Ten tips for forging successful school-community partnerships

  • Avoid adding to the burdens already faced by the administrators and teachers.  Yes, your program might be the best thing since sliced bread, but if it is going to create additional work for an already overworked staff, you will not get the reception you are looking for. Consider that, during the last four years, schools have suffered extensive budget cuts that have resulted in the elimination of thousands of jobs—but the number of children remains the same and even has increased in many places. On the other hand, if you can show that your program will make life easier for the school staff, you are golden!
  • Be willing to be held accountable. Accountability is big in education circles. Nobody gets a bye. Be sure to have an evaluation plan in your back pocket, with the metrics that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. Bear in mind that the current education culture places a great deal of emphasis on student achievement, so any program that even marginally supports student gains will be welcomed.
  • Establish a relationship with the school staff. People in the private sector understand better than most the importance of networking and establishing positive relationships. Being “liked” by the staff will ensure their cooperation and support.
  • When possible, partner with other community agencies that offer services that might add to the effectiveness of your program. You can facilitate the process by coordinating the efforts of various groups and minimizing the burden on staff. Programs like Communities in Schools (CIS) actually provide the coordinating services, so that the CIS Coordinator takes on the responsibility of orchestrating the services provided by a host of outside agencies.
  • Gain the support of the school community: groups like the PTA, the business community, the Rotary Club, the school board, and others. Having allies gets you validity and eases acceptance by the school.
  • Work toward institutionalization of your program so that eventually the school owns it. That is the only way to ensure that the program becomes part of the school culture and not just a passing fad. Ultimately, your job should be to work yourself out of a job.
  • I have the honor of serving on the Board of America’s Promise, and I have worked closely over the years with the America’s Promise Alliance. There are 437 organizations involved in the Alliance’s efforts to help our students stay in school and graduate. There are many other organizations that are not part of the Alliance that also want to help our children succeed. Imagine what could be accomplished if all of those organizations and our schools joined hands and worked together toward our common goal.

    Hopefully, these 10 points will help establish the relationships that will lead to such a united effort. Our schools cannot do it alone.





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