTO, service clubs, boosters, etc. given information/urged to join campaign — Undecided voters receive persuasive brochure — “Yes” voters receive reminder post card — Challengers trained — GOTV lists prepared w/script Election Day: — Phone bank for “yes” voters — Rides — Victory party! This is not an all inclusive calendar. Rather, the time lines shown illustrate the need for thorough advance planning leading up to the last 30 days. Seven deadly sins of budget communication…and how to repent 1. Pontiﬁcation—Offer access. Be approachable. Make messages simple and personal. Keep the focus local—on students and learning. 2. Puﬀery—Economize on words ﬁrst. Ban jargon. Say “textbooks” and “software” instead of “instructional materials.” 3. Insincerity—Be transparent. Talk straight and forthright. Follow through on warnings of cuts. False threats return to haunt and destroy credibility. 5. Boredom—Excite people. Paint pictures for them. Help them visualize what can be. 6. Paralysis—Tap existing strengths. Use key communicators. Draw on public relations investments already banked. 7. Complacency—Visualize the future. Engage people. Commit to public relations and ongoing communication. Source: National School PR Association 4. Disorder—Create context for messages. Keep it real. Bring issues home for people and relate on their terms. 22 Spring 2006 Resources and links Michigan Association of School Boards Advocacy Web Page www.masb.org/page.cfm/760 National School Boards Association www.nsba.org KnowledgeWorks Foundation www.kwfdn.org National School Public Relations Association www.nspra.org Michigan School Public Relations Association www.mspra.org Jamie Vollmer www.jamievollmer.com Annenberg Institute www.annenberginstitute.org Community Engagement Case Studies can be found at: • Michigan Association of School Boards, www.masb.org/page.cfm/39 • New Schools, Better Neighborhoods, www.nsbn.org • Public Agenda, www.publicagenda.org/pubengage/pe_cases.cfm?list=1 Michigan Association of School Boards Community Engagement Areas of Boardsmanship Classes • CBA 106: Community Relations Leadership • CBA: 228: Introduction to Public Speaking • CBA 246: Advanced Community Relations • CBA 252: Media Relations • CBA 259: Creating Trust: A Key Ingredient in School Improvement • CBA 260: Public Speaking Skills • CBA 261: Advocacy Skills for Public Education • CBA 262: Spokesperson Training • CBA 264: Shaping Public Opinion About Public Education Community Engagement Publications Available at MASB’s Bookstore, www.masb.org/page.cfm/40: Conﬁdent Communication: Speaking Tips for Educators By Douglas A. Parker A sensible, skills-based and humorous approach to the strategies every school leader or educator needs to develop as a public speaker. Includes tips on how to gain conﬁdence and make nervousness work for you. ..............................$24.50 Good News! How to Get the Best Possible Media Coverage for Your School By Gail A. Conners Learn how to manage your schools image before a crisis hits. This guide shows you step-by-step how to create a positive public perception of your school. Through real-life scenarios, you’ll learn easy strategies to create goodwill and avoid spending time on damage control. .................. $19.95 Communities Count: A School Board Guide to Public Engagement NSBA This guide takes school board members through the community engagement process and includes help in understanding the beneﬁts and concerns of convening the community. Experience shows that success is based on some common principles, a good plan and continuous work. Describes proven engagement methods and steps to take to be successful. ..................................................... $19.95 The Community Connection: Case Studies in Public Engagement NSBA Because the stakes are high, it is essential that communities be involved in determining the quality of their schools and setting their future direction. How this can be done is the focus of this publication and is presented in two parts. The ﬁrst is an analysis and discussion of the issues, trends and frameworks that emerged from an examination of district practices. The second consists of district proﬁles that are rich in detail, creative ideas and practical solutions. ...............$8.95 23 This report is an initiative from the Communications & Advocacy Committee. Chair Brad Baltensperger Houghton Portage Township Schools Vice-Chair Michael Thorp Goodrich Area Schools Renee Bird Tawas Area Schools Henry Hatter Clio Area Schools Janice Holz Huron ISD Mary Jason Charlevoix Emmet ISD Alberta Martin Lake Fenton Community Schools Beth Page Olivet Community Schools Mary Lou Proefrock Reed City Area Public Schools Jennifer Rogers Director of Communications & Public Relations 1001 Centennial Way, Ste. 400 Lansing, MI 48917-9279 Building Blocks of High Performing Schools This special report on community engagement relates to two of the nine Building Blocks of High Performing Schools presented by MASB. 4. High levels of Collaboration and Communication High performing schools encompass a community of learners. There is strong teamwork among teachers across all grades and with other staff. All members of the learning community, including students, parents and members of the community work together to create a supportive learning environment and to actively solve problems and create solutions. 9. High Level of Parent & Community Involvement Parents and community members understand and support the basic mission of the school and have an important role in achieving that mission. To learn more about all nine Building Blocks of High Performing Schools, visit www.masb.org/page.cfm/1080.
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