Community involvement in schools has proven to positively impact students, parents, families, and the community as a whole. The outcome of community involvement in schools reveals the capacity schools have to unite a community for the better. K-12 principals play many roles in and out of the school setting, including fostering community unity. Educator Paulette Chaffee is passionate about involving parents and communities in the educational process and shares these top ways K-12 principals can take action to unite schools with the community.
1. Expand the perspective of the school to include the community
The best way to support schools and all learners is to involve the community. Whole community engagement allows schools to progress with quick, healthy, and positive growth as everyone in the community embraces being learners and teachers. K-12 principals can widen the vision of school objectives and goals to incorporate the community. Opportunities for experiential learning, or learning through experience and reflection, are accessible when the community is included.
2. Design a unique plan
Strong parent, family, and community participation is necessary when creating a plan with a community’s unique attributes in mind. Principals can start their community unity plan by first highlighting the distinctive characteristics of the community. Next, they can list out the educational goals that can be fulfilled through community involvement while incorporating the unique qualities in the community to level up impact.
3. Embody partnerships
A fantastic way to connect schools to their communities is to develop partnerships. Joyce Epstein and her Johns Hopkins University colleagues created the Six Types of Partnerships Framework, which shares six types of partnerships K-12 principals can pursue. These include parenting, communications, volunteering, learning at home, decision-making, and community collaboration.
4. Expect proactive positivity
Parents can be prone to viewing schools critically, which can contribute to negative perspectives about schools in a community. As a result, schools often encounter difficulties bridging the gap between the school and parents. Connection and positive, proactive communication are excellent ways to solve the problem. Schools can lead by example by fostering cooperation as a long-term solution.
5. Elevate communication tools
With the right approach, K-12 principals can evaluate how to enhance communication between school staff and parents. In addition, project-based learning that utilizes community-based research is a productive way to get students actively learning within the community, showing parents and community members firsthand how students learn while being involved in the learning process.
6. Focus on increasing attendance at school events
When K-12 principals try to foster unity between the school and community, focusing on increasing attendance at school events is a strategic way to achieve this goal. To get started, principals can reach out to local businesses to ask for sponsorships or participation in the event. Personally reaching out to parents and families can also increase attendance numbers. Also, principals can consider community needs during the event. For example, if a low-income community struggles with food insecurity, a school can be sure to provide food at events to meet a community’s needs while increasing attendance.
7. Create a community challenge
Fun challenges or competitions can develop unity and reinvent the school experience. For example, a principal can create a challenge to build a community garden where adults and youth can share knowledge and learn together. When developing a challenge, principals should consider everyone involved in the learning opportunity and generate equitable change.
About Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is a teacher, speech therapist, and attorney deeply involved in the Fullerton community. As an educator and member of various non-profit boards, her focus has always been on providing children with the highest quality education. Ms. Chaffee holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential, and is admitted to the California Bar.