Where do teachers, principals and superintendents begin? How can
you meaningfully involve parents in ways that go beyond parent-teacher
night or a signature on a report card? How will your school work
with parents to set goals, implement reforms and evaluate whether
they are improving student achievement?
Encouraging more parents and community members to become involved
in your school begins with knowing your community. This means identifying
leaders and education issues that your community cares about most.
A good way to begin identifying leaders in your community is to
talk with individuals who lead the local Chambers of Commerce, community
colleges, churches, cultural foundations and social service agencies.
City Council members and owners of established, neighborhood businesses
also are good sources. Seek out community groups and businesses
that have long-time roots in the community. Learn who carries influence
and clout in your community. Find out who gets things done. This
becomes increasingly important as you build community support for
school improvement efforts.
Whos who in your community:
Identify the religious, cultural, political,
civic and social organizations in your community that
work with minority and low income parents and residents
Identify parents, community advocates and
business leaders who are well respected and have credibility
with culturally and linguistically diverse
Create a contact list that has the most
up-to-date information about leaders and organizations
and what issues matter to them most
Meet regularly with as many community leaders
and groups as possible to discuss ways you can work together
Follow-through regularly with community
groups on next steps; share information
Dont forget to overlook less visible community leaders, too.
Reach deep into the community to find lesser known, but just as
influential advocates: a local grocer, a grandmother, a block captain
or housing project leader. While these community members may not
be as high profile as others, they are tuned into the issues confronting
the neighborhood and can help you craft school events or meetings
with these issues in mind. They also know what motivates community
members to get involved in schools. Ultimately, parents and community
members become involved in schools when they see how education affects
what is most important in their lives.
As you connect with community leaders and advocates, provide them
with information about your schools reform efforts, demographics,
student achievement results and a calendar of upcoming meetings
and events. As you build relationships with these leaders, encourage
them to participate in school activities, tutor students, contribute
funds or sponsor school activities at their business. They can also
encourage their employees or members to become more involved. Work
with your school staff to identify how best to tap the expertise
and resources in your community.
What issues does the community care about
most? Find out by asking your community.
Conduct formal and informal surveys, both
written and by word of mouth. Ask parents if they talk
regularly with their childs teacher. What concerns
do they have about their childs education? In what
ways do parents want to be involved in school? How do
they view their childs school?
Attend monthly meetings of different groups
representing parents, community members and business leaders.
What concerns do these groups raise about public education?
How do views vary from one group to the next?
Hold a series of neighborhood coffees in
parents homes and visit work sites to find out from
employers and employees what they think about schools.
If they were the principal, what school improvement efforts
would they put in place?