Importance Of School Public Relations
Importance of School Public Relations
A great deal of a school administrator’s time is spent dealing with the public. The commitment to communicate to that public is important. Parents and non-parents are interested to know where their tax dollars are being spent. Parents in particular are now inquiring more about the quality of their children’s education.
It is daunting to realize that non-parents, those without children in the school district, represent 85% of taxpayers in a public school system (Kowalski, 1996). With the competition for public funds on the local, state, and national levels, it is important for educational leaders to be effective voices of both challenges and successes, especially to the non-parents who have the inclination to vote their tax dollars to another public resource. Efforts should be made to involve non-parents in the learning process, inside the schools. Typically, non-parents want to know:
- What is being taught
- What basic subjects are being taught
- How school funds are being spent and
- How the school board operates and reaches decisions.
Citizens who have been inside local schools for whatever reason have more positive attitudes about those schools. For example, the Experience Corps has created a tool kit as a practical, hands-on resource for providers of after-school services who are interested in older adults as volunteers or staff, and for senior service organizations interested in partnering with after-school programs. The tool kit named, Experience After School – Engaging Older Adults in After-School Programs can be located on the internet at: http://www.experiencecorps.org/images/pdf/toolkit.pdf.
The beginning to a good image is to reflect what is already. If the school is effective, the image is naturally positive and much easier to represent. If the school includes the community as much as possible in the learning process, positive community relations are then likely to follow. In an article entitled Beyond image: Learning-based communications - school public relations, available online at http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=10778, Woodland (2001) states that an internal communications plan is critical and the image a school portrays through the communication of administration, staff and faculty is important. The article states that school employees rank first as sources of information and their impressions with the public are the most powerful
There are many factors that support the need of continuous and effective community relations. Those factors include but are not limited to public criticism, expanding demand and shrinking resource, expanded options and competition; rapid change, individual student problems, and inadequate funding. Each of these factors is discussed briefly below:
Public criticism grows when no or negative information is distributed throughout the community. We currently see public criticism rising toward public education. One topic the public is increasingly interested in is student discipline and safety within the schools. A positive public image effectively distributed is a great step to overcoming public criticism.
Expanding demand and shrinking resources. The demand for educational resources is expanding. Yet resources are shrinking. Staff morale affects external relations, and school employees must recognize their roll in public relations as a valuable resource.
Expanded educational options and competition. Along with the increasing number of private school options, parents in some states are offered their choice of public schools for their children. In these cases, effective community relations is critical since schools perceived as being good will attract more students.
Rapid change. Societal change occurs at an ever-accelerating pace. The community will want to know the school district’s response to change and its ability to meet new challenges.
Individual student problems. Students are coming to school with more social, physical, emotional and learning problems. The ability, in part, to meet the need for a broader range of student services is met through two-way community communications.
Inadequate funding. In order to secure greater funding from an increasing number of sources, educational administrators need to better communication content and levels and reflect education as an economic good.
With the increased demands on school administrators to create and maintain community public relations, it is important to develop a community relations plan and make a commitment to “work the plan”. It is important to remember that the most important reason for efficient community relations is better learning. In this process, an administrator takes on the role of a marketing strategist who deals with people rather than with things. The next section discusses how to begin creating your community relations plan by understanding the community.