Following are more detailed recommendations for grassroots outreach in your communities and public school districts to create ambassadors for your campaign to support public schools.
Recommendation One: Create A Planning Committee In Your School District.
Some partner organizations, like the PTA, have members in virtually every school district in North Carolina. Other groups are unique to their county or community. Regardless of the number of partner organizations in your school system, it should be possible to assemble a planning team that can design and implement your local campaign.
A great example of working well with partner organizations would be Pitt County, where they could draw on the following, all of whom have signed on as partner organizations:
Local Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
The Pitt County Chapter of Parents for Public Schools
The Pitt County Education Foundation
The Pitt County United Way
If your county is not as fortunate as Pitt County in its partnership opportunities, consider recruiting representatives from organizations like:
The United Way
The Historical Association (if there is one in your county)
The Chamber of Commerce Education Committee
The League of Women Voters
Recommendation Two: Determine What Research Will Be Needed & Who Is Best Suited To Do It.
The 175th anniversary celebration is for North Carolina’s first public school, which opened in Rockingham County in 1890. In order for local communities to appreciate the important role that public schools have played—and continue to play in the life of the community — researching local information can provide a starting point to build appreciation for your public schools. Such research queries can include:
When was the first public school built/opened in your community?
How many students were in the first high school graduation class?
How many have graduated since the first graduation class; or, if that data is not available, how many have graduated in the last decade? How many of those went on to college?
Depending on the demographics of your county, when did the first public school for African American students open its doors?
Is there a picture(s) of your district’s first school or first graduation class?
Is it possible to find textbooks or other educational memorabilia from the time of your first school?
Can you find high school offerings from 50 or 100 years ago and contrast them to what is available today?
These examples only scratch the surface of research possibilities. What data could help you bring the beginnings of public school to life in your county?
Recommendation Three: Consider Building-Level History Projects.
Depending on your school system’s or community’s record-keeping capacity, your system might want to focus on the history of individual school buildings. Students could research when their building was erected; how many students were enrolled when the school first opened; how many have graduated from the school. PTA’s could sponsor contests and give awards for the most novel research project or the most original poster/drawing regarding the school’s opening or history. School faculty could brainstorm ways the history of their school could be incorporated into hands-on research, oral history or art projects which could be disseminated through the school’s website or email newsletters.
Recommendation Four: Petition To Have A Historical Marker Erected At The Site Of Your District’s First Public School.
If your district erected historical markers at your first school for whites and/or African Americans it not only is a good media event, but it will be a constant reminder to passers-by of the beginning of schools in your community.
Recommendation Five: Consider An “I Am Public Schools” Campaign In Your Community.
The statewide campaign is currently videotaping notable graduates of North Carolina public schools saying “I am (so and so), and I am North Carolina public schools.” The notables identified thus far include authors, CEO’s, athletes, governors, chefs, educators, entertainers, and others – illustrating that our public school graduates are equipped to succeed in whatever endeavor they choose.
The same campaign could be conducted locally, creating a video that could have high impact when presenting to local groups. And it isn’t necessary to have famous graduates. You could consider your mayor, the chair of county commissioners, a local doctor, teacher, minister, CEO or head officer of a local bank. The purpose of the “I Am” campaign is to drive home the critical role that school plays in preparing young people to succeed in life.
Recommendation Six: Communicate The Many Functions A School District Performs In Your Community.
When most people think of schools, they think of students in a classroom; few think of the complexity of schools and the many roles they play within communities. Specifically:
In virtually every district, schools are the largest provider of meals to the largest number of people. Your food service coordinator can easily pull together how many young people per day receive breakfast and/or lunch in school cafeterias. To dramatize the enormous scope of school food programs, multiply that number by 185 (the number of required days of instruction in the school calendar).
In most districts, schools also run the largest transportation program in their communities. Here again, school transportation directors can give you the miles driven and the number of students riding each day; multiply those numbers by 185 and don’t forget to factor in busses that take athletic teams for away games and after-school activity busses.
In most districts, schools run the largest counseling service in the community. Personnel directors of schools can pull together the total number of counselors and psychologists working daily in schools.
Schools also run the largest recreation programs in virtually every community. Athletic directors can provide the number of students on all organized middle and high school teams.
Last, but not least, most school districts are the largest employers in their communities.
Putting this data together is almost a “sure thing” for local media attention, but more importantly it will provide presentation data that will give listeners a new appreciation for the complexity of schools and for the array of services they provide to students and the community. Note statistics in this toolkit that exemplify the continued improvement and success we have enjoyed.
Recommendation Seven: Create a Speakers’ Team And Make Presentations To Local Organizations.
Once your data has been assembled, create a brief video that covers the beginnings of public education in your district. You could include data like that in suggestion five and perhaps end with visuals of students and notable graduates filmed in the “I am public schools” effort. Then consider teams of two or three people (which would ideally include a school district representative, a parent, and possibly a business person) to take this message toas many community groups as possible.
Take your locally-tailored message to PTA meetings, civic groups, churches, and business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to reinforce the numerous ways that public schools are essential to the life of a community. Not only will this campaign take the school’s story and message to the broadest possible audience, it could result in generating positive media coverage. Consider asking your local television stations to run your video as a Public Service Announcement (PSA), which is shown at no cost as a service to the viewing audience.
Recommendation Eight: Consider A Major Event To Unveil The Presentation.
In some districts, a major event that invites community leaders, educators, parents and others to a formal unveiling of the presentation would be the ideal way to kick-off the communication campaign. If leaders of civic groups, churches, business organizations and others are invited, there can be a sign-up table at the end of the event where leaders of groups can sign-up on the spot to have the presentation given to their members.
Recommendation Nine: Seek Financial Support For Campaign Visibility Within Your District.
Local United Ways, Education Foundations, school/business partnership or others should be solicited to see if they would fund billboards, posters, or ads within your district to give visibility to the campaign. The statewide campaign has produced billboards, posters and pins, but you might want to consider tailoring items that speak directly to your district.
Recommendation Ten: Use Social Media & School District/School Emails To Get The Message Out.
“Did you know” messages/”factoids” about the history of your community’s schools can go out as email messages or tweets. School district and individual school websites can feature messages reinforcing the story of your community’s schools.
use your website to engage your parents and community. Give them an opportunity to share their thoughts through surveys and/or "suggestion boxes" – and provide feedback.
Toolkit: This social media guide provides sample posts for Facebook and Twitter, along with suggestions for YouTube, Pinterest and other social media platforms. The official hashtag for the NC Public Schools Campaign is #EveryChildsChanceNC. Use the hashtag whenever possible to link your posts to other posts made by school districts and other organizations across the state.
Recommendation Eleven: Media & Print Marketing.
Advertise. Use these print ads in your graduation programs, in your newsletters, in your local newspapers – anywhere you'd like. A sample billboard design has also been provided for you to use. Many outdoor advertising agencies will work with you on reduced-cost or donated space for public service messaging.
Use your local print media to your advantage. You have many supporters in your school district. Engage them in telling your story – and the Letters to the Editor page of any local newspaper is a great place to share the successes they have personally experienced. Some samples have been included in this toolkit to get you started. Also, newspapers generally welcome a timely Op-Ed piece from a Superintendent. The 175th anniversary of public schools in our state is a timely opportunity to share the history of schools in your district and how they are better than ever. Use the sample here for ideas and/or adapting to your locale. An Op-Ed piece will be released late spring, 2014.
Television and radio stations are required to provide a certain amount of air time to public service. Scripts you can use/adapt to celebrate our schools' 175th anniversary through your local television and/or radio outlets will be released mid-summer 2014. Talk to your local reporters.