Who Should Use This Toolkit?

Who Should Use This Toolkit?

Who Should Use This Toolkit?

A successful school has many key players—from district leadership to parents and other family members, everyone plays an important role in helping students thrive. This toolkit is designed to help everyone, no matter their job title, shareThe Secret Life of Public Schools. Every person involved in public education should be able totell success stories and advocate for students and schools.

While any of the materials in this toolkit can be adapted for use by any education stakeholder, here are ideas for how specific educators can use this toolkit:

School board members: As representatives of the community, school board members must communicate the work of public schools to their constituents (particularly those who do not have children in public schools) and connect with businesses, politicians and organizations outside education that can be valuable allies for schools. In doing so, they can use the talking points in both presentations and written communications. They can use the template op-eds and news releases to show their support for school district work or to highlight their perspectives from visits to schools or conversations with parents or other constituents. As school board members play an important role in advocating for funding and resources for their schools with local, state and federal policymakers, they can also use the template letter to policymakers to highlight key accomplishments and invite high-profile visitors to a school or district.

Superintendents: As the chief executive of the school district, one of the superintendent’s many roles is “official spokesperson.” A superintendent can use the talking points in their back-to-school speaking engagements with the media and other members of the public (such as the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Clubs). The sample op-eds and news releases offer the opportunity to promote the good work of their schools;explain how they are using local resources to benefit both students and the community; and discuss what support they need to serve students even more effectively. The template letter to families allows superintendents to share their vision and address the unique concerns of this important population.And the template letter to policymakers helps highlight accomplishments and form relationships important for advocacy purposes.

For all the superintendent’s visibility in the community, it is also important that they maintain a line of contact with district employees. The template letter to staff offers the opportunity to strengthen internal communications.

Principals: School principals are at the forefront of the school, particularly in the minds of parents. Incorporating the talking points into all communications with families and sending a consistent message is important. Parents want to hear about the issues impacting their children and to know that they will be challenged, safe and treated fairly at school. This toolkit can help principals spread that message, both through back-to-school letters and social media.

Principals also need to promote internal communications. The template back-to-school letter to staff can help get the entire school community on the same page in terms of goals and messaging, as well as motivate staff. And principals have an important role in advocacy, too. They can use the sample commentary or invitation to policymakers to reach out to decisionmakers about their concerns and needs—nothing garners more respect than those who are doing the job.

Teachers: Hearing from their child’s teachers is very important to parents—these materials can help teachers develop messages that resonate and offers templates for letters, e-mails and social media postings to welcome parents and students back to school and to their classrooms.

In addition, teachers are among the most trusted members of society. To raise support for their schools, they can use the talking points in conversations with neighbors, friends and others. They can also write op-eds or blog posts, and they can share their successes and advocate for more resources with policymakers.

Specialists and support staff: Like teachers, these professionals (such as school counselors, technology specialists, and instructional coaches) play an important on-the-ground role. But most parents and community members don’t see their work as closely as they do classroom teacher’s work. A back-to-school message can help introduce these sometimes behind-the-scenes staff and give parents and the community a sense of what they do and why it’s important. For example, a school counselor could adapt the sample back-to-school letter to families to highlight the opportunities they provide and use the sample blog prompts to reflect on how they are impacting students.

It’s also important for specialists to engage in advocacy efforts. When budgets get tight, these are often the positions targeted for cuts. Plus, these specialists often have well above the recommended number of students on their caseloads. Letting policymakers and the community know their important roles and how their projects helpmaketheir schools great through commentaries and invitations to visit can shore up support in advance of budget shortfalls and justify new positions. In addition, to ensure that their colleagues in the school building understand what all these professionals offer, sending a welcome letter to all staff or providing an introduction (or training) at a staff meeting can help improve internal communications and help all school staff become better advocates for these critical educators.

Parent leaders: Parents can tell the school’s story to policymakers and community leaders as their constituents (for example, by inviting them to visit the school), as well as sharing their stories on social media andthrough op-eds or letters to the editor. In addition, as parents often turn to other parents for important information on schools, parents in formal positions (such as PTA officers) can issue formal communications, such as letters to all parents, highlighting a school’s key accomplishments and the opportunities it has available.

Parents can also use the back-to-school season to communicate with school staff. A formal (such as the PTA) or informal group of parentscan band together to write school staff a letter, letting them know what programs they are excited about, what they hope the school keeps in mind in working with their children, and how they can support these efforts, setting the stage for a collaborative school year.

Teacher educators: This toolkit can be easily adapted to help raise the visibility of those working in colleges and universities to prepare the next generation of educators. For example, the invitation to policymakers can be modified for a university setting, asking a decisionmaker to come observe an innovative strategy for educating future educators and for the resources needed to take that to scale. A dean or other official can submit a commentary explaining how they are preparing teachers to work in the information age or highlighting their partnerships with preK-12 districts. They can also issue a news release to celebrate the start of their school year, highlighting the number of future educators in their program and the programming they offer to meet both the educational needs of those individuals and the staffing needs of nearby school districts.

In addition, internal communications are as important in higher education settings as in preK-12 settings—these tools can be adapted to help strengthen those communications as well.

The Secret Life of Public Schools