Rebecca Starling, Partners in Education Coordinator with the Jackson (MS) Public Schools, works to partner local business and community organizations with the district’s 59 schools. That means recruiting the partners from the community as well as helping the schools help the partners. She recently issued some advice to the principals about ways to make the partners feel comfortable with their schools. I thought that her advice to the principals was right on point and that it was good advice for any business owner or CEO who wants to improve customer service. Just pretend that the business is the school. So here are Starling’s 50 Ways:
1. A “Welcome to our School” sign at every entrance encourages visitors. A warm and friendly greeting by the office staff, security guard, and the principal sets the tone for the visit.
2. Begin each day by shaking hands with everyone who enters the building. Say something like “I’m so glad you’re here today.” This includes students, too.
3. Smile. It costs nothing and creates more good feelings than a sign or a slogan.
4. Keep the school website up to date and user friendly. Make sure there are plenty of pictures of students. Include pictures of community partners and others who volunteer at the school.
5. Principals, be visible.
6. Make sure the front office staff knows how important it is to greet visitors warmly.
7. Have an ambassador list that includes parents who are willing to be called by parents who have questions. Categories of ambassadors might include: New to school; I have a special needs child; I have a gifted child; my child does not speak English as a first language; my child is interested in the choir, the band etc.
8. Create a Wall of Fame that highlights parents or guardians that have volunteered to do something special, school partners that have contributed in some way, students who have exemplified good citizenship, teachers who have gone above and beyond, and former students who are now successful in a variety of careers.
9. Join with others in the community to help a local charity or health organization.
10. When you have guests, have a continuous showing slide show with photographs
of students in action.
11. A yearly open house is one of the most effective activities to get people to your school. It is a fun occasion for visitors, staff and students. A different theme each year helps maintain interest. Holiday open houses can combine showing off your school with celebrating an event with the community.
12. Back-to-School-Night where adults sample the school’s curriculum can include
the surrounding community as well as the parents of enrolled children.
13. A Sunday afternoon would be a good time for a neighborhood ice cream social at your school. The ice cream could be provided by the school, an adopter, or you could have a homemade ice cream contest judged by students. Proceeds from the sales, if you decide to charge, would go to a previously agreed upon cause. Recipes could be exchanged or later printed for distribution.
14. Breakfast at school for different community groups promotes school support. These special meals – once a month is enough- can be yearly events for each invited group. Some groups to consider: fathers of students, grandparents, and city government members, nurses, realtors, ministers, and businesses in the immediate neighborhood. This is a great way to recruit new partners.
15. Show and tell what goes on in your school through tours for parents and groups. A single tour day or a series of tours gives a first hand look at your school.
16. Have family recreational nights in your school’s gymnasium or playground.
17. Make keeping in shape a community effort by sponsoring father/son,
mother/daughter, parent/faculty, partner/school, athletic events.
18. Hold public forums at school on topics of interest to the entire community, such as drug abuse, career information, school district decisions and effects on your school.
19. “Here’s What’s New” mini courses for parents at the start of each school year to alert them to curriculum and policy changes. You can also include information on discipline procedures and services offered for gifted, handicapped or other special needs students.
20. Voting Day is a great opportunity to showcase your school if it is a polling place. Voters can see exhibits of student work displayed.
21. Include community partners for awards programs.
22. Parent-teacher conferences are extremely important. Be sure to let the parents know that they are welcome in the school. Respect their time by not keeping them waiting.
23. Phone calls personally inviting parents and others to school activities often bring a better turnout.
24. Have a movie night at the school for parents, students and teachers when a movie that most teachers would encourage watching is shown on TV. Have some parents (perhaps PTA or school partner) provide refreshments. Have a teacher-led discussion afterward.
25. Invite senior citizens to enjoy lunch at school.
26. Get businessmen to become pen pals with students in your school. Start with school partners.
27. A monthly principal’s coffee klatch with a few active parents, partners and
community leaders updates them on school programs and needs while fostering good school support.
28. Welcome newcomers to the community with a special packet of helpful information about the school and an invitation to visit.
29. Establish a student information corps to serve as guides, hosts or hostesses to greet visitors.
30. Hold a Parents’ Day at your school where parents will enjoy meeting school staff and learning school policy. Ideas for activities can be gathered from students, staff and parents.
31. Grandparents’ Day is another occasion where creativity can be used to encourage involvement.
32. Have a seminar for single parents. Brainstorm ideas for their becoming more involved in school. Be willing to help find solutions for any school related problems.
33. Hold a summer activities workshop to help parents get their children through school vacation without losing ground educationally.
34. Send a school newsletter to neighborhood residents and businesses. Besides giving the news, it should let people know how they can become involved in your school. Great for recruiting partners.
35. Have a 15-20 minute speech on your school ready at all times. It can be given at meetings to which you are invited. Always extend an invitation for meeting participants to visit your school.
36. Set up a speakers’ bureau for your school. Include students, parents, and community leaders and school staff.
37. A glass-enclosed sign in the front of the school can advertise events or deliver short messages. Be sure to thank parents and partners on the sign.
38. Give substitute teachers special treatment so they will leave with positive
impressions of your school. You might take pictures of them, attach their names to the pictures and place them in the lounge. This is a good way to acquaint the rest of the staff with the substitutes.
39. Stage school performances at shopping malls or at partners’ places of business. This gives drama clubs, choruses, bands and other groups a chance to showcase their talent.
40. If you have space, invite community service clubs to hold meetings in your school. Suggest programs or speakers that could be furnished by staff or students.
41. Invite parents and partners to serve as judges for art shows, talent shows, science fairs, etc.
42. Ask parents and partners to give occupational guidance to students. Parents’ practical know-how can provide realistic, down-to-earth answers to student questions about the world of work.
43. Have parents and partners teach mini courses on the topic that interests them most: their occupation, a hobby, travel, etc.
44. Send parents quarterly educational “places to go, things to do” calendars, emphasizing community activities in which parents may participate with their children.
45. Make a list of community VIPS and partners and send them school information on a regular basis. Invite them to the school regularly.
46. Some people who never visit your school might drive past it often. First
impressions are often lasting, so make sure the grounds are always neat and attractively kept. One good way to do this is to have a community “clean up, fix up” day at your school. Get parents, PTA members, partners and students to work together periodically to keep the grounds looking good. Make sure the front door is clean!
47. Invite parents to brown bag lunches with you and their child. Invite five or six students to join you for lunch, giving their parents a few days advance notice so they can join you, too. This is a good way for you to get to know their concerns and interests and for them to get to know you and their child’s school. Also include the school partners in these lunches.
48. Display your students’ work in prominent places such as malls, partner locations and other public facilities.
49. Develop a power point presentation for your school showing classroom
instruction as well as special student activities. Use this in parent meetings,
community group meetings and wherever else you can.
50. Make sure local legislators are on your school’s mailing list. They need to know what schools are doing, about student achievement, special programs, and school needs. Hold a special “Legislative Day” and invite them to visit your classrooms.