Overcoming a Weakness…Engaging with Our Community

One possible benefit of having been appointed is not having to campaign for my position on the school board, but in fact, I consider this a weakness.  While campaigning can be tiresome and time-consuming, I feel a real loss for not having had the opportunity to meet more members of the community and to collect and share ideas.  While I came from our United Parents Group, certainly a group with many diverse perspectives, it is still only a limited perspective, leaving out many community members who either can’t participate, due to time or priorities, or don’t participate, because they don’t have children attending school in the district.  Whatever the reason, I know I’m missing a significant portion of the community.

This blog is about sharing ideas and, while it’s helpful if not cathartic to send out my thoughts, it’s still a largely one-way dialog and I won’t be a fully effective board member until I have had more opportunities to meet with the community.  Because schools are critical to strong communities, public engagement is essential to determining strategic direction and figuring out how to do this is part of my job.

In looking around for information, I found a good summary on the Oregon School Board Association’s website based on a good book published by the National School Board Association, called “Communities Count: A School Board Guide to Public Engagement.”  (This book is available on the NSBA website and a companion case study guide is available for free on ERIC.)

The article, and presumably the book, asks some good questions to stimulate public discussions.  From these, I’ve adopted and derived some of my own:

  • How should we determine what the public expects of our schools?
  • How should we involve the public in strategic planning?
  • What are the proper goals and desired outcomes for community engagement activities?
  • When should public engagement be advisory and when or how should the public share in decisions?
  • With whom, in what forums, and how often should we engage the public?

Of note in these reports is the essential element of building trust between the community and the board.  This is certainly a key element for me and I hope you will share your thoughts on the subject.