On September 26, 2018, we attended the annual Seattle Public Schools Fall Partner Kick-Off at New Holly Gathering Hall and had the opportunity to network with fellow partners, hear from the new Superintendent Denise Juneau, and learn from the perspectives of several school principals.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the principals’ recommendations, with links to tools from our School-Community Partnerships Toolkit to support you in following through on these strategies.
- Research the school(s) you wish to partner with. Learn what you can about their Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) goals and the interests of the school community.
- Share how your organization‘s expertise and the services you provide match the school’s goals and interests. What’s your elevator pitch, and how do you tailor it depending on who you’re talking to? What collateral (e.g. program flyer) tells the story of your program?
- Describe how your program and team’s unique assets would contribute to a more equitable school community, such as “our program staff are people of color, as are the majority of students at this school.” What does the district strategic plan say about equity, and how would partnering with your organization help the district to meet these goals?
- Emphasize out-of-school-time programming that incorporates opportunities for social emotional learning and activities (e.g. arts, culture) that may not be offered during the school day. How would your program help to close the opportunity gap? How does your program cultivate motivation, engagement, and 21st century skills in youth?
- A school principal is not the only staff person who can help a partner to make initial connections and start to build a relationship with a school. Be persistent in reaching out to school principals and consider talking with other staff who are advocates for youth within in the school (e.g. family support worker, counselor, on-site community partner). What would a map of the school ecosystem look like? Who are the influential people in that ecosystem?
- Consider how your program would cultivate a sense of belonging and contribute to a positive school community climate for all students.
- Build a track record of success. How do you define your outcomes and evaluate your program?
- Communicate your program highlights and outcomes to stakeholders including school administrators, where you already have programs, because principals often hear about possible partners from other principals. What is your site-based communication strategy?
We know schools can’t do it alone. Together, schools and community partners across our region can build whole child, whole day ecosystems where every child feels safe, supported, connected, and inspired to learn and thrive.