There are 3 Questions: Put the Questions on top of each one. Have to make it good. 200+ words

0–No summary or summary is not on topic.

0.5–On topic with no reference or connection to the week’s readings.

1–On topic and includes a reference to the week’s readings.

 1. How might an administrator help inform his/her staff on the importance  of community relations?

2. What steps might be taken with all members of a  staff to discuss and model effective messaging for students, parents,  community, etc.? 

3.You have been asked to give a workshop to new school board members on their role in school–community relations. What points would you cover in your presentation?

Chapter 5 Administering the Program

After completing this chapter you should be able to …

? Distinguish the key organizational and administrative structures that characterize successful programs.

? Identify the roles boards play in contributing to school–community relations success.

? Identify the roles administrators play in contributing to school–community relations success.

? Define the standards for education public relations practitioners.

? Outline methods for delivering training and support to staff to foster the development of skills essential to their communication roles.

Setting up a school–community relations program means paying attention to organization and determining who is responsible for what. What is the role of the board of education? What do the superintendent and the administrative team need to do? How about the person appointed to be in charge of the operation? What kind of organizational plan will be developed? Which administrators and supervisors are responsible for which parts of the program? How much money will be allocated to the school–community relations effort? An important component must be clearly outlined: the role of teachers and support staff.

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Board members must constantly remember that the schools are owned by the people: taxpayers. The community expects the children sent to the schools to learn effectively, and the community members pay the bills to keep the schools running. In most districts, people elect representatives to govern the schools they own. They should, therefore, be kept informed on a regular basis about how money is being spent and how effective the education being provided is.

How people feel, what they believe, and how they act toward the school, its officers, proposals, and programs can be summed up in the term public opinion. Public opinion is that intangible but powerful force in American life that influences all that is done in public affairs. A school board must know something about the nature of public opinion in order to run a good school system. If it fails to do what the public wants, sharp criticism follows. If it moves too far ahead of public opinion, it invites opposition. If board members confuse their own interests with those of the public, they often stir up resentment and conflict.

Every school board constantly faces the task of trying to satisfy all the people and groups in the community. This can never be done. Nonetheless, the board can be better prepared for reactions of various constituencies if it constantly measures public opinion and anticipates those reactions. Board members must recognize that the board is always subject to criticism by diverse elements of the population.

Many people see the schools personified in the board members themselves. Because the board is the governing body, the public often judges the school system on the manner in which the board conducts itself. Therefore, in its relations with the public, a board has a number of important responsibilities.

Policy

The first thing that must be done before a program can be built is for a board to adopt a community relations policy. It is essential that this be put into writing and made available to the public and the profession; it puts a board on record as wanting to make education a collaboration between the school and the community. A policy is the basis for the superintendent and his or her staff to work out the details of the program for the board’s approval. The policy statement can be short and somewhat simple. It should say what should be done and reasons for doing it. A clear-cut statement of this kind reduces the chances of misunderstanding, puts up a restraint against impulsive action, and serves as a guide in decision making. (Chapter 4 provides details on community relations policy development.)

Modeling Communication Externally

The board of education sets a better tone for the system when it consults with interested citizens and representatives of community groups on problems facing the schools. Interested citizens have much to contribute to the solution of problems facing a board. Although a board can gain much from hearing the views of citizens, it is in no way bound by them. Moreover, those whose opinions are sought usually become strong and loyal supporters of the system. Good ideas and suggestions can also be obtained from groups that have interests in recreation, safety, health, library services, correction of physical handicaps in children, citizenship training, and the like. Consulting these people makes them partners in the job of education and helps to build many bridges of goodwill and understanding.

In daily contacts with people, the individual board members are both listeners and ambassadors of the school system. They have wonderful opportunities at family gatherings, through church activities, in fraternal orders, and in everyday business to talk constructively about the needs of the schools, the work of the teachers, and the hopes for the future. Through what they say and the way they say it, they can build a desire in people for better education for children (see Figure 5.1).

Modeling Communication Internally

The attitudes and actions of the school board affect the attitudes and actions of employees in the school system. The board should take an interest in the welfare of staff members and meet their needs before they become demands. It should recognize the outstanding work of employees, who want recognition for jobs well done. Recognition makes them feel more important, more willing to work harder, and more loyal to the school system. Recognition can be given through letters of commendation, newspaper publicity, periodic banquets, release from teaching for special assignments, and so forth.

The board of education sets a better tone for the system when it consults with employees on problems facing the schools. Employees like to be consulted. They appreciate knowing that interest is taken in their ideas and that they are important to the school system. Personnel studies in industry have shown that production increases when workers are taken into the confidence of management and feel that they have some part in decisions that are made. Those districts that have a history of consulting with employees on workload, sick leave, retirement, supply and equipment needs, discipline, curriculum revision, hiring of personnel, and so forth have found staff morale high, an improved educational program, and fewer and less severe confrontations with employees. With this relationship of staff to administration, everybody is better able to get down to the business of educating the children of a community.

FIGURE 5.1 School–Community Relations and the School Board.

Source: Reprinted with permission from Raising the Bar for School PR: New Standards for the School Publication Profession, a publication of the National School Public Relations Association (www.nspra.org), 15948 Derwood Road, Rockville, MD 20855.

The board should also invite teachers to give presentations on their work at public board meetings. In other words, it should show a real interest in the work being done by employees.

Relationship to Parents

Board members often receive complaints about the school from parents. The manner in which they handle these complaints has a great deal to do with the effectiveness of the school administration. Some board members attempt to answer a complaint themselves without directing it to the appropriate administrator, or they may bypass the superintendent and go directly to the teacher or principal involved. Both of these approaches should be avoided. When a complaint is received from a parent, a board member should always ask if the parent has contacted the principal of the school or the superintendent.

It is wise for each board to develop and adopt a policy on how complaints are to be handled in a school system. Once adopted, this policy should be distributed to all parents and publicized in newspapers and at parent–teacher meetings. In this way parents will know to whom to complain, and board members will understand their role in handling complaints.

Relationship with the Administration

The separation of responsibility between the school board and the administration is not always recognized by the board. Some members have the mistaken belief that it is their duty to actually administer the schools. Some boards spend time dealing with administrative details that should be the responsibility of the superintendent. When boards attempt to manage the schools, they fail to give the necessary attention to their major responsibility: seeing that the schools are run properly.

Some boards consider themselves a group of administrators, with the professional staff as its servants. This is a very poor attitude, and it results in a lack of cooperation with the administrative staff when the closest cooperative consideration of issues and problems by the board and the superintendent and his or her staff is necessary. The board and the administration must work in separate areas cooperatively if a school system is to function properly.

Communication Influences Board Effectiveness

School communication is an essential factor in school board effectiveness, according to the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).

According to NSPRA Vice President at Large–School Boards Focus Tom Gentzel (Executive Director, Pennsylvania School Boards Association) and NSPRA Associate Director Karen H. Kleinz, successful school boards:

• Take responsibility for communicating with and engaging their communities.

• Recognize communication as an important management function and hold their administration accountable.

• Develop a strategic communication plan tied to their district’s mission, goals, and objectives.

• Speak with one clear voice on behalf of the students and schools.

• Establish a culture of effective, two-way communication and engagement with all stakeholders.

• Demonstrate accountability through effective school governance standards supported by effective communication.

Source: Adapted from The Communication Factor in Board Effectiveness: Responsible Communication Builds Strong Relationships. Retrieved from www.nspra.org/files/docs/sixtipsforsmartschoolboards.pdf. Copyright 2008 by the National School Public Relations Association (www.nspra.org), 15948 Derwood Road, Rockville, MD 20855. Reprinted with permission.

THE SUPERINTENDENT’S ROLE

Current conditions in community life have added new meaning to the superintendent’s role as the leader in building constructive bridges between the school as a social institution and the people who own and support it. Traditionally, the superintendent’s role has centered on such activities as working with the parent–teacher association, establishing rapport with civic groups, becoming involved in community improvement projects, encouraging lay participation on school study committees, supervising the preparation and publication of news stories and literature concerning various phases of the educational program, handling the more serious complaints and criticisms of school policies and practices, and trying generally to bring the school and community into a closer and more harmonious relationship. Although these are desirable activities that have a place in any school–community relations program, they are not broad enough in concept to prepare for problems arising from the growth and expansion of the educational enterprise and the changes occurring in social, political, and economic life.

In both large and small school systems, the superintendent is faced today with strong demands from organized groups often advocating for special interests. Among other things, such groups want a larger and more decisive voice in policy determination, including such matters as more functional curricular offerings, improved food services for undernourished children, better racial representation among administrative and instructional personnel, expansion of special services in child and family welfare, lower costs for education, accountability for the educational outcomes produced in students, and increased community use of school facilities. Lined up opposite each demand are powerful and influential groups maintaining a diametrically different position.

Under such circumstances superintendents become mediating agents in matters relating to public education. They must try to reconcile individual and social values, negotiate conflicts between lay and professional interests, and divert the influence of powerful groups into constructive channels. This role calls for a high level of social insight and considerable skill in dealing with people. In reality, superintendents are cast by circumstances into the role of educational diplomats and must spend much of their time dealing with individuals and groups whose influence and power help to shape the quality of educational opportunity in the community.

While carrying out their role as educational diplomats, superintendents must likewise attend to the responsibilities of the office on the more formalized aspects of the school–community relations program. In this regard they are central to developing and putting into practice the several strategies and activities called for in the program. Even though they delegate a substantial part of their responsibility to members of their administrative team, nevertheless they set the tone of the program, stimulate the effort that goes into it, and make the critical decisions it requires. Unless they show dynamic leadership in pointing the way and setting the pace, it is doubtful the program will be successful.

As program leaders, they have certain functions to discharge. Their all-pervasive function as heads of their school systems is that of maintaining, facilitating, and improving the educational opportunity for all children and youth in their districts. Correlative to that end are their functions in community relations, decision making, communicating, influencing, coordinating, and evaluating.

Translated into specific types of action, these functions fall into such performance patterns as the following:

• Developing a basic policy for encouraging and expanding constructive relationships between the school and the community

• Assuming initiative in the planning of processes and procedures for keeping the board, staff, and public well informed on school matters

• Helping all personnel connected with the school system become sensitive to the meaning and importance of their contacts in the community

• Ensuring the establishment and maintenance of open communication channels within the school system and between the system and the public

• Developing the structure and working relationships essential to the discharge of community relations responsibilities by administrative staff members and others

• Working with key groups and influential individuals in the community on significant educational policies and problems

• Seeing that key groups and influential individuals are supplied with facts and information that will challenge them to act on behalf of education

• Taking leadership in providing the opportunities required for districtwide involvement of citizens in programs for educational improvement

• Putting board and staff members in contact with groups and individuals whom they are most likely to influence on behalf of better education and with whom a two-way system of communication may be developed

• Seeing that the evaluative aspects of the school–community relations program are carried out and that findings and their interpretations are submitted for review by the board of education

• Bringing together members of the administrative system and utilizing their experience, knowledge, perceptions, and skills in decision making with regard to various facets of the school–community relations program.

These performance patterns vary among superintendents depending largely on district size and outside pressures. In smaller districts that lack specialized personnel, a superintendent may assume almost total responsibility for technical aspects of the program. He or she may prepare news releases, pamphlets, parent newsletters, radio scripts, details of open-house events, and direction of bond and millage campaigns, among others. Though the acceptance of such responsibilities is commendable, usually the more important aspects of community relations are either overlooked or disregarded. These include the development of basic policy, goal definition, and balanced program execution. In larger districts, outside pressures sometimes build to a point where the superintendent delegates his or her principal administrative tasks to a deputy and devotes his or her time almost exclusively to the demands of the situation.

THE ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM

The superintendency has become complicated enough that those who hold the position depend on the services of specialists in meeting their leadership responsibilities. In fact, the superintendency may be viewed today as more of a team arrangement than a single position. However, there are no standard patterns concerning the composition of the team. It varies with the interests and special abilities of the superintendent, competencies of his or her staff, and community pressures on the school system.

In large school systems the team may consist of the superintendent, deputy superintendent, associate superintendents, and district superintendents, with heads of divisions and principals being invited to meetings from time to time. The larger administrative staff, including principals, may be organized into a number of smaller groups for discussion of problems and exchange of ideas on a scheduled basis. In other districts, the team may be made up of the superintendent; directors of instruction, student personnel services, business management, staff personnel, research, planning, and school–community relations; and a representative sampling of school principals.

The team performs two important functions. First, it provides a superintendent with information and ideas that enable him or her to keep the school and community program in proper perspective and to generalize about the larger aspects of it. Second, it brings the expertise of members to bear on the development of program details and operational procedures.

In addition to their role as perceptive generalists, superintendents may serve on the team as specialists in one or more administrative task areas. It is common to find superintendents wearing the cloak of building specialists, business specialists, community relations specialists, or instructional specialists. In some instances they retain the same specialties they had prior to becoming heads of their school systems. Occasionally, they are forced to assume a specialist’s role because of the system’s size or the lack of qualified personnel. However, as team members they usually pursue a specialty that is appropriate to their training and experience.

DIRECTOR OF SCHOOL–COMMUNITY RELATIONS

Directors of school–community relations are members of the administrative team in many school systems. They are members because of the strategic position they hold and the nature of their assignment. This will be evident in the discussion that follows regarding their status at present and the qualifications required for fulfilling their role successfully.

Title of Position

Directors of school–community relations have a variety of position titles. The titles used most frequently are director, specialist, coordinator, or manager of communications; director, specialist, officer, or coordinator of public information; director of community relations; and public relations director. In addition to these titles, there is a smattering of additional titles, such as publication specialist or coordinator, director of public affairs, director of community services, and marketing specialist.

These titles represent a shift in concept that has taken place over the years from such terms as public relations to community relations or community services, communications, and information.

Administrative Level

The position of director of school–community relations varies somewhat in terms of the administrative level at which it is placed. Only the largest school systems designate this officer as an assistant or associate superintendent with line authority. Usually the person holds a staff position and in many instances his or her title carries the word director, coordinator, officer, or specialist.1 As a staff member, the officer reports directly to the superintendent, though in some school districts he or she reports to some other administrator, such as an assistant superintendent, an associate superintendent, or a deputy superintendent.

With the public becoming more sensitive to educational costs and to what goes on in schools, it’s imperative that the public relations person be a member of the superintendent’s cabinet. He or she can help the district administrators understand how a decision will be perceived by the public. Likewise, if the public relations person is to explain, defend, or interpret school district policies properly to the public, he or she must be involved in their development from conception to birth. In addition, this person, with an understanding of citizen attitudes, must be part of the cabinet if the group is to understand thoroughly the feelings of the community.

Size of System

The question frequently arises as to how large a system should be in terms of student enrollment to justify the employment of a full-time director of school–community relations. A generally accepted rule of thumb is that a full-time director should be employed when student enrollment is in excess of 5,000. Some school districts with 3,000 students, however, have a full-time director of school–community relations. Size, however, is just one criterion. The nature of the community is another. A stable 7,000-student community may not need a full-time director, whereas a problem-ridden 3,000-student community may.

A number of school districts have expanded the office and have given the full-time director all the responsibilities that are directly or indirectly related to communications. Aside from the usual public and community relations duties, these responsibilities can include employee communications, community education, adult education, district printing and graphics, editing all publications from district schools, and supervision of telephone operators, among other responsibilities. To meet such responsibilities some offices of communications employ 20 to 30 people.

In districts that do not group all communications responsibilities in one office, the decision to hire a qualified person to head the school–community relations program is contingent on factors other than student enrollment. Some of these factors probably are the financial condition of the district, the nature of existing community relations problems, and the board members’ and superintendent’s conceptualization of program requirements.

Functions and Responsibilities

Directors of school–community relations have to perform six basic functions when trying to reach the objectives of the program. One or two more could be added, but their addition would depend on how the position is viewed by the board of education and the superintendent of schools. The term function describes something that is done to facilitate the realization of the objectives for which the program is designed. The functions of the director are research, advisement, planning, coordination, communication, and evaluation. They make up the structure or system within which the details of the program are selected and carried out. From this point of view, these functions are the constants of the program—they do not change. What makes one program different from another is not the functions but rather the activities or variables that come under them. For example, advising the school board and superintendent should be a permanent task of directors, but the nature and subjects of their advisement may differ markedly from one system to another. The same is true regarding evaluation of program results. Here the function remains constant, but the way it is implemented may range considerably in what is done and how carefully it is done.

There are several reasons why directors’ activities vary among school systems. In some districts the perception of their role by superiors is broad and balanced, and in others it is narrow and restrictive. Often district size influences the nature and scope of their activities. In small districts, for example, little or nothing may be done with the research function. Sometimes in larger school systems some of their activities will be handled by line personnel or even the superintendent. The amount of money available for community relations is a strong determinant of how directors spend their time and what they do. The nature of their work is likewise influenced by the kinds of problems facing the district and the image of the school system held by residents of the community.

Against the background of functions, several school systems throughout the United States have worked out statements describing the responsibilities of full-time directors of school–community relations. These statements represent not only the conceptualization of their role in a particular school system but also the nature and scope of the program they are expected to develop and put into practice. In one school district, for example, the director of communications’ major activities are as follows:

1. Interpret policy of the board of education and the program of the school district to the public.

2. Edit the district’s staff newsletter.

3. Plan and develop online content as well as internal and external publications.

4. Supervise and assist the supervisor of communications with news media relations and with public affairs programming on the district’s cable television channels.

5. Facilitate staff recognition programs.

6. Assist school personnel and board personnel in planning public participation events.

7. Provide school–community relations consulting service to board of education members, central office administrators, and school principals.

8. Help assess public attitudes and keep appropriate school personnel informed.

9. Serve as a source of information to individuals from the community regarding school matters.

10. Serve as a consultant in the preparation of informational materials prepared by school personnel.

11. Serve as assistant clerk of the board of education and assist with agenda preparation, as needed.

12. Provide effective leadership in implementing the school district’s commitment to full compliance with civil rights legislation, rules, and regulations.

A somewhat different type of statement was prepared for the supervisor of information for another school district. It describes the office’s major responsibilities as follows:

1. Counsels superintendent of schools, board of education, and others as needed, in matters relating to public relations.

2. Produces district newsletters, brochures, and Web materials (editor, writer, photographer).

a. Staff monthly newsletter on board of education actions

b. Staff quarterly newsletter

c. Monthly newsletter to all parents

d. Annual report to all residents and businesses in the community

e. Periodic brochures as needed, usually two or three each year

3. Prepares all district news releases and writes magazine articles.

4. Counsels school personnel on writing manuscripts and approves material written by school personnel if it mentions the district personnel, programs, methods, materials, or other related information associated with the school district.

5. Approves requests to use students and facilities for “production” purposes not covered under civic center requests, and acts as liaison between the school district and photographers, film and television companies, and other media.

6. Represents the school district as spokesperson to the media.

7. Attends all regular board of education meetings to assist media.

8. Answers general inquiries about the school district and is the contact person in other phases of community relations.

In systems that employ a part-time director of school–community relations, the position is given a range of titles. In many instances, this individual is a central office administrator who reports directly to the superintendent of schools.

The responsibilities assigned to the part-time director are associated mostly with the use of online and mass communication. They include handling the development of online content and information, collecting news and preparing news releases, writing community newsletters and staff newsletters as well as leaflets and brochures, developing video and audio material for community relations projects, producing speeches and reports, and performing editorial services for members of the central office staff. In addition, the part-time director may be responsible for handling citizen inquiries and complaints, a speakers’ bureau, and millage and bond campaigns. Some part-time directors prepare the superintendent’s annual report, establish contacts with civic groups, disseminate information on federal and state projects, and direct special-event undertakings, such as American Education Week activities or school open-house events.

Professional Qualifications

More and more school systems have established formal requirements for the position of director of school–community relations. One school district has as its requirements graduation from a four-year college with a specialization in English and participation in specialized workshops, seminars, and conferences pertaining to community education programs and school public relations. Course work in journalism and graphic arts is desirable but not required. Besides education, the director must have administrative ability, a broad knowledge of the school district and community, leadership skills to administer the community education program, an ability to establish effective relations with sources of information and public news media, an ability to compose interesting news and feature stories about school topics, an understanding of the role of public relations in the school setting, an ability to organize effective procedures for dealing with requests for facility use, and editorial skills. The position also includes responsibilities of board secretary and director of community education, with related required qualifications.

Perhaps the most complete statement of standards for educational public relations professionals is the following