“No one really has a good idea of what schools are asked to do,” he said. “The community says ‘teach my kids,’ when what this list is saying is ‘raise my kids.’” A full list of what schools are now asked to do can be found on Vollmer’s website here.
Another good way to communicate is by using your school signs. Instead of simply saying, ‘Have a great summer’ on the billboard, “Tell your community how many carrots you served your students over the year—little facts to get them interested in the day-to-day they may not know about,” he explained.
One school district, said Vollmer, even partnered with local restaurants and diners to get student art printed on their placemats or on their take-out menus. “One really mean school decided to print out an 8th grade math test on a restaurant’s place settings,” he chuckled.
“If you can get community understanding, that will lead to community trust. If you can get your community to trust that you are doing everything you can for their kids, you can get community permission. If you can get the community’s permission to try new reform methods—like teaching students by proficiency and not age, and lengthening the school day—you can get that community support you need to change the system to better help you and your students,” he said.
But in the immediate future, Vollmer described “five S’s” that can help schools right away:
- Stop—stop staff from bad-mouthing one another.
- Shift—shift attention from the negatives to the positives.
- Share—share success stories with the community.
- Sustain—sustain your efforts to become more positive and out-reaching.
- Start—start doing these things now!
“What superintendents need to know is that their staff is their army, armed with a vast social network and an equal passion for helping their students and schools succeed,” concluded Vollmer. “If we all start that ‘Great Conversation’ today, we can finally get that ‘Great Solution.’”
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