This how-to article accompanies the feature "Affluent Parents Return to Inner-City Schools for Educational Opportunities."
In Philadelphia, Kevin and Nancy Peter have long been boosters of public education and their neighborhood elementary school, C.W. Henry Elementary School, which their son attended when he was in grades K-4. The Peters's enthusiasm for the school has led them to reach out to other local families to encourage them to enroll their children as well. Here are their recommendations about getting out the message:
- Be a champion. Time permitting, volunteer in the school and get to know teachers and administrators. Gaining their trust will encourage them to help you sell the school.
- Host a conversation. Invite parents from your school and other parents considering school options -- and encourage them to invite others. Host the meetings in a parent's home: the more personal, the better. Parents believe other parents more readily than school staff or marketing materials. Encourage participants to ask questions, give answers, and communicate as concerned parents. Nothing will sell your school better than parents who love it.
- Start a blog. (Or Facebook or Twitter your school.) Chronicle your experiences and those of other families (with their permission), and remember that your goal is to convince people to consider sending their kids to your great school. Be honest, but accentuate the positive, and stay on point. The Peters's blog about Henry has been a well-received source of information about their school.
- Use the news. Write your own news -- editorials, commentaries, letters to the editor -- and help your school gain visibility. Get to know the education reporters for your local newspaper and television news program, and be a resource for them. Encourage them to write feature articles, which are great tools to help parents see the positive side of your school.
- Be consistent. Meet with parents regularly and predictably; if possible, monthly meetings are good. When posting to a blog or to Facebook, or when Twittering, do so frequently. Weekly posts are good, but make it relevant and important rather than frivolous.
- Prepare successors. No matter how effective you are, your child will eventually age out of the school. Who will carry the torch when you move on? Don't leave it to chance.
Russell Scott Smith lives in Connecticut and teaches at Norwalk High School.