School-Community Relations Handbook
By Barry Lucas and Loraine Thompson
SSTA Research Centre Report #66: $17.
|Understanding the Community||
This manual presents a variety of alternatives which can be used by a board or individual school to develop and enhance school-community relations.
|Using Communication Media|
|Involving Students in the Community|
|Involving the Community in the School|
Back to: School Improvement
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The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.
Every school should have three types of information about the community it serves.
Information about the composition of the community, such as the income, educational level and occupations of the majority of the residents is useful in formulating new programs or adapting existing ones to meet students' particular needs.
The school should know what community opinion is, regarding both broad educational issues and the day to day operation of the school itself.
The school should also have some familiarity with the educational resources available in the community in order that they can be utilized to enrich and enhance the school program.
Specific examples of these three types of information are listed below:
1. What is the income level of the people in the community?
2. How much education do people in the community have?
3. What are the occupations of people in the community'.
4. What languages do people in the community speak in their homes?
5. What ethnic traditions do people in the community have?
1. What are the opinions of the people of the community on broad educational issues; for example the back to the basics movement or the creation versus evolution controversy?
2. What are The opinions of the people of the community on local educational issues? Family life education, dress code or work-study programs are examples of issues which might be of local concern.
3. What do the people of the community think about the board of education with regard to its effectiveness in policy making? good judgment? faithfulness in attending meetings and devoting time to the job?
4. What do the people of the community think about the teaching staff with regard to its
a. instructional ability?
b. fairness to students?
d. participation in the life of the community?
5. What do the people of the community think about the administration of the school with regard to its administrative ability?
fairness to employees?
fairness to students?
participation in the life of the community?.
6. What do the people of the community think about the school buildings and equipment, their maintenance and use?
1. What opportunities are available in the community for field trips which permit students to see manufacturing processes, industrial developments, governmental processes, and similar activities?
2. What opportunities are available for cooperation with community organizations and institutions such as health service organizations, libraries and museums?
3. What opportunities are available to utilize the various communication media in the community?
Information about a community is gathered in dozens of informal ways. Reading the local newspaper, exchanging comments with other shoppers at the grocery store or simply walking down the street are all means of gathering information about the community.
The community survey is a formal systematic means of gathering information about an area.
Community surveys may be carried out by a school board or by an individual school. Those surveys done by boards often investigate major policy issues or study what the people of the community believe to be the major goals of education. Individual schools may study these large issues as well. More often, however, school surveys focus on specific problems such as smoking areas in schools or school policies concerning student absenteeism.
Identifying the Purpose of the Survey
A survey should never be done simply for the sake of doing a survey. It should be a response to a problem or to a need for information. The problem may be that the school has no idea of the position of the community regarding an issue such as the back to the basics movement, or it may be a need for information about the educational resources available within the community. The problem may be more critical, for example, widespread criticism of the school system, without the pinpointing of the specific issues.
Regardless of the nature of the problem, it should be well defined and the types of information required to solve the problem identified before the writing of the survey begins.
Identifying the People to be Surveyed
The population to be surveyed is dependent upon the type of information required. A questionnaire relating to general educational issues might be mailed to all individuals over the age of fourteen in a certain geographic area, while a questionnaire related to specific issues such as a dress code or smoking areas in school might be restricted to students and parents.
Writing the Survey
The most common type of survey used by schools is the questionnaire. The questionnaire is usually sent to people who complete it themselves and return it to the school. When writing the questions to appear on the survey the following points should be observed.
1. The questionnaire should not be so complex and long that it places a burden on the respondents.
2. The questions themselves should not be too long. Lengthy questions can be confusing for respondents.
3. Questions should be clearly stated and direct. Do not ask vague questions such as "What do you think of middle schools?" A better question is "Do you favor grouping children in grades 5 to 8 in one school"
4. Do not use overly complex language. The language used should be such that the least educated respondent will be able to understand the questions.
5. Questions should not require written responses. Written responses are difficult to tabulate and time consuming for the respondent. Answers should be either the "yes, no, no opinion type" or should offer a range of responses such as "excellent, good, fair, poor". It is particularly appropriate to provide a range of responses to questions about income or education, for example, "Our family income is in the following range a. 50 - $4,999 ; b. $5,000 - $9,999 ; c. $10,000 - $19,999 ; d. S20,000 or more
6. Questions should not be stated in a way that favors a particular response over other responses. The question, "It costs too much to support the schools in this district?" (Yes/No), is a loaded question because it presents a value position. Another way to load a question is to offer only one alternative. For example, "Some people say that the best way to increase the efficiency of our public school is to hold classes all-year round. What do you think?" This is a poor question because it offers only one alternative and requires a written answer.
Distribution and Return of Questionnaires
An announcement should be made at least once before the survey begins to alert those people who will be asked to participate. If the general population is surveyed the local news media should be utilized to make the announcement. If only students and/or parents are being surveyed, an announcement in the school newsletter is sufficient.
The questionnaires can be distributed by mail or if intended only for students and/or parents, handed out at school. Questionnaires may also be included in a school newsletter.
When questionnaires are sent to the public a self addressed postage paid envelope for return should be provided. Students might return the questionnaires to their homeroom teachers or to the principal's office.
Tabulating the Survey
Survey results can be tabulated either manually or with a computer. In either case the number of individuals responding to a particular answer should be counted. The results can then be expressed as a percentage.
Interpreting the Survey
No self completion questionnaire is entirely scientifically accurate. The number of people responding to a survey and the degree to which they are representative of the community as a whole is some indicator of the survey's usefulness.
The higher the percentage of response the more accurate the survey is. A survey to which 75% of those individuals sent questionnaires have responded, is more accurate than one with only 25% response. Similarly, lack of response from one element of the community studied, for example a particular ethnic or religious group or people living in a specific geographic area, lessens the accuracy of the survey.
A Sample Survey
The following survey was carried out by the Leader School Division Board of Trustees. It was part of a larger study in which the overall educational program of the school division, including student transportation facilities and policies, was examined.
Home visits by either teacher or principal are a time honored method of gaining information about students, their families and community. The traditional justification for such visits is still valid; a knowledge of the home and community background will help the teacher understand the student better. Participation in school affairs can broaden and deepen parents' knowledge and appreciation of what the school is attempting to do for their children.
In some situations a home visit by the principal is particularly appropriate. There are many types of difficulties ranging from teacher-student hostility to family discord to student-contemplated disorders which may cause a parent to believe that a visit to the school is unadvisable. Under such circumstances, the principal can make it known that he is available for house calls.
Five guidelines for successful home visits are listed below:
1. Phone or write before visiting to be sure that you are welcome at a time convenient for the parent.
2. Conversation should be casual and not pointed or embarrassing. If you are to learn anything of value, it will have to come indirectly through observation rather than an inquisition.
3. If possible, both parents Should be present. Often, the source of difficulty lies in the relation of parents to each other.
4. Depending upon the kind of home visited, you should dress appropriately. If a low income family, care should be taken not to overdress, and if a high income family, not to look dowdy.
5. Respect the prevailing cultural practices of the family. Don't forget that the teacher is on public display during the visit, and can either reinforce or change the parents' image of the school and its staff.
Purpose and Method
In order to determine what the community believes the overall goals of education to be a school board carries out a survey of members of the community.
Birney Goals Studies: Investigations into the goals of education have been done by Dr. Howard Birnie in the Noose Jaw and Turtleford School Divisions.
Hughes Report: The Saskatoon Public Board of Education studied the goals of education in that city and published the findings in the Hughes Report.
As well as providing information necessary to the effective operation of a school board, a goals study of ten serves to raise public awareness and interest in the educational system.
Purpose and Method
As part of their class work, students are assigned to do interviews or surveys with their parents or other members of their community on various issues relating to education.
Parents' Reactions: As part of a unit on interviewing, junior high English students are assigned to write in narrative form both the favorable and unfavorable reactions of their parents to various practices at school with as many specific examples as possible.
New Directions: Junior high students are assigned to itemize suggestions by their parents regarding hew areas in which the school should move.
Students' opinions: In an area where there behavior problems both in and out of school, students are asked to write reports on the topic "What could be done in our neighborhood to better meet the needs of students"
As well as providing useful information about the community, these activities provide students with an opportunity to develop their writing and interviewing skills.
Purpose and Method
In order to obtain information about students, their families and communities, appropriate school staff members visit students' homes.
Principal's Visit: When parents are reluctant or unable to visit the school, the principal visits the parents at their home to discuss behavior or learning problems.
New Students: Whenever word is received that a new family with school age children has moved into the area, a teacher visits the family and welcomes them to the area. Printed information about the school is provided to the family and they are invited to various school functions.
Kindergarten Students: In order to make students feel welcome during their first year of school a kindergarten teacher visits the home of every student.
Teachers and principals must be willing to give up some of their free time for such visits.
Home visits might be more awkward for older students.
Home visits can be time consuming and expensive in rural areas.
High school teachers can't visit the homes of all their Students.
Purpose and Method
At predetermined times, parents and members of the school staff meet over coffee. At these meetings parents are encouraged to give their opinions regarding specific educational issues. The coffee parties also provide an opportunity to promote better communication and good will between school and community.
Parents of New Students: Parents of all students entering grade seven are invited to a coffee party by the school principal. The principal and teachers explain the seventh grade program and ask parents for their opinions on various educational issues.
The Coffee Club: Coffee party meetings are scheduled at the principal's request. Invitations are sent home with students and followed up by the "telephone tree" method. Staff members as well as students are invited. No formal agenda is established, the atmosphere is relaxed and social.
Evenings may be the best time for coffee parties.
Purpose and Method
At specific times, a special school telephone is manned for the purpose of providing an open communication line to the school. The telephone number is publicized, and parents are urged to discuss their problems or to ask their questions regarding school actions and procedures. Times may be chosen which provide opportunities for parents to contact the school after regular working hours.
Principal's Hotline: The principal sets aside one hour one night a week to receive calls from parents in his/her home. The time and day are publicized by sending notes to all parents.
Staff Hotline: In this case, members of the school staff, including the principal, take turns in manning the "hotline" at a specified time every evening of the school
A hotline might be scheduled during the day as well as after working hours.
Since it may not be possible to respond immediately to some concerns expressed by callers, arrangements need to be made for calling back when the information is available.
A log should be kept of calls to keep up with parental concerns.
If many people ask about a particular issue an article can be written on that topic for the school newsletter.
Table of Contents
A school board of individual school has a number of different types of communication media available to it. These include the mimeographed note to parents or the school newsletter as well as the public media such as radio, television and the newspaper. Appropriate choice and utilization of communication media can greatly enhance a school community relations program. General principles governing the selection and use of communication media are listed below.
l. Identify and list all available media. Boards or schools located in large cities will have access to a greater range of media than will those in rural areas.
2. Develop long-range plans for the utilization of the most promising media.
3. Choose the medium or media best adapted to the time, the message, and the coverage desired.
4. As far as possible, develop a balanced usage of available media.
5. Establish and maintain a fair policy for news release through the various media available.
6. If possible, make use of all available media over a period of time.
7. Other factors being equal, select the media which requires the least preparation time.
8. Prepare the information to suit the medium to be used. For example, newspapers require printed news releases and photographs, while a radio station may require a voice clip.
9 Respect the requirements of public media regarding form, space, accuracy and deadlines.
10. Give public recognition to media and individuals who have made special contributions or rendered outstanding service to school-community communication.
11. Conduct periodic evaluations of the adequacy, appropriateness, and effectiveness of the media used.
When preparing written material, be it a school newsletter or a news release it is important that the language used be appropriate for the audience. The average person reads at the grade nine level. Most readers feel most comfortable reading one or two levels below their maximum. The following guidelines are provided for the preparation of clear simple written materials.
l. Avoid jargon. Terms such as "distributive education", "articulation", "education for cultural pluralism", "interpretive competence" mean nothing to the average person.
2. Use familiar words. Your main purpose is to communicate not to impress others. Use "try" not "endeavor", "total" not "aggregate", "end" not "terminate", "best" not "optimum".
3. Use concrete terms. Don't write has exceeded the planned maximum school". Instead say "There are attending a high school built to "total pupil enrollment capacity of our high presently 2000 students hold a maximum of 1600".
4. Use simple sentence structure. Keep sentences short and place the verb early in the sentence.
5. When in doubt apply a readability formula to the text you have written. The "Gunning Fog Index" is a simple means of estimating the grade level of reading material.
(1) Take a 100 word sample, and find the average number of words per sentence.
(2) Count the number of words in the 100 word sample containing three syllables or more. (Do not count proper nouns or three syllable verb forms ending in ed or es.)
(3) Add the average number of words per sentence to the number of words containing three or more syllables and multiply the sum by 0.4.
For example: A 100 word passage contains an average of 20 words per sentence and 10 words of three or more syllables. The sum of these two factors is 30 (20 plus 10). Multiplying 30 by 0.4 gives a Fog Index of 12. The material is written at a grade 12 level.
The school newsletter can be a major means of communicating with the public. The following guidelines will aid in production of an effective newsletter.
Identify the objectives of the newsletter. Newsletters may be produced to gain support for a school's programs, to inform parents of upcoming events, and to inform the public of school policy. The content of the newsletter will be determined by its purpose.
Determine who the newsletter is intended to reach. Is it intended for parents only or for the general public?
The content of the newsletter will be determined by its purpose and its audience as well as by the information and news available for publication.
The newsletter may contain any of the following types of information:
1. News about the curriculum. Parents are interested in what's being taught, why it's being taught and how it's being taught. This may include evaluation of curricula and descriptions of successes and failures in the instructional program.
2. News of policies and plans being considered or enacted by the school.
3. News about people. Which students won awards at the track meet? Which teachers are new to the school? Which classes participated in the music festival?
4. News of upcoming events.
5. News of what's happening in education outside of the school. Information an school board policies may be included along with information about major issues in education.
Newsletters may include articles or news stories by students or teachers as well as by the principal or vice-principal.
Clear simple language and a minimum of big words should be used. The writing style should convey respect for the reader. It should be neither "cute" nor "cold".
Important information or information about an ongoing program may be included in more than one issue of the newsletter.
1. Try to produce the newsletter regularly. Brief frequent newsletters are appreciated more by readers than are lengthy infrequent ones.
2. Try to make the newsletter well organized and easy to read, thereby creating the image of a well-organized school.
3. Decide widths of margins and columns for a page and observe them.
4. Use easily readable type, without too much bold type throughout. (A publication is not a billboard.)
5. Certain features which appear in each issue, such as letters to the editor or the calendar of events, should have a well designed headline used each time. It also helps to have these regular items appear in the same place each time.
6. Stay away from tricky layouts and fancy borders. "Arty" pages, unless done by a skilled designer, detract from the printed word.
7. Do not use illustrations unless they are good and unless they contribute to the article.
8. Don't use letters one under the other to spell out anything. This looks untidy and is hard to read.
9. Use a single line or groups of words on each line for multiword titles. Putting each word on a separate line or indenting each word under the other to create a staggered effect from left to right makes your title hard to read.
10. Don't print copy over a sketch or photograph. Unless a special photographic process is used on the illustration the text becomes difficult to read.
11. Proof read the newsletter carefully. Typing or spelling mistakes look careless.
School newsletters are usually sent home with students. If the budget allows, newsletters could also be mailed to homes of both parents and non-parents. Mail delivery ensures that the newsletter will not be lost by students and calls attention to the high value that the school places on the material reaching the homes.
A variety of other methods may be used for distribution of school newsletters as well. Copies may be left for reading in doctors' and dentists' offices. A quantity may be placed in local drugstores and confectionaries where they will be picked up by customers. Students can deliver newsletters door to door, either putting them in mailboxes or handing them personally to householders.
A number of techniques can be used to evaluate the newsletter, including an informal face to face or telephone survey of readers, a simple questionnaire or an advisory committee.
A news release is a formal written announcement of an event or program. It is prepared by a school board of individual school and distributed to appropriate news media. The news release may be used as it is, or it may interest a reporter or editor who will contact school officials for additional information.
News releases should be written with an objective attitude. A school event may be "successful" or "entertaining" but these words reflect personal opinion and should not be used. You can, however, have someone else use these terms in a direct quotation. 13o not say "The science fair was entertaining and informative", say "Science fair patron, Mayor Larry Schneider, described the fair as entertaining and informative".
Use short words and short, simple sentences instead of long ones. Use short paragraphs. Try to keep the release as short as possible, preferably a single page. A concise release has a better chance of being used than a lengthy one.
The mechanics of preparing a release are as follows:
1. The story should be typewritten--double spaced. (This allows copyreaders to write in any necessary corrections.)
2. Use only one side of a standard 8-1/2" x 11" sheet.
3. In the upper left corner, show the date when the story is released for publication. For instance:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(or) FOR RELEASE: MONDAY, MARCH 17
4. Indicate the source of information in the upper right corner. Show:
Name of School,
Name and title of person to be called for further information
5. Start the release one-quarter of the way down the page, leaving three or four inches of space at the top.
6. If a second page is necessary, type "MORE" at the bottom of the first page.
7. Start the second (or succeeding) page with the page number and an identifying phrase, such as "Back-to-School-Night" in the upper left corner.
8. Indicate the end of the release by typing "-30-" or "0"
The "lead" or the first paragraph of the release should give the most important facts - the five W's (who, what, why, when, where). The body, or remainder of the story, contains further details. Make the first paragraphs complete with essential facts, so that the news item can be shortened without losing important information.
Include the complete and correct names of all persons the story. If a committee is listed, be sure the is given and all members listed. When a person is mentioned for the first time, give his full name, or two last name, according to the person's customary Smith, J. R. Smith, Dr. John R. Smith, Mrs. Alice
Thereafter, unless a person has a title, such as "Dr.", the last name is used along--with "Mr.," "Miss," "Mrs.," or "Ns."
Check all names for correct spelling. A simple name like "Smith" can be spelled different ways.
Identify staff members by title or grade taught. Identify students by grade or age, but do not provide a home address unless you have received approval of persons concerned.
Make sure your news item is complete, so that the reader is not left with an unanswered question about time, place or participants.
Before sending the release, check for accuracy in grammar, spelling and typing.
It's a .good practice to keep a file copy. Also, you may want to keep a scrapbook of clippings for the school historical record, or put clippings on the bulletin board.
In addition to using news releases in regular news broadcasts, radio and television stations Sometimes provide free air time to schools and community organizations. When free time is not available, school boards or individual schools can purchase air time. The station program manager or public relations consultant will provide some assistance. However, responsibility falls on the school to prepare a short effective message. because of their unique natures, radio and television do have some special requirements. Some of these requirements are outlined below.
Time all spot announcements to run 10 seconds (25 words), 20 seconds (50 words), or 60 seconds (150 wards).
Use simple, descriptive words that form pictures and give dimension and color. Radio reaches only the ear, words must be selected so that the listener forms a mental picture of your message.
A statement or comment from a key person can enhance your message. Arrange a recording session with the radio station if necessary.
Check with the program or news director about slides, films and photographs which can be used to "demonstrate" your message.
Make sure copy written to accompany such visual aids "fits" with the slide, film or photo shown.
Time your copy at a slightly slower pace than for radio. Standard announcements for television run 10 seconds (about 20 words), 20 seconds (40 words), and 60 seconds (125 words) .
Provide one slide or photograph for each 10 second spot, two for a 20 second spot, and so forth.
Keep in mind that slides are preferable in mast cases to photographs. They can be made professionally at minimum cost. When photographs are used, matte or dull-surfaced prints are preferable since glossy prints reflect studio lights.
Request return of your visual material if you want to preserve it. Otherwise, it may be thrown away.
Going On The Air
The station will want you to sound and look your best. Whether your appearance is live or recorded, you will be given helpful suggestions, and your cooperation will be appreciated.
For radio, you will receive instructions as to the proper distance to speak from the microphone; how to handle your copy or script with the least possible noise, and ways to avoid extraneous noise.
For television, personal appearance will be of vital importance to the success of your presentation.
1. Wear suits or dresses of Soft, medium colors or pastels. Avoid shaply contrasting patterns and colors.
2. Keep jewelry simple and uncluttered. Pearls and dull-finished metal reflect less light than sparking and highly polished jewelry.
3. Men may require a little powder on a bald head or the skin if it is exceptionally oily. Pancake makeup is advisable for a heavy beard or to mask shadows around the eyes.
4. Women should avoid heavy makeup and overuse of lipstick.
5. Don't worry about glasses. If your eyes are used to glasses, they will react unnaturally if you try to appear without them. The studio crew will arrange lighting to avoid any glare.
6. Co-operate with the director and floor managers during your appearance. They may find it necessary to give you hand signals during the show to guide the speed of your presentation.
Purpose and Method
A recorded two minute message about what's happening in the school is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Recorded Questions: At the end of the recorded message the caller has a chance to make comments or ask questions. These are recorded and played back by the school staff the next day.
Alternate Messages: Messages about different aspects of the school operation are recorded by several staff members and alternated on the phone line.
Upcoming Events: The recorded message consists of a listing of upcoming school events, such as track meets, parent-teacher conferences and school concerts.
Emergency Situations: In the event of an emergency situation such as school closure due to bad weather, teachers' strike, etc., the dial-a-message is used to provide information on the situation to the public.
Dial-a-message may free a secretary from answering routine questions about upcoming events, school policies or emergency situations.
Purpose and Method
The local newspaper is utilized to provide a variety of types of information to the public.
Newsletter: Instead of publishing a school newsletter, a full page ad is purchased in the local newspaper to provide information about the school and its programs.
Fillers: A school provides the local newspaper with interesting bits of information about the school, its staff and students for use as fillers. For example:
-- In the last 10 years, under Coach Jasper, the high school football team has a record of 73 victories and 7 defeats, the best record in the province.
-- In one week, between October 1 and October 8, the students in Central High School wrote 484 poems as part of their English instruction.
Pictures: On a regular basis, a local newspaper provides a specified space for a picture about school activities. The school has a responsibility to provide an adequate supply of pictures and accurate information about the pictures.
Information appearing in a newspaper reaches all members of the public including those with no children.
Purpose and Method
The school board publishes a regular newsletter which includes selected items from school newsletters, information from community and parent groups and highlights from board meetings.
Carleton Board of Education: The approach has been tried by the
Carleton Board of Education, Ottawa, Ontario.
A board newsletter provides two way contact with all members of the community.
Purpose and Method
Fact sheets about the school, its programs and services are produced for distribution.
General Fact Sheet: A general fact sheet is produced describing the school or board of education. Included is information such as names of officials, programs offered, location of facilities and information about budget. The fact sheet is useful for distribution in a variety of situations.
Kindergarten Students: A fact sheet is produced especially for parents of children entering kindergarten. As well as describing the school kindergarten program, the fact sheet includes suggestions about how parents might help their children by reading to them or taking them to museums and concerts.
Board Operation: A fact sheet is produced which describes the purpose of the school board, how it operates, how members are elected, its responsibilities, etc,
Parent's Fact Sheet: At the beginning of each school year, a fact sheet is sent to all parents outlining school rules and regulations, insurance program, lunch policy, bus routes, and hints on how parents can help their children study successfully at home.
Fact sheets can be written and distributed to a very specific audience.
Purpose and Method
A board of education or individual school makes its annual report a report of the year's activities and achievements as well as a financial statement.
Yearbook: An annual report and yearbook is combined giving a record of both student activities and administrative highlights of the past year.
Questionnaire: A community survey questionnaire is included in the annual report.
Preparation of an activity oriented annual report requires co-operation between principal, teachers and students and thus encourages communication between these three elements.
Purpose and Method
A school produces a variety of publications to inform its staff and students.
Employee Manual: A handbook is distributed to all employees. It contains information about school policy, rules and regulations, and an outline of employee benefits.
Mew Employee Bulletin: The New Employee Bulletin is mailed to all new employees as soon as they are hired. It welcomes them to the school, includes maps of the school and surrounding area and outlines their general responsibilities.
Handbook for Substitutes: This booklet informs substitute teachers of the required procedures for a successful teaching day. It contains a list of rules and regulations, a school map and suggestions for coping with problems that substitutes frequently face.
Telephone Communications Bulletin: This booklet is intended for secretaries and others who deal with the public on the phone. It stresses telephone etiquette and procedures.
Parent-Teacher Conference Booklet: This publication outlines in detail procedures for conducting a successful parent-teacher conference.
Resource Centre Brochure: This brochure informs teachers and students about the Resource Centre, its facilities and services.
Field Trip Booklet: The field trip booklet gives teachers and helping parents tips and procedures to be followed when taking students on field trips.
Board Briefs: A one of two page mimeographed summary of board actions. This summary is distributed to all employees within a couple of days after a board meeting.
Pay Envelope Stuffer: A one page information sheet is placed in employees' pay envelopes. It can describe school policies and procedures or provide information on current educational issues.
Curriculum Idea Exchange Bulletin: This mimeographed report outlines teaching practices which have been used successfully by other teachers. The exchange could be a co-operative effort among several schools or school districts.
Student Handbook: This student handbook informs students of general rules and regulations, safety rules, bus rules, sports schedules, class times, clubs and their rights and responsibilities.
Be sure that there is a definite need before a new publication is initiated.
Evaluate the usefulness of a publication after six or eight months.
Purpose and Method
Parents of outstanding students are informed of their child's achievement. Students may be outstanding because of their kindness to other students, their attendance record or their academic, artistic or athletic achievement.
Letters of Praise: Letters are written to parents of outstanding students informing them of their child's achievement.
Phone Calls: Teaches phone the parents of outstanding students.
Parents are initially shocked or surprised to get a call or letter from the school that isn't bad news.
Purpose and Method
Nembers of the press are invited to meet members of the school board. Such meetings are most effective following the installation of a new school board.
News Conference: A formal news conference is scheduled in which a prepared statement is delivered, followed by questions from reporters.
Meet the Board Night: An informal social evening is scheduled. Representatives of the news media are invited to meet and chat with board members.
Schedule the news conference or meet the board night well in advance. Reporters are busy people.
Table of Contents
School work experience programs allow students to spend a portion of their day, week or semester as part of the labor force of their community. The employer receives the student's labor while the student learns the Skills, behaviors and attitudes necessary for successful employment.
By its very nature, a work experience program is highly visible to the public. Its administration becomes part of the school public relations program. A well organized program reflects favorably upon the school offering it, while a poorly administered program gives a poor impression of the school. Similarly, the students within the program reflect both upon the school and the program. The following steps are necessary in planning a work experience program:
1. Meet with the board of education to determine general program philosophy and policy.
2. Meet with the school administrators to formulate specific program philosophy and policy.
3. Contact the Chamber of Commerce, requesting an opportunity to speak to the Chamber or put on a program for civic clubs in the community.
4. Contact labor groups in the community.
5. Contact all members of the business community at their places of business to explain the program and determine if there is a work experience training opportunity.
6. Call a meeting of interested students. Get applications from students for the program.
7. Visit parents of interested students.
8. Arrange for conferences of student applicants and the work experience co-ordinator to determine student's future vocational goals, school records and schedule flexibilities.
9. Arrange for prospective employers to interview students.
10. Arrange for students to obtain work permits, social insurance numbers and transportation if necessary.
11. Develop, with the employers, on-the-job training plans.
12. Arrange for appropriate school insurance.
13. Develop an agreement form to be signed by employers or their agents, trainees, parents or school officials. Each signer should have a copy of the agreement.
14. Develop classroom instructional materials and report forms.
15. Schedule co-ordination visits.
16. Explain the program to the school faculty when opportunities arise.
17. Organize an advisory committee.
18. Develop publicity programs.
Purpose and Method
The students and teachers of a school are its best good will ambassadors. Activities designed to improve relationships within a school will in the long run have a positive effect on school-community relations.
Principal-Student Dialogue: The principal sets aside one hour a week to answer student questions and respond to student concerns. From time to time the principal eats lunch with students in the school cafeteria, sitting at a different table each time.
Class Visits: During the first week of school the principal visits each classroom, discusses plans for the year, and explains some of the school traditions.
Student Advisory Committee: A committee of elected student representatives is formed to advise the principal and school staff on issues such as how playground space should be allocated, noon hour use of the gymnasium and rules regarding behavior in the school library.
Students must feel that their recommendations are acted upon and their concerns heard if programs such as those outlined above are to be successful.
Purpose and Method
Students use skills acquired at school to entertain and serve members of the community.
Senior Citizens' Concert: High school students enrolled in music and drama classes visit a senior citizens home and provide a concert of "old favorites" and short skits.
Community Art Exhibit: Art students display their work at a neighborhood shopping centre.
Hallowe'en Party: Art students and drama students with an interest in costume design visit the children's ward at the local hospital and help the patients create Hallowe'en costumes.
Child Care: A home economics class provides a child care service for parents attending parent-teacher interviews. While parents are meeting with teachers, the students entertain their preschool children.
Puppet Show: Drama and music students create a puppet show. They put on their puppet show at day care centres and the children's ward of the local hospital.
Storytime: Students with an interest in literature tell stories to preschool children at the local public library.
Reading to Senior Citizens: Students from English and language arts classes read to elderly people with failing eyesight.
Nature Trail: Science students plant trees and shrubs along a pathway to form a nature trail. The trail is used by members of the community. Small signs identifying the trees are erected and a guide describing the various plants is written.
Students should be sure that any work seen by the community is as polished and professional as they can possibly make it.
Purpose and Method
A variety of class projects require students to use the resources of the community, but may return benefits to the community as well.
Community History: Students use printed materials, civic records and interviews with senior citizens to write an history of their community. The completed histories are mimeographed and sold to members of the community.
Oral History: In order to build an oral history collection in their school library, students tape record interviews with "old timers" from their communities.
Senior Citizens' Home Repairs: In order to gain experience vocational education students make repairs to the homes of senior citizens.
Community Planning: After surveying the households in their community, mapping the area and studying principles of community planning, students redesign their community considering factors such as housing density, green space and traffic flow.
Student Research Projects: High school students studying research techniques investigate topics of interest to their communities, for example:
One class ranks in order the 10 most popular television programs.
Another class explored, with the help of its school dentist, the results of fluoride treatment. The school determines to keep yearly records to see if the effects remain consistent.
Articles outlining the results of student research are included in the school newsletter.
Biographies: Instead of a term paper, students are assigned to write an in-depth biography of a resident of their community. Completed biographies are mimeographed in book form.
Homework Assignments: Homework assignments are oriented toward the students' home and community, for example, students are asked to
Bring to art class a pencil sketch of their father.
List 100 nouns--things which can be found in their individual homes--and on the next evening place beside each noun a descriptive adjective.
Find the outside area of their homes, or the square area of their property, or living room.
By doing community based class projects, students learn a great deal about their community as well as developing a number of skills in the content areas.
Purpose and Method
Using community resources for field trips helps strengthen ties between the school and the community and builds good public relations.
Educational Field Trips: Field trips do not have to be routine and restricted to places such as museums and libraries. Small businesses, factories, dance and theater companies are also potential sites for field trips.
Career Oriented Field Trips: Students with an interest in a particular career area spend a day at an appropriate business, factory or office. Students are able to observe and ask questions.
A community survey can be used to determine the resources which might be utilized for field trips.
Students can take field trips in small groups as well as in a class group.
Purpose and Method
Student and community clubs serve as a link between the community and the school.
Community Resource People: Community members with special skills act as resource people to student clubs. Their involvement can be either long or short term, for example
The editor of the local newspaper attends a meeting of the journalism club and explains the concept of "editorial freedom".
A local actor serves as advisor to the school drama club for two months while a musical comedy is being prepared and presented.
Use of Community Facilities: Student clubs with special needs use community facilities on either a short or long term basis, for example
A student club meets regularly at the community recreation centre.
Members of the school radio club are responsible for one hour of programming per week on a local radio station.
Adult Clubs and Associations: Students with special interests or abilities are encouraged to join adult clubs in their community. This activity is particularly appropriate when adult clubs meet at the school. For example
A student with a keen interest in plants joins the local horticultural society.
Advisors to student clubs should ensure that projects undertaken by club members are manageable in size.
Purpose and Method
Student groups occasionally wish to raise money for trips, special equipment, etc. While raising money students provide a service to the community.
Flyer Delivery: A classroom of grade seven students is paid by a local community association to deliver newsletters door to door. The money raised is used to finance a picnic at the end of the school term.
Car Wash: High school students set up a car wash to earn money for special projects.
Plant Sale: Students raise houseplants from seed and sell small potted plants at a flea market. Not only do students raise money they learn about horticulture and marketing of merchandise.
Goods and services provided by students should be reasonably and competitively priced.
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The parent-teacher conference is a major means of communication between parents and the school. As well as Providing information to parents about their child's progress, the conference allows parents to ask questions about general school policies, programs and events. It is also an opportunity to build good will for the school. Observance of the following guidelines will contribute to a successful parent-teacher conference.
Inviting Parents to the Conference
l. Make written invitations sound inviting and warm.
2. Try telephoning parents who consistently fail to attend conferences.
3. Have elementary school students write notes of invitation to their parents.
Preparing for the Conference
1. Be informed about school purposes, methods and program.
2. File representative samples of the pupil's work over a period of time. Children can participate in choosing samples of their work.
3. Review your record of significant observations of the child's attitudes and actions.
4. Review data in the pupil's cumulative folder.
5. Evaluate recent test data in light of the pupil's performance. (Compare with daily work.)
6. Try to have a conference with the pupil before the parent conference.
Conducting the Conference
1. Let the parent know what you would like to accomplish during the conference.
2. Establish a friendly atmosphere. Remember you are a host or hostess just as though you were in your own home. The parent may be uneasy and fearful about the conference.
3. Have an informal setting. Sit on the same side of a table with the parents, rather than at your desk.
4. Remember that you are dealing primarily with one individual child, not comparing him with other members of his or her class.
5. Be positive. Begin and end by listing favorable points.
Stress the child's strengths.
6. Help parents to achieve a better understanding of their child as an individual. Don't attempt to interpret the curriculum in a short conference. This is more appropriate for a group conference.
7. Be sure to have at hand samples of the child's work--the whole range, not just those you consider adequate or inadequate.
8. Base your judgments on all available facts and on actual situations. Preparation should be made to discuss any standardized group tests that are available.
9. Keep vocabulary simple.
10. Accept the parent's reason for a child's behavior without showing signs of disapproval or surprise. If necessary, lead the discussion into additional possible causes of action or attitude.
11. Be truthful, yet tactful. The parent should be aware of the child's weaknesses, but nothing is gained by an unkind remark or by putting parents on the defensive.
12. Remember that parents are subjective and emotional about their children. Put yourself in the place of the parent and try to see what effect a given remark would have on you.
13. Don't use expressions that imply placing of blame for unacceptable performance.
14. Remain poised. Avoid defensive arguments. Talk calmly.
15. Select for emphasis from among the child's weaknesses only those the child and parent are ready to deal with constructively.
16. Be constructive in suggestions. Don't "load" parents with suggestions. A few are more effective than many.
17. Don't take more notes than are necessary. Take some time at the end of the conference, if necessary, to write notes.
18. Help parents to find their own solutions to problems. Agree upon action needed. Go only as far as the parent is ready to accept. We are all afraid of ideas we do not understand.
19. Encourage the parent to talk. Be a good listener. You are interested in the information the parent brings to you about this child.
20. Don't diagnose health conditions or suggest treatment. Keep discussions to such aspects as fatigue, restlessness, irritability.
21. Don't attempt to deal with serious psychological problems of children. Refer such problems to the principal or school guidance counselor.
22. At the close of the conference summarize points covered and suggestions agreed upon.
23. Set a time limit. If another parent is waiting, tactfully conclude the conference; suggest further discussions at another time.
24. End on a note of continuing cooperation. Cordially invite parents to visit the school again.
Many schools hold an open house once or twice a year. The open house is a traditional means involving parents in the life of the school and of displaying school activities. Because these occasions may be the only time some parents visit the school, the public relations impact of the open house should be carefully considered. First and sometimes lasting impressions are formed at these events, therefore the school staff should plan carefully for them.
Promoting the Open House
Parents must be informed of the open house. Any combination of the following methods may be used depending upon the specific community:
1. Three separate news releases can be prepared for distribution to local media. About two weeks before the event, a short release can be sent giving the basic facts. Include the time, date and what will the place. About a week before the event, prepare another release including quotes from administrators encouraging people to attend. The day before, run a photo of students and teachers preparing bulletin boards or displays, showing the school getting ready for the parents' visit. Provide the media with facts after the event. For instance, give the number who attended any special programs that were offered. Do this in time for the next day's papers or news broadcasts.
2. Student-made posters can be placed in local stores and offices.
3. Local radio and television stations will announce the event on their community calendar. Some newspapers have an upcoming events section.
4. Letters and notes can be sent home with students or mailed to students' homes.
5. Announcements can be placed in church or community association newsletters.
The Open House
1. Have student or employees guide people to the proper parking areas.
2. Have the entrance(s) clearly marked and lighted.
3. Designate a coat-hanging area in a place well inside the building so lines don't back up all the way outside.
4. Have reading materials or a display of students' work in halls and in the areas where early arrivals will he waiting.
5. Make sure the custodial staff does a thorough job of preparing for the visit. Have a larger-than-usual staff on hand that afternoon and evening to care for any emergency.
6. Have student guides clearly identified in key locations of the building. They can help parents find their way.
7. Place easy-to-read directional signs throughout the building.
8. Make sure the microphone works. Have a spare ready if needed.
9. Establish ways for parents to make suggestions for improving the school. Place tape recorders and suggestion boxes in prominent place. Distribute forms that ask parents to evaluate the open house. Information gained will enable you to improve it each time.
10. Check to see that bulletin boards are up to date. Don't allow dated notices to appear.
11. Designate a central location where visitors may gather. Serve coffee, have chairs arranged informally. Administrative staff and any teachers who are not in their classrooms stay in this central area.
One important way of involving members of the community in the operation of a school is through a volunteer program. While most of the volunteers are likely to be parents, such a program needn't be restricted to parents.
Before initiating a volunteer program define what jobs the volunteers will do and who they will be responsible to (teacher, principal, school secretary). A volunteer doing typing and duplicating of school correspondence would likely be responsible to the school secretary while one doing tutoring or checking homework would be responsible to a teacher. The volunteers' role in relation to students, and their degree of authority over students should also be defined. This may also vary from job to job. The volunteer who does only typing may have little contact with students while one who does tutoring will necessarily be somewhat of an authority figure.
Only those teachers who are enthusiastic about the use of volunteers should be asked to participate in the program. As the program develops more and more teachers will wish to participate.
Once the duties and responsibilities of volunteers have been defined, recruitment can begin. A variety of ways can be used to recruit volunteers. Letters may be sent home with students, announcements can appear in the school newsletter, appeals may be made on radio or television or the services of the local volunteer bureau may be utilized. Recruitment can also be carried out at the school open house or at parent/teacher interviews.
In small communities a principal of teacher may already be acquainted with several people who have expressed interest in participating in a volunteer program. Requests for volunteers should be specific, the types of jobs available and the time commitment necessary should be detailed.
After a prospective volunteer has been identified, an interview with the principal or vice-principal should be scheduled to explain the program and to determine which job is most appropriate for the volunteer's interest and talents. At this point also, the need for reliability on the part of the volunteer is stressed. A volunteer who seems completely unsuitable should not be accepted into the program. It is much easier to reject a volunteer initially than to have to "fire" one during the course of the program. It may be desirable to schedule a second interview between the volunteer and the teacher with whom they will be working before the volunteer is accepted into the program.
The contributions made by volunteers should be recognized. Mention at Home and School meetings, articles in the school newsletter or local newspaper, mention in the annual report or an annual social event especially for volunteers are all ways of honoring volunteers.
The following list suggests a number of activities which might be carried out by volunteers:
1. Typing and duplicating newsletters, tests and instructional materials.
2. Inventorying and requisitioning school supplies.
3. Writing for free materials.
4. Averaging students' marks.
5. Entering marks on report cards.
Classroom Maintenance and Administration
1. Distributing, collecting, washing, and storing equipment.
2. Assisting with art class by mixing paints, helping with art aprons and drop clothes.
3. Keep bulletin boards neat and up to date.
4. Writing assignments on the blackboard.
5. Tidying the classroom.
Library and Audio Visual
1. Typing and filing library cards.
2. Attaching book jackets, pockets and date due cards to library books.
3. Organizing picture and slide files.
4. Checking library books in and out.
5. Checking and rewinding returned films.
6. Reproducing audio tapes.
7. Preparing overhead projectors.
8. Shelving library materials.
1. Checking homework.
2. Preparing instructional materials - flash cards for math and reading, etc.
3. Listening to students read orally.
4. Instructing students in use of tools and equipment.
5. Dictating spelling, number work drill, etc.
6. Drilling individuals or groups with math or reading flash cards, tell stories to groups or class.
7. Demonstrating specific skills, such as weaving, carpentry, leather tooling, etc.
8. Telling stories to groups or classes.
9. Tutoring individual students.
10. Acting as resource people to student clubs.
The following guidelines are provided for boards of education wishing to encourage members of the public to attend board meetings.
1. Publicize the meeting. Send notices of meeting and copies of the agenda to the local media. Put an announcement in school or board newsletters. Send announcements to the community events section of the newspaper and the radio and television community calendar.
2. Have a written statement of policy and procedures for groups or individuals who wish to appear before the board as a delegation. A copy of the Carleton Board of Education's (Ottawa, Ontario) Policy is attached.
3. Distribute a copy of the agenda to all present at the board meeting.
4. Observe common courtesies toward everyone attending. Have enough chairs available, and ashtrays if smoking is permitted. If a large crowd is expected have microphones available for use.
5. Explain to the public any action or discussion by the board that may need clarification.
6. Board members should not become involved in an argument with a citizen at a board meeting, even if provoked.
7. The full minutes of the board meeting or a summary can be sent to the local newspaper for publication. If a summary is published, it should be identified as such.
l. Any person or group within Carleton has the right to appear as a delegation before the Board or a Standing Committee or Standing Advisory Committee of the Board to express concern and/or make proposals on any issue within the jurisdiction of the Board or the committee, as the case may be. Matters concerning the personnel of the Board, legal liability of the Board, or of a potential litigious nature, may be head in private session at the discretion of the Chairman of the Board or Committee.
Delegations are required to inform the office of the Director of Education of intent to appear before the Board or Committee, stating in writing the reasons for the delegation and any remedy requested of the Board. This written notice must be received by the Director's office no later than Thursday noon in the week preceding the meeting. This material will be circulated to all Trustees in advance of the meeting. Whenever possible, copies of the Bylaws on Delegations will be given to the spokesman in advance of the meeting at which the delegation is to appear.
Delegations may appoint up to two spokesmen who, in total, may address the Trustees for up to five minutes to give a summary of the case. The names of the spokesmen shall be included in the written notice to the Director. After the spokesmen have spoken, Trustees shall have an opportunity to put questions to them for purpose of clarification.
After the Board of Committee has heard the delegation's representations, and questions of clarification by Trustees have been answered, and if the delegation so wishes, a private meeting shall be convened between up to five members of the delegation and an Ad Hoc Committee of an equal number of Trustees to study further the topic under consideration. If such a private meeting is requested by the delegation, the Secretary of the Board shall convene the meeting within two weeks.
The delegation will be given at least 48 hours notice of the Board/Committee meeting at which the report of the Ad Hoc Committee is to be considered and, where possible, will be given a copy of any written report in advance of the meeting. When such report is tabled for consideration, the spokesmen for the delegation shall have an opportunity to speak to the report for up to a total of five minutes.
5.1 The Chairman of the Board may direct that a delegation appear before a standing or statutory committee, instead of the Board or vice-versa, where he deems this more appropriate.
5.2 A delegation, once heard shall not be entitled to be received again by the Board and/or Committee on substantially the same information, for a period of six months from the date of the first hearing. The Chairman of the Board shall decide such cases in advance of
the meeting concerned, subject to the provisions of the clause 5.3 below.
5.3 Notwithstanding the foregoing, a delegation may be received without notice at a Board meeting, or Committee meetings if the subject matter is within the purview of the Committee, by motion supported by a majority of the members then present and voting.
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Purpose and Method
As "regular" a school day as possible is provided for parent observation.
Open Classes: During a specified week, classes are "open" all day. Parents are encouraged to visit their child's classes at any time during the day and to stay as long as they like.
Breakfast Tour: Parents are selected at random and invited to have a continental breakfast with the principal and selected staff members. During breakfast the staff talks about school programs and problems and answers questions from parents. After breakfast parents are taken on a tour of the school where they watch a number of different classes in action.
Parent Companion: Parents are invited to attend school with their child (or in place of them) for an entire day. The patent spends the day going through the normal schedule of their school child.
Bus Ride: Parents are invited to ride to school on the school bus with their children. Parents are invited according to bus capacity, usually one or two at a time.
Teachers must be self-confident enough to teach in front of parents and other strangers if the parent visitation day is to succeed.
Purpose and Method
Staff and students in schools named in honor of local citizens involve their patron or members of their patron's family in school activities.
School Opening: A school patron is invited to open the school bearing his/her name.
Graduation Class: A school patron is invited to address the graduating class.
Award: The school patron or a member of the patron's family is invited to present athletic or academic awards to outstanding students.
Be sure that students know of the contributions made by their patron to the community.
Purpose and Method
The unique contributions which can be made by senior citizens are utilized to enrich the school program.
Grandparents' Day: Students invite their grandparents (or other people of an appropriate age) to a school open house.
Honoring Senior Citizens: To honor senior citizens a school board allows them to use school facilities such as the gym and swimming pool at specified times and makes classrooms available to them for meetings. Senior citizens' groups are also allowed to rent school buses at cost and given free passes to all school sponsored entertainment events.
Grandparent Volunteers: Senior citizens are actively recruited as school volunteers. They do the full range of jobs usually done by any group of volunteers.
Resource Persons: because of their wealth of experience, grandparents are invited to be resource people on topics such as the Depression, World Wars I and II, changes in education and family life.
Refresher Courses: School staff and students sponsor half day refresher courses on a variety of topics for senior citizens in their community.
Many students live far have little experience senior citizens in the a better understanding away from their grandparents and with older people. Involving school program will give students of another generation.
Purpose and Method
In order to serve the community, to build school-community good will and to utilize rooms left vacant by declining enrollments, community organizations are invited to use school facilities for a variety of purposes.
Library Meeting Room: One room in the school is stocked with material on topics such as parent-child relations, educational issues and child psychology. Parents are invited to use the room for meetings and conferences and to borrow any of the literature available.
After School Day Care: Two all-purpose rooms are used as an after school day care centre for young students whose parents have to work until five o'clock. The day care centre is operated by staff hired by parents using the centre.
Complimentary Meal: Every service club in the community is invited to have one evening meeting per year in the school. The evening meal is provided by the home economics class.
Friday Dances: A monthly Friday dance is held in the school auditorium for students, their parents, and their guests.
Community Groups: Various groups such as Boy Scouts, the Community Association, the Judo Club and the 4-H Club are allowed to use classrooms and the gym for meetings.
Procedures to be followed by community groups wishing to use school facilities can be published in community association and church newsletters.
Purpose and Method
Parent volunteers serve as key communicators in the community taking information from school to the home, and by serving as channels for feedback from the home to the school.
Block Plan: Parent volunteers serve as "block captains," each having the responsibility for a block of about 15 homes or for all the homes on a school bus route. Block captains deliver information from the school to the home and convey any feedback from the home to the school. Block captains can also deliver the school newsletter to all the homes on their route.
Key Communicator Network: In this approach, emphasis is placed upon selecting parents (e.g. long-time community residents) who have wide contacts in the community.
More emphasis is placed, too, upon the role of these parents in conveying feedback from the home to the school. Key communicators are kept fully informed about the school and are encouraged to visit at any time.
1. School systems using these programs report that they require careful organization. The community needs to be informed about the purposes and methods of the program, and regular meetings need to be held with the key communicators.
2. Benefits reported for key communicator programs include.
(1) Establishing of a year-round system of communications with all community residents;
(2) Helping to form a more closely knit community:
(3) Providing a personal means of communication between the school and the community;
(4) Keeping the school constantly alert to the changing needs of the community.
Purpose and Method
In order to establish better communications between the community and the school board, local school board advisory committees are established.
Regina and Saskatoon: The Regina and Saskatoon Public Boards of Education have developed policies allowing for establishment of local school advisory committees. The advisory committees make recommendations on a variety of issues to the Board of Education. Section 137 of The Education Act, 1978 permits the establishment of such advisory committees.
Rural Areas: In rural areas the Board of Trustees of each school district, as well as carrying out its responsibilities as specified in Section 136 of The Education Act, 1978 can act in an advisory capacity to the Board of Education of the school division.
The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association Policy Reference Manual provides additional guidance regarding establishment of policies concerning local school advisory committees.
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