Medium 9781475824131

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

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THEODORE J. KOWALSKI

This past June, the editorial board lost a long-serving and dedicated member, Dr. Len Foster. Professor Foster was associate dean of the College of Education at Washington State University until mid-June, when he was named interim dean. Less than a week later, he passed away. I and my colleagues will miss his wisdom, friendship, and contributions.

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Finding ways to involve parents in education is a perennial challenge for teachers and administrators. In this issue’s first article, Carolyn L. Wanat, from the University of Iowa, applies a model of work group design to identify potentially satisfying and frustrating experiences for parents. Specifically, she demonstrates how the model’s application can build school–community relationships and increase the benefits of parental involvement.

The second article is by Paul V. Bredeson, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Hans W. Klar, a doctoral student at the same institution, and Olof Johansson, University of Umea (Sweden). They summarize a portion of extensive research they have conducted on professional learning and leadership among superintendents in Sweden and the United States. Over the past 3 years, I have monitored their work because of my interest in superintendent development. Using a sociocultural framework, they found preferences in both countries for collaborative learning. Their conclusions provide useful insights about the importance of effective communication, especially in terms creating shared meaning in the context of administrative groups.

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Alternatives to Advisory Boards: Designing Parent Groups for Participation

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CAROLYN L. WANAT

ABSTRACT: This article proposes Hackman and Oldham’s (1980) model of work group design to structure parent groups for involvement in school activities and decision making. Parent interviews from three studies of parental involvement provide examples to support this proposal. Participants in these studies described experiences working in groups. Parents’ comments about satisfying experiences met the model’s criteria for effectiveness; frustrating experiences met criteria for ineffectiveness. This article describes characteristics of parent work groups according to the model’s key design features. Structuring parent groups using this model would establish positive relationships in the school community while increasing benefits of parental involvement in schools. Principals may play a key role in creating and maintaining parent groups.

Education professionals seek strategies to increase parents’ participation in school activities and governance. Working with parent groups is a promising alternative to increase the benefits of parental involvement in schools. Parent groups have the potential to enhance the public’s perceptions of and relationships with schools. Active engagement of parent groups in school activities and decision making provides communication channels to inform the public of current school policies and practices. Parent groups may support school leaders when they have to make difficult decisions. If school leaders do not earn parent groups’ support, their members may feel disenfranchised, publicly criticize school decisions, and demand more community input. I propose that principals use a specific model to structure parent groups to work together and, in turn, provide support for schools within the broader community.

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Superintendents as Collaborative Learners in Communities of Practice: A Sociocultural Perspective on Professional Learning

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PAUL V. BREDESON
HANS W. KLAR
OLOF JOHANSSON

ABSTRACT: This cross-national empirical study examines superintendents’ professional learning and leadership in Sweden and the United States. Based on a sociocultural perspective, the study highlights the superintendents’ preferences for collaborative forms of learning for enhancing their professional knowledge and for building organizational capacity. Findings from the study underscore the importance of professional work as the primary opportunity to develop professional knowledge and practice, as well as the potential of collaborative forms of learning to create shared meaning and strengthen organizational capacity.

In the canon of educational research literature and in public policy, much attention has been paid to teacher professional development since the A Nation at Risk report in 1983. More recently, researchers have acknowledged the need for principals’ ongoing professional development (Sparks, 2002) and the influence that principals have on student achievement (Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). Although authors have recognized the significant role that superintendents play as district staff developers (DuFour, 2000) and their influence on student achievement (Waters & Marzano, 2006), relatively little attention has been paid to superintendents’ needs for ongoing professional learning (Glass & Franceschini, 2007). Furthermore, the research on the professional socialization of educational leaders focuses primarily on principals and not on the experiences of superintendents (Orr, 2006).

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The Forgotten Aspect of Communication: Principals’ Listening Skills

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JERRY WOODS
ALAN R. SHOHO

ABSTRACT: This study investigated principals’ self-perceptions and teachers’ perceptions of principals’ listening skills. An instrument measuring perception of listening skills was developed on the basis of four listening factors: attending, empathy, response, and trustworthiness. Factor analysis confirmed the structure of the new listening instrument, and reliability analysis produced acceptable Cronbach alphas. The results of the study supported the hypothesis that principals’ self-perceptions of their listening skills were higher than teachers’ perceptions of their principals’ listening skills.

Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the four basic types of communication. But consider this: you spent years learning how to read, write, and speak, but what about listening? What type of training have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual’s own frame of reference?

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Principals’ Perceptions of School Public Relations

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ROBERT C. MORRIS
TAK CHEUNG CHAN
JUDITH PATTERSON

ABSTRACT: This study was designed to investigate school principals’ perceptions on school public relations in five areas: community demographics, parental involvement, internal and external communications, school council issues, and community resources. Findings indicated that principals’ concerns were as follows: rapid population growth, change of community demographics, status of school–community relationships, insufficient parental support of education, communication with parents, and school council functions. Principals understood that students could not achieve without family support. Principals also recognized that they could make a difference in strategically planning to work with parents and other key community members to foster a positive environment for student learning.

Education is more or less a community-supported service. With that in mind, it follows that the school’s community relations are close to the heart and soul of its mission. Kowalski (2000) views such relations the same but more formally labels them “an evolving social science and leadership process that enhances the public’s attitude toward the value of education, augmented with interaction and two way symmetrical communication between schools and their ecosystems” (p. 11). This ultimately means that the relationship between school and the community is extremely important in the big picture of education. Even Joyce Epstein (2001), noted scholar in the field, believes that overall school success is directly linked to strong school–community ties. She points out how important the school’s principal has become in fostering a positive school–community relationship. For Epstein (2001) and many others, it has become apparent that each school principal’s personal understandings (perceptions), as well as his or her school’s communicative actions and activities, directly affect how the community at large views the school. More than likely, these factors influence any positive or negative developments that the school makes.

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