Volume: 6, Issue: 1

1/05/2014

A Good School In Terms Of Public Relations
Лизинский, В.М. [about]

KEY WORDS: great schools, true principals, sense of belonging, pride for the school, internal school PR, external school PR, relationships among teachers and a school principal.

ABSTRACT: The author asks a challenging question and sets up a dilemma of whether any school should keep being humble and just do its job or should it be aggressive in promoting itself in the neighborhood and in the wider community. He also presents a number of ideas of how a true principal should behave providing his/her school with internal and external PR.


To love something, we first need to see, hear, comprehend, compare, assess, choose, respect, and help.

It so happens that great schools and educational practices give birth to impressive school legends, and people tend to believe in them passing them on from one generation to another. Gone are the days of some amazing school principal, wonderful teachers, unusual freedom of creation or that unique pedagogical environment which used to distinguish the school long ago. But parents, blinded by adoration or some whimsical pedagogical rush, are determined to do their best and place their offspring into this legendary school while a real worthy next-door school is quietly but steadily doing its great job for the sake of children and parents.

Before we hasten to lavish praise on such recently discovered and somewhat outstanding school, let us first try to understand why its teachers are not among winners of numerous contests or nominations, why mass media has not yet glorified it or why the principal’s name is not even known to many in the local community. 

So, what will we find? It turns out that the principal is not willing to shine lest this should hamper work. The teachers are so genuinely trying to be useful to the school that publicity is not important. However, if this advanced school keeps stewing in its own juice, it will end up in stagnation sooner or later.

The school is a public and humanitarian institution, it means very much to its fellow citizens and must evoke pride when we have fellowship with it or remember it.

The school should be proud to display its achievements and show the ‘right’ path to everybody who is in search of success. It must share its life and public merits with the community.

Thus, it is vital for a school to carry out both internal and external PR by promoting itself, filling information gaps and offering attractive, clear, and useful information to everybody who is interested.

Internal PR

Internal PR refers to the school’s activity in promoting its positive experience to all the participants with the emphasis on their individual contributions.

Internal and external PR, being a chaotic flow of random informational streams, will not result in a ‘powerful current’ if this work is not systematically carried out by an authorized body supervised by the principal.   

  • Information about the activity of all school units:
    • Main guidelines, ways and peculiarities concerning education and social education (approved norms and standards of behavior, specifics of school self-governance, the system of students’ participation in the process of instruction).
    • Information about extracurricular clubs, societies and associations, pedagogical project-based workshops (including not only some formal announcements of opening hours but also a description of activities, assessment criteria, and the forthcoming contests and competitions);
    • A list of educational services (both paid and free of charge) for students and parents.
  • Feedback Log (comments and opinions about the school and its ‘residents’). A weekly review is made by one of the vice principals in order to raise and discuss current problems during the principal’s operational meetings.
  • Just before graduation parties in the 4th, 9th, and 11th forms, all graduates and their parents are asked to provide written feedback on the school, including positive and negative comments (in any suitable way) related to any teacher or school events. Such feedback is written down on special response forms, displayed on the school walls and later permanently stored in the school archive.
  • Displays of the faculty’s creative bios (constantly updated online) including their achievements and memorable events.
  • Regulations on contests and rewards (including contact information and details about potential instructors, coaches and tutors).
  • Creative tasks and participation rules(games, quizzes, online projects, etc.).
  • Announcements of interesting forthcoming events(this should be the most attractive display(s) including, if possible, online promotions and on-the-site events which would attract more attendees).
  • The Book of Honors (its entries acknowledge everybody who contributed to the school’s success, made the school famous or made an achievement in any activity; the information shall include detailed descriptions of honorable achievements).
  • Constantly updated guidelines on school medals, scholarships, grants, rewards, and other ways of students’ support (including special awards and scholarships granted by prominent members of the local community).
  • Honors Board in various nominations (academic excellence, environmental projects, sports achievements, long educational career, etc. – nominations are made by the open public body).
  • Teachers’ achievements, victories, awards, and valuable suggestions(a display of achievements and a display of suggestions).
  • Photo displays of school life (creative, original, humorous or lyrical representation rather than formal and boring reports).
  • A video film about the school (annually updated school series in a variety of formats: fiction, documentaries, animated films, etc.).
  • Newspapers, bulletins, brochures, books, models, best essays, almanacs, paintings, various arts and crafts made by students, faculty, parents, and graduates (in the way of constantly updated and archived exhibitions).
  • Essays on achievements of school graduates (students acting as reporters may interview schools graduates and publish the resulting essays).
  • Display (club, exhibition) of awards, certificates of achievements, trophies, diplomas, notes of thanks, etc.
  • Open events: students’ shows, plays, concerts (anything that may present public interest).
  • Specially designed promotional materials (school logo, blank forms, award forms, badges, notebooks, etc.).
  • Production of school souvenirs and gifts (pens, soft toys, souvenirs made of feathers, stone, wood, fabric, plastic, etc.).

External PR

External PR is a promotion of the school’s achievements and its potential carried out in the community, beyond the school walls.

  • School’s Annual Report(originally designed brochures of about 8-12 pages reflecting the school in its best light and attractive for students and parents rather than formal and dry set of texts, diagrams and indexes).
  • Contests, competitions, and championships. (We must provide conditions and encourage students and faculty to participate in various amateur, professional, and public events).
  • Search for grants, presentation of the school for various federal and regional awards.
  • Articles in the local printed press (informational and promotional materials may be contributed by students and teachers or be commissioned).
  • Promotional videos on TV  (series of instructional videos, coverage of school events, ceremonies, concerts and parties, regular panel discussions and teaching forums on local TV).
  • Tours with concerts and lectures, faculty and students’ exchange (the school remains an essential source of culture in the local community, so cultural exchange with partner-communities is vital for civil and moral education).
  • Nomination of teachers to the local self-governance bodies (the school’s interests should be represented and upheld on various levels of state power).
  • The school as a site of district and city events (including workshops, conferences, and professional exchange).
  • Contests and festivals as open house events (these are ‘epoch-making’ in-house events serving as originals final reports; the school opens its doors to all – from those who may enlarge the school’s potential and who would like to study, to the members of the local community and representatives of mass media).
  • School website which should be very informative and interesting to students, parents and those who plan to study here.
  • A distinguishing feature has been prompted by the necessity to shape positive public attitude to school among parents, increase their loyalty and the sense of belonging by constantly involving parents in various community activities and praising them for each good day and good deed.
  • School administration and especially its principal pay a crucial role in holding up the image of the school in the community.

The principal. If s/he is praised only because of providing his/her duties, this is not enough at all.

It is very different when people get a many-sided IMAGE OF THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL with his/her personal appeal, hyperbolical and mythological features, when his/her charisma outshines everyday routine and presents the principal in a somewhat legendary light, when s/he is spoken about in a high-flown manner and his/her words and activities awaken the feelings of surprise and admiration, only then this is a true school principal.

When speaking about the common sense pedagogy and defining a teacher who works in accordance with its principles, we must admit that there exist different school principals: some express their thoughts in such a bizarre and sophisticated manner (mainly consisting of foreign language terminology) that they are impossible to understand; others are aware that the deeper their knowledge in pedagogy, psychology and administration, the less they brag about it but tend to have more respect for people around them rather than for academic pretentiousness. And finally, we come across a remarkable personality of a patriarchal school principal whose human touch, simplicity, and love to people and his work are so appealing!

A true principal is known by his/her words, deeds, texts, and emotions; and more so, all these must be surprisingly attractive, novel, not hackneyed or, to be more exact, s/he should be able to present something known in such a way, with such enthusiasm that this known becomes novel, revealing new meanings and amazing miracles.  

One may have charismatic appearance but lack inner power which has been achieved through much suffering and emotional experience; s/he may demonstrate certain artistic skills and strength of mind but be void of noble political will, personal and professional authority, ‘divine power’ over other people, ability to filter out the essential things in the world of chaos, the admirable capacity to summon others under his/her banners and lead the people towards the true, well-planned, commonly acknowledged, and vital goal.

And, most importantly, such a principal, talented and conscious of his/her own significance, must learn to suppress his/her individual snobbery, must not put him/herself so high and far from his/her team when it suddenly becomes obvious that either his/her incredible merits have given him/her ‘angel’s’ wings to fly high above the clouds or his/her selfish success has sent him/her down to the dirt road dust while losing friends, fellow workers, and colleagues on the way.

Many researchers are currently pondering over the place and role of information technologies in school administration and educational process. No doubt, they are really important and useful. Proper and timely implementation of analytical, managerial, and instructional materials will surely improve controllability of education and school social education and, consequently, increase their quality.

However, we find it extremely important to draw the school principal’s attention to the existing or appearing disunity of the educational process participants which happens every time when administration lacks accurate, clear, and timely informational support.

Rumors, gossip, legends, and sporadic conclusions come to the surface every time when the faculty does not have a system-based information support. On the contrary, information awareness, transparency, and openness define the level of democratic institutions in a particular school.

Autocratic administration implies that some management secret is seen as a privilege, as the right and opportunity to have certain secret mechanisms to assert the manager’s own special social status. A management secret in a democratic school is a way to apply such information to the philosophy and practice of successful administration which helps in achieving major educational goals.

PR ideas, responsibilities, and activities of a school principal include the following:

  • To leave nothing unsaid.
  • An ability to reveal the essence of problems, objectives and ways of their solution in a brief speech with specially prepared effects and/or carefully worked out improvisations.
  • Everyone should be informed of each significant event.
  • And, finally, nothing makes the school principal so prominent as his/her ability to notice success of others and encourage it with a word, a gesture, a letter of acknowledgement of any achievement or a reward.

It is bad if not very bad when the school has a recognized authority of a principal while the rest of the staff acts like shadows or impersonal executives. It is necessary to promote vice principals, educate them, involve them in a responsible problem-solving process, make sure that the staff may see not only their importance but also their initiative and each episode of their success, thus fostering their feeling of complicity. Anyway, it is the principal’s suite that makes successful, and it is the true principal who makes the suite become equal participants in brain storming, work and problem solving.

A vain principal takes all the credit for the work done by the staff, and he/she is not about to share it with them. A different matter is Napoleon – we know about his marshals, generals, and favorite women not less than about the emperor himself! It is a real challenge for the principal to know all about his/her vice principals and best teachers, to elevate them in good times and support in the times of their defeat. But it also happens sometimes that principals know next to nothing about their teachers.

 

 

 

 

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