Toot Your Horn: It’s a Matter of Survival

Good community relations and high quality learning are hallmarks of school success. But with the increased competition from charter schools and private schools, public schools can no longer rely on their “good standing” in the community to draw students and maintain community support.

When public relations became a major component of my school’s agenda, we realized that we all needed to work together to promote our school in the community. Here are some suggestions for an effective school-based public relations campaign that will keep your school in a positive light and build and maintain community support:

Work as a team. A school public relations campaign must be school-wide and involve the principal, teachers, support staff, and parents.

  • Encourage everyone to share “brags” about your school and publicize them in the school and local media.
  • Ask your staff members to make connections in the community.

Get stakeholder buy-in. Bring everyone on board to support your school.

  • Parents–Solicit their suggestions for strengthening community relations.
  • Businesspeople–Involve them in your school as speakers and activity sponsors.
  • Senior Citizens–Forge and maintain connections through service projects, by holding performances at the senior centers, and by asking them how your staff and students can help them.

Develop a slogan. Let everyone know what your school stands for. My school’s slogan is Expect Great Things.

Establish points of pride. Develop a list of five or more overarching themes that express pride for your school.

Include specific examples for each. The six Points of Pride for my school, along with specific examples, are:

  • A commitment to high academic achievement. Eighth grade state standardized test writing scores have been in the top 10 of all district schools for the past three years.
  • Programs that address the learning needs of all students. An innovative credit recovery program is available to struggling students.
  • Commitment to community service. Our school commits to multiple community service projects every year, including soup kitchens, food drives, and a charity basketball tournament.
  • Community partnerships. We work with the local municipality on land preservation.
  • A commitment to innovation and continuous improvements. Our school places a strong emphasis on continued training for its professional staff, with nearly 90% of teachers attending specialized training each summer.
  • A focus on efficiency. An energy efficiency initiative has helped the district reduce utility costs by over $1 million per year.

Use your resources. Take advantage of every opportunity to get the story out about your school.

  • Utilize programming on your local television channel to promote your school.
  • Provide opportunities for successful alumni to discuss their career paths and the role of the school along that journey.
  • In your communication to parents—be it through mass e-mails, in newsletters, or on your school marquees— feature a point of pride about your school as a continuing reminder of its many benefits.

Gone are the days when the school’s reputation as a “good citizen” was enough to maintain student populations and community financial support. Today, we must accept PR as a prime force in our effort to attract students and justify community funding.

Previously published in Middle Ground magazine, October 2012