ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL
Practical PR: It takes a whole village to educate children
by Jay Wojcik
Jay Wojcik is director of communications for Lombard SD 44 and a member of the Illinois chapter of the National School Public Relations Association.
It is often said, it takes a whole village to raise a child. In District 44, we believe it takes a whole village to educate a child. So, thank you viewers, for your interest and support of our educational endeavors."
The above quote is the tag I say each month at the close of the District 44 cable television show — a show that airs several times a month on the village of Lombard's cable station. I use this statement because it reflects the philosophy of District 44. The partnerships we have formed with the other taxing bodies in our village are valuable components of our mission, which is "… to work in partnership with students, families and community members to educate the ‘whole child' in order to achieve personal excellence."
But how does a district develop and maintain this type of positive rapport? By building bridges that provide for two-way communication and allow for the sharing of resources and expertise. Constructing this type of network requires a blueprint.
The blueprint District 44 uses includes open dialogue and face-to-face interaction with village officials, the police and fire departments, the park district, the library board, neighboring school districts and local service organizations. District 44 Superintendent James Blanche believes "a school district can only be effective and adequately meet student learning needs if it works in partnership with its community."
Therefore, he and the District 44 Board of Education encourage members of the district's leadership team, as well as teachers and support staff who live in Lombard, to attend meetings and even serve on standing committees of these other governmental and community entities. Working side-by-side to make our village a great place to live and learn forms friendships and provides the opportunity to view situations from another's perspective.
"The lines of communication and cooperation could not be more open," said Joelyn Kott, communications and marketing coordinator for the village of Lombard. "The village and the school district have a strong intergovernmental partnership that is effective and appreciated by all involved. It makes getting the job at hand done easier and in a more timely and efficient manner."
Another component is the mutual support of student-centered programs. For example, Lombard schools and the village both support CHARACTER COUNTS!, a nationally recognized character education framework for teaching universal values. Our curriculum focuses on high achievement and social and emotional growth. The village's community relations committee regularly presents awards to students who have been nominated by community members for displaying exceptional character.
The District 44 health and wellness committee approved a partnership with the village to support a "no idling" campaign. It allowed the village to post signs at each of our six schools that remind parents to shut off their engines while waiting for their children. During the kickoff of this campaign, middle school students displayed posters and went car-to-car to encourage drivers to comply.
The village's environmental concerns committee has awarded grants for schools to raise earthworms, obtain recycling bins and purchase bike racks made from recycled materials.
Most recently, the Lombard safety committee approved posting "one way" signs around one of our schools within a week of meeting with our assistant superintendent for finance and facilities.
The village also recognizes other student-based activities through proclamations for celebrations like Red Ribbon Week and American Education Week. It hosts an annual month-long display of student artwork that culminates with a reception for the students and their families.
And, for the past two years, District 44 has selected village President Bill Mueller to serve as "superintendent for a day" during American Education Week. "I am proud to be partners with the educational system that is in place in Lombard," Mueller said. "District 44 is an exceptional model of the community working together for the common good — the education of our children."
"Lombard could serve as a role model as to how to provide positive support to its students," Superintendent Blanche said. "The tangible support we receive from the village of Lombard, the park district, the Helen Plum Memorial Library, the Lombard Historical Society, the Kiwanis, the Lions and Rotary has strengthened the quality of education we offer in District 44. But in each instance, the collaboration began with face-to-face dialogue that led to working together on projects which produced synergistic benefits."
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