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How to Improve District and Community Relationships Through Public Relations


Establishing a positive relationship between a school district and its surrounding community plays a crucial role in the ongoing quest for student success. Whether celebrating a major success or tackling difficult issues, the responsibility often falls on school districts to prove they have their students’ best interests at heart. 

In an increasingly competitive education market, it’s important for school districts to be recognized for their 

innovation rather than their failures, which can damage the educational process for the very children whose best interests both groups try to protect. The solution? Focused public relations programs that can make communities feel confident that their districts goals are in place for the students they serve. As a K-12 thought leader, Skyward has noticed three emerging trends that promote partnership over confrontation by enriching the relationship between district and community. 


Appoint a Voice

According to a recent study of Wisconsin school districts, the majority of community relations activities are still performed by superintendents. While this dynamic may work well for smaller school districts, the cost of appointing a separate communications specialist could outweigh the indirect costs that arise from not having one. 


Community relations personnel should serve as a liaison for the school; participating in face-to-face conversations with community members that might not fit into the superintendent’s busy schedule. As the voice of the district they can also help in the midst of a crisis, allowing the superintendent to focus on fixing an issue rather than worrying about how and when to keep stakeholders informed. 


Trumpet Positive Outcomes

Public perception is the most visible, if not arguably the most important, piece of the communications puzzle. Therefore, a district should highlight its successes early and often. Communications that fail to address public concerns can result in a lack of trust between a district and the members of its community, even if great things are happening every day.


Frequently celebrating district wins through multiple mediums can prevent these false assumptions. In addition to making success stories a prominent and updated part of your district’s website, a strong community relations program utilizes online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to reach as much of the community as possible. An active social media presence enables you to stay in touch with your community through the channels they use on a daily basis to consume information.


Finally, local media outlets are often eager to feature successful district initiatives, especially when they’re aligned with educational movements being implemented throughout the country. Developing open, two-way relationships with local journalists can be beneficial when spreading the word about positive district-wide outcomes. 


Make Decisions Together

Inviting the community to participate in the decision-making process is often the hardest step to adopt; however, districts have seen very positive results when they involve their local community in the early stages of any major change to school operations or technology. Transparency through surveys, newspaper advertisements and open meetings can help district leaders obtain valuable feedback from parents and key stakeholders.


When communities are involved in major district decisions, a sense of worth and buy-in begins to take shape. While districts will never be able to please everyone, providing an open space for discussions can help your district clarify any misconceptions that may exist. Communication is key for large-scale projects, and the extra effort involved in reaching out to more parties can result in greater commitment, action and support from the community. 


To learn more about improving community relations in your district, visit the Skyward Advancing K12 EdTech blog



Article contributed by Ray Ackerlund

Education World® 

Copyright © 2015 Education World



Ray Ackerlund (@RayAckerlund) is vice president of sales and marketing for Skyward Inc. A 20-year industry veteran, Ackerlund guides the strategic execution of marketing and product vision for Skyward’s administrative software exclusively designed for K–12 school districts. Skyward serves more than 5 million students and 1,800 school districts worldwide.