Medium 9781475823950

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

Public schools have a dual mission: to benefit society and to benefit individual students. During the last half of the previous century, however, the social assignment waned, in large part because the percentage of stakeholders severing ties with schools incrementally increased. Today, many citizens consider students to be the sole beneficiaries, and in light of lingering dissatisfaction with low-performing schools, they are reluctant to support these institutions politically and economically. Recognizing this disposition and its debilitating effects, astute administrators focus on revitalizing the role of public schools as an indispensable community resource.

The Journal of School Public Relations is rooted in the conviction that highly effective institutions engage in democratic discourse and distributive leadership. Thus, the publication provides research articles, depictions of best practices, and book reviews on a range of topics related to external and internal institutional public relations.

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Decision-Making Quandaries That Superintendents Face in Their Work in Small School Districts Building Democratic Communities

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DEBRA TOUCHTON

MICHELE ACKER-HOCEVAR

ABSTRACT: Superintendents of small school districts describe how they give voice, involve and listen to others, and solicit various publics to build democratic communities. Superintendents make sense of leadership through their constructed role, leadership orientation, and district size. Findings suggest the following when superintendents involve, listen, and give voice: Stakeholders expect to be heard by the superintendent; stake-holders often lack information and expertise for participating in decision making; expected decisions based on group decision making may not occur; and stakeholders often want to be involved in the decision-making process but do not want to be held responsible or accountable for a decision’s implementation or outcomes.

Superintendents in today’s school systems are often faced with a variety of issues and concerns that are complicated by the beliefs, values, and perceptions of the various diverse groups that make up communities—communities that superintendents may be challenged to lead in decision-making processes to solve problems together (Furman & Shields, 2003; Lease, 2009). Within these various perspectives are the superintendents’ beliefs, values, and perceptions that are joined with how these multiple and diverse perspectives—with uneven knowledge distribution and expertise—may influence their community. How might the community coalesce around shared values to (a) solve problems, (b) determine whom to engage within the decision-making process, (c) assess who benefits from involvement and the extent of involvement, (d) evaluate how much time to spend on furthering the democratic process to promote inclusion (Moore, 2009), and (e) anticipate political opposition and potential consequences of including others who have been excluded (Wirt & Kirst, 2001)? Moreover, how much education should the superintendent provide to others on issues to assist various individuals and groups in understanding issues? How should superintendents make clear their personal perspectives and explicit models of decision making, as well as their beliefs about inclusion and building democratic communities?

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Guidelines for a Changing World

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JO NELL WOOD

KAREN BRACK

ABSTRACT: This article investigates the issues surrounding teachers’ use of social networking media and their First Amendment rights. It focuses on the need to develop a school district policy outlining specific guidelines for the use of technology and social networking. It also focuses on the changing world of technology and social networking as well as the legal consideration for teachers. The article reviews some cases in which teachers have been dismissed, and it outlines the method by which to determine whether the postings are protected speech. Finally, it provides questions that should be considered and guidelines for constructing a quality social networking policy.

As the worst winter storm of the decade raced across the United States at the beginning of February 2011, people rapidly began to access the Internet and their social networks to check what was happening across the area, to see where friends and family were, and to share their current weather issues. During the following days, when travel was not easy, it became evident that a majority of adults, as well as teenagers, were communicating via social networks, as news broadcasters discussed the information they were receiving on Facebook and Twitter. While communicating about weather and road conditions does not fall under concerns of legal rights, it is not just the weather that a majority of Americans now blog or post on Facebook. Social networks have become the communication mode of choice.

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When It Comes to Community Engagement, Don’t Forget the Community

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PAUL ANDREW JOHNSON

MOHAMMED ISSAH

ABSTRACT: This article presents a case study of a school district employing a community engagement approach to strategic planning aimed at addressing the district’s widening academic achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and noneconomically disadvantaged students. The study compares the community engagement approach utilized by the district with the elements of effective community engagement approaches identified in the literature. Participant survey results suggest significant differences between school employees and community members who took part in the process and their perceptions regarding the degree to which the district’s community engagement efforts reflected the elements of effective engagement found in the literature.

In a word, the Shadyside School District was in a funk. Its enrollment and property values were dropping; unemployment was rising, as was the number of students who were eligible for free lunch. Worst of all, its academic achievement scores were falling, especially for economically disadvantaged students. Table 1 shows a double-digit difference in achievement scores between disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students in the Shadyside district. In Shadyside, achievement gap was becoming the buzzword heard from its classrooms to its board room.

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