Medium 9781475824124

Jspr Vol 32-N3

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The Journal of School Public Relations is a quarterly publication providing research, analysis, case studies and descriptions of best practices in six critical areas of school administration: public relations, school and community relations, community education, communication, conflict management/resolution, and human resources management. Practitioners, policymakers, consultants and professors rely on the Journal for cutting-edge ideas and current knowledge. Articles are a blend of research and practice addressing contemporary issues ranging from passing bond referenda to building support for school programs to integrating modern information.

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Notes From the Editor: Defining Public Relations

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THEODORE J. KOWALSKI

Without question, contemporary public relations (PR), especially as applied in education institutions, is defined narrowly if not incorrectly. Many educators have erred, and continue to err, by treating PR and school–community relations synonymously. From a normative perspective, an accurate conceptualization of PR includes, but is not limited to, community relations. In fact, a major portion of PR should occur in organizations. For example, one aspect of PR is the manner in which educators access and exchange information in schools and colleges, even though community stakeholders are not directly involved.

In my textbook Public Relations in Schools (Kowalski, 2008), I defined school PR as

an evolving social science and leadership process utilizing multimedia approaches designed to build goodwill, enhance the public’s attitude toward the value of education, augment interaction and two-way symmetrical communication between schools and their ecosystems, provide vital and useful information to the public and employees, and serve as an integral part of the planning and decision-making functions. (p. 13)

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Review of Selected Dissertations Addressing School Public Relations, Administrator Communication, and Conflict Resolution

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JOHN M. DECMAN
FELIX SIMIEOU III

ABSTRACT: This article is an extension to Kowalski’s (2005) identification of possible lines of scholarly inquiry into themes related to schools and public relations. The article first cites professional accreditation standards for educational leaders as significant factors in providing a framework for increased scholarly inquiry. It then summarizes the research and provides a brief description of relevant dissertations (written since 2005) related to themes in school public relations. Finally, it provides concluding comments regarding the state of current research in the area.

A few years years ago, Theodore Kowalski (2005) reviewed dissertation abstracts related to topics addressed by the Journal of School Public Relations—including general public relations, communication, school–community relations, community education, and conflict resolution. He identified 16 lines of possible inquiry across these topics and encouraged doctoral students and other researchers to pursue them. As an extension of Kowalski’s work, this article states the importance of such inquiry in relation to national standards, and it provides brief abstracts for relevant dissertations completed since 2005.

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Parent–Teacher Communication: What Parents and Teachers Think and What School Leaders Need to Know

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LEAH MICHELLE GARRETT

ABSTRACT: This mixed methods study focuses on communication between teachers and parents in primary and secondary schools in northeast Texas. Based on data from surveys in 11 districts, received from 230 teachers and 171 parents, this study found statistically significant differences between teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of the classroom teacher’s role, as well as the need for more understanding between teachers and parents; furthermore, it revealed that all parents want the same information about their children but prefer to receive it through different methods and that teachers and parents disagree about what constitutes valuable content in communication.

Although superintendents, principals, and teachers are all evaluated, in part, on their ability to communicate (National School Public Relations Association, 2008; Texas Education Agency, 1997, 1999), the literature recognizes little accountability with regard to the classroom teacher’s role in communicating between the home and the school. When school leaders fail to communicate, they lose their jobs (National School Public Relations Association, 2005). When teachers and parents fail to communicate, the students lose—through academic failure, higher dropout rates, and an eventual lower standard of living (Houtenville & Conway, 2008). Research has shown that school leaders cannot lead without managing communication (Gallagher, Bagin, & Moore, 2005; Kowalski, 2008; Marzano, Waters, & McNulty, 2005). This communication cannot be relegated to crisis management, news coverage of school activities, and public relations campaigns before bond elections.

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Campaign Strategies and Voter Approval of School Referenda: A Mixed Methods Analysis

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PAUL A. JOHNSON
WILLIAM KYLE INGLE

ABSTRACT: Drawing from state administrative data and surveys of superintendents in Ohio, this mixed methods study examined factors associated with voters’ approval of local school levies. Utilizing binomial logistic regression, this study found that new levies and poverty rates were significantly associated with a decrease in the likelihood of passage. Implementing more campaign strategies and higher levels of commercial/industrial property increased the likelihood of levy passage. Specific campaign tactics were identified as predictors of levy passage (e.g., 6-week campaign, targeting yes voters). Qualitative analysis suggests that “levy fatigue” and the uncertain state of the economy were factors in the election.

The troubled and often-litigated history of Ohio’s school finance program is well documented (Alexander & Alexander, 2009; Hunter, 2000; Maxwell & Sweetland, 2002). Like other states, Ohio funds its schools through a combination of local property taxes and state aid. What is unusual, however, is the frequency of its referenda. Fleeter (2007) states that “Ohio relies on voter approval of tax levies to support public education to a greater extent than any other state in the nation” (p. 1), noting that from 1994 to 2006, Ohio had 3,433 local school tax issues on ballots. This proliferation of levies based on local property taxes stems in part from a 1976 amendment to the Ohio constitution, originally known as House Bill 920, which prohibits property taxes from increasing as property values rise, thereby forcing districts to continually return to the ballot to keep up with inflationary costs. Indeed, Maxwell and Sweetland (2002) note that Ohio’s school districts “are sometimes faced with the dilemma of explaining that the schools are receiving no additional funds from voted in taxes. . . . This leaves school officials with an ‘uphill task’ in convincing voters that additional revenues are necessary” (p. 55). Johnson (2008) recently contended that “there are two types of school districts in Ohio: those that are on the ballot and those that will be” (p. 45). This scenario has created an untenable situation wherein many school district staff and community volunteers are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money conducting school referenda campaigns.

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