Introduction – Unlike the past, public schools today must compete for students. Charter schools, private schools, and the increase in families choosing to homeschool have changed the landscape for public education. Parents and community members expect and deserve good public schools. The role of the principal has drastically evolved and the demands appear to be never ending. In addition to knowing curriculum, hiring staff, addressing parent concerns, overseeing discipline, being a good steward of the budget, being visible in the community, and making sure the physical structure of the building is in good repair, the principal is also expected to be a public relations expert.
The following strategies are simplistic but often overlooked by principals. However, by making a concerted effort and seeing to it that these five strategies are implemented, the building principal is guaranteed to place his or her school in a better light.
- Cleanliness/Friendliness– The physical appearance is what visitors, first notice when they walk into your school. Is your school clean? Is it decorated appropriately? Does it look inviting and is student work visible? Buildings do not need to be new but they do need to be clean and free of debris on the outside and inside of the building.Are your parents greeted as welcomed guests? Are members of the staff smiling and saying hello in the hallways and acknowledging visitors? It doesn’t cost a dime to be kind and an individuals’ day can be made better by nothing more than being greeted with a smile.
- Survey YourParents– You need to know what they are thinking. Perception matters and their perception of the school can mean the difference in having parental support or having parents lack confidence in your leadership. Have parents complete a survey during an open house or during the first quarter. Use that information to highlight what they believe you are already doing well and begin to address areas they perceive as needing improvement. Let the parents know their voice is being heard and survey them again during the third quarter.
- Communicate – Parentswant to now what is taking place in the school and want to hear from the building leader on a regular basis. A weekly communication such as a Principals Update, should be sent home via email or a hard copy should be backpacked home with the children. The message, while always truthful, should be presented and delivered with an optimistic tone.
- Social Media– How are you using social media? Is your school website easy to navigate and updated consistently? If not, you are creating problems for yourself. Frustration sets in if parents click onto the school calendar and events are not listed or if they have too difficult of a time navigating your site. Pictures posted on Facebook tend to be a hit with families. Seeing students (particularly their child) learning, working together, socializing and enjoying their classes make parents feel better about the school. It provides them with an inside connection. However, before ever posting a picture of a student, be sure you have permission from the parent.
Notes Home – This simple act goes a long way in building a positive rapport with families. Make it a habit of carrying several business cards in your pocket and each day notice something a student is doing well. The student might be putting forth effort in class, explained an answer, showed persistence in solving a math problem, etc… Write down on the back of the business card what you observed and give it to the student to take home. Following this practice lets parents know that you spend time in classrooms and that is very important. It also makes them feel special knowing their child had been recognized by you, the head of the school.
These five simple strategies will yield a positive return that cannot be purchased.