Because the principal of a small school is most directly responsible for maintaining the relationship between the school and the community, he or she must develop a strategy for school-community relations which takes into account the community's values and power hierarchy.
This task involves considering many factors including those which are examined in this Digest: the role of the principal and of the community, potential problems, evaluation procedures, and ways to involve the community.
WHAT CAN PRINCIPALS DO?
Small school principals have the opportunity to interact with the community in many ways that may help to develop positive relations. For instance, Wilson and Stansberry (l976) suggest that principals might:
--interpret school programs for the community
--determine community expectations of the school
--communicate with parents through the media and in group conferences
--arrange for parents to visit the school
--work with parent associations and related groups
--interact with school critics
--plan and coordinate the visits of school people to homes of students
--initiate special publicity campaigns
--support student publications
--appraise school community relations
--work with industry and community image groups
--determine the community power structure
Another way principals can contribute to the community is by recruiting community-minded teachers, as several studies have indicated. Lewis and Edington (1983) concluded that administrators should recruit teachers with positive community ties. The most successful teachers appear to be those who are welcome in community homes, participate in community activities, and invite community members to their homes (McBeath and others 1983b).
Seifert and Kurtz (l983), as well as Lewis and Edington (1983), advise principals to involve community members in recruiting and selecting teachers who fit their communities. In addition, recruitment materials should include community information (Seifert and Kurtz 1983).
Administrators who have a community-oriented philosophy are more likely to have positive school-community relations (Charlton 1983). For this reason, McBeath and others (1983a) claim that principals, particularly new ones, should participate in civic activities outside of the school.
WHAT CAN THE COMMUNITY DO?
Because small and rural schools often are closely identified with the community, community cooperation is not difficult to secure (Pelton 1983). Many people are eager, or at least willing, to cooperate with the school in working towards the development of positive community relations. Citizens might assist the school principal by doing the following:
--serving on staff development planning committees
--identifying resource people in the community
--teaching minicourses on local history, industry, and interesting area people (a district attorney might teach about juvenile justice or a social worker about child abuse) (Pelton 1983)
--serving on advisory boards for various programs (Lewis and Edington 1983)
--assisting in the recruitment of teachers who fit the community (Seifert and Kurtz 1983; Lewis and Edington 1983)
WHAT PROBLEMS MIGHT PRINCIPALS ENCOUNTER?
Differing expectations and power struggles between community groups or between school administrators and community groups can result in problems for the principal.
In a study of rural Alaskan schools, McBeath and others (1983a) reported that a majority of principals felt parents expected to be involved in the operation of the school or its processes. On the other hand, fewer than half of the principals reported being involved in civic and community affairs unrelated to the school.
A principal might face some of the following dilemmas while managing school-community relations:
--school boards and administrators who are fearful of losing control
--the need to be all things to all people
--disagreement about the meaning of community involvement
--reluctance of some teaching staff to cooperate in community involvement (Husen 1982)
HOW CAN PRINCIPALS EVALUATE SCHOOL-COMMUNITY RELATIONS?
Because of limited time, principals need to determine carefully the most feasible methods for evaluating each situation. Possible means of evaulation include:
--needs assessments conducted among local businesses and/or citizens' groups to determine community needs for various programs
--follow-up studies of graduates
--citizen/faculty/administration team reviews of school relations
--surveys of staff memberships in churches, service clubs, and other organizations
HOW CAN PRINCIPALS INCREASE COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT?
Bruner (1981) lists the following 10 ways to get the community to come to the school:
--extend an invitation
--make the back-to-school night exciting and productive
--develop a community resource file
--stage a curriculum fair or exhibit
--conduct career days
--use parent conferences to explain school programs and to resolve misunderstandings
--allow the school building to serve community activities
--facilitate open discussion (for example, at a school lunch) between parents and principal
--recruit community volunteers
--send out school newsletters
McBeath and others (1983a) found that administrators felt assigning homework was a way of involving parents in the school. A majority of the administrators surveyed also stated that parents wanted feedback from teachers and principals on how well their children were doing in school.
The same study found that successful school-community relations prevailed in schools which allowed citizens to use the library; advertised events by newspaper, radio, or television; had a cafeteria or restaurant service; or opened gym or pool facilities to community members.
Other sucessful efforts to promote positive school-community relations include:
--developing citizen volunteer programs
--establishing senior citizen programs
--informing persons living near the school of school events
--having informal breakfasts, rap sessions, tours of the school
--inviting service clubs and other organizations to meet in the school (Husen 1982)
--teaming citizens, faculty, and administrators to assess linkages to community groups that are not presently being reached
--identifying "opinion leaders" in the community and involving these individuals (Rogers 1983)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bruner, Howard. "Ten Best Ways to Get the Community to Come to the School." THE SMALL SCHOOL FORUM 3 (1981):21-22.
Charlton, Colleen A. A STUDY OF COLORADO'S 4-DAY SCHOOL WEEK PROGRAM AS IT RELATES TO UTILIZATION OF SCHOOL FACILITIES. 1983. ED 230 337.
Husen, Peter. "Politics, Power and Pressure." In SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: NEW REALITIES FOR SCHOOLS AND THEIR PRINCIPALS, edited by Lloyd E. McCleary. Salt Lake City, UT: l982.
Lewis, Ted, and Everett D. Edington. SMALL DISTRICT TEACHER STUDY. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Monograph No. 2. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico Center for Rural Education, 1983. ED 231 580.
McBeath, Gerald A., and others. PRINCIPALS IN RURAL ALASKA: A DESCRIPTIVE PROFILE. Fairbanks, AK: Center for Cross-Cultural Studies and The Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1983a. ED 233 839.
McBeath, Gerald A., and others. RURAL TEACHERS AND COMMUNITY SCHOOLS IN ALASKA. Fairbanks, AK: The Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1983b. ED 233 841.
Pelton, Mary Helen White. STAFF DEVELOPMENT IN SMALL AND RURAL DISTRICTS. Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators, 1983. ED 228 004.
Siefert, Edward H., and William H. Kurtz. TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION STRATEGIES FOR SMALLER SCHOOLS. A HANDBOOK FOR SUPERINTENDENTS AND SCHOOL BOARDS. San Marcos, TX: Small Schools Resource Center, 1983. ED 234 972.
Wilson, Alfred P., and Tony L. Stanberry. PERFORMANCE PROFILE OF PRINCIPALS' FUNCTIONS--EVALUATOR TRAINING PROGRAM. Manhattan, KS: Center for the Study of Principalship, 1976.