The Benefits of Community Engagement for a Stronger School District

Lena Eisenstein

Engagement between the school board and the larger community is a process that requires constant communication. During this process, the school board works with the community to shape public education in the local school district. Effective collaboration and engagement with the local public should always be a goal for the school board.

School boards should consider civic involvement as an opportunity that strengthens their school district. This opportunity helps the board develop a greater understanding of the goals, concerns, and expectations set by the public for the local district.

Understanding the needs of the public helps board members serve as better representatives and advocates for local public education.

Engagement from the local public supports school boards in doing their best work as this involvement encourages thoughtful, intentional, and strategic decision making. When school boards and members of the local public work together, the district and its students reap the benefits. The positive effects of civic involvement in local public education are significant and can affect students and schools long term.

The Top 3 Benefits of Community Engagement

  1. Increase student achievement, attendance, and retention.

Research shows that strong civic engagement in schools positively affect student achievement and outcomes. This increased involvement is strongly correlated with faster literacy achievement, increased rates of students going on to secondary education, and decreased rates of students dropping out of school. Family and public involvement in schools has also been proven to have an important effect on student attendance.

School boards and the local public both have the same goals for public education: student success. The desire is for students to reap benefits from their education and for positive impacts to be made that last for years to come. When community engagement is encouraged and supported by the school board, these positive outcomes can be felt by staff, students, administrators, and the public.

In research conducted on districts that made significant progress in raising student achievement, researchers found that school boards not only encouraged public involvement and kept them informed, but thought of them as teammates and partners.

  1. Cultivate trust, respect, and transparency between the board and the public.

It is through the school board that the public can be heard and the performance of the schools can be held accountable. For members of the public who may not be able to attend every school board meeting, technology allows these individuals to maintain involvement while staying informed of progress made by the school board. In such cases, technology is imperative to maintaining community engagement.

An informed citizen is an empowered citizen. Leveraging the right technology, the school board can maintain and update pertinent information to keep the public informed of the work being done in the local district.

Utilizing board management software, relevant updates regarding resources, meeting information, and projects can be shared with the local public. Providing the appropriate level of information with the public promotes ownership and trust. School boards can utilize software to ensure relevant information and updates are shared with the public. Providing the appropriate level of information with the public promotes community ownership and trust

  1. Establish and maintain stronger school performance and reputation.

Consistent involvement and engagement by the public has shown to have considerable short and long term benefits that not only effect students, but also the schools within the district. When boards work to develop programs that encourage and support engagement it demonstrates a commitment to student support and success. Schools that have an increased sense of public involvement see a statistically significant increase in their reputation.

Schools are advocated for by the community when they make the effort to make the public feel included and involved. The school becomes more significant as a space where one can receive instruction and support when strong public and school partnerships result in better student performance and achievement.

Technology that Supports Collaboration and Engagement

Utilizing a seamless and streamlined board management software, like Community by Diligent, with its expansive features, school boards have an increasing number of opportunities to apply technology in ways that will mobilize the public to get involved in public education affairs. With a return on increasing civic engagement within the public, investments in technology for school boards are truly worthwhile.

Community maintains pertinent board materials (such as: policies, agendas, minutes, legislation, and other important documents) and makes this information easily accessible to school board members and the public (various security levels are available to protect sensitive information). Not only are public constituents able to access this information, but it can be made searchable by keyword. This simplified feature helps empower and educate.

When creating paperless meeting agendas, specific articles or documents can be linked within the agenda items. Access to meeting details, agendas, and previous minutes allow for citizens to participate more in a way that is simple and informative. Creating streamlined access to pertinent materials for members of the public to stay informed demonstrates how technology can be used collaboratively to encourage involvement in public education.

School boards are called to reflect the needs and interests of the public through local public education and fostering commitment from the public. In today's society, technology and civic engagement go hand-in-hand. It is discovering how the school board can best leverage technology to foster civic engagement and community development, that will have the greatest impact on public involvement.

Civic engagement is an opportunity for school boards and the local public to collaborate to support public education, producing benefits for students and schools that are meaningful to student success and long-term to support future generations. School boards can develop programs and opportunities that encourages continuous engagement from members of the public.

When school boards leverage the right technology, the opportunity to engage in local public education is simplified and streamlined. The public has the ability and access to participate in a way that had not been made available before. When considering the benefits of community engagement and how your district may encourage public commitment, discover ways to apply technology to better support involvement and participation.

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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.