Public school districts are governed by the school board, who serve as representatives and advocates for the community, prioritizing the success of the district and its students. The school board provides the space and opportunity for the community to feel heard and for the performance of the district to be held accountable.
Establishing and maintaining a culture of trust and transparency between school boards and the community that they serve can be a struggle. However, the benefits of building public trust for school boards are immeasurable and can impact student and district achievement in a variety of ways.
The Importance of Fostering Community Trust
When school boards encourage and foster public trust, everyone benefits. With openness and communication, community members are more educated and empowered regarding district issues and successes. Those same community members who are kept informed of the work being done by the school board can be more engaged and involved in the district.
Research has proven that a community engaged in local public education has a positive effect on student achievement. This increased involvement is strongly linked to faster literacy achievement, increased rates of students going on to secondary education, and decreased rates of students dropping out of school.
A lack of transparency can cause dissension not only with the public, but with school staff and administrators. Establishing and maintaining trust requires effort, communication, and intentionality, but the reward for fostering a culture of trust and engagement is great.
It is imperative for school board members to remember that as individuals elected to serve and represent the local community, they must work to meet the needs of the public and local school district. As a school board member, it is not about your individual desires or goals, but the collective needs of the community. Serving as an advocate with integrity and transparency is essential to fostering public trust.
Ways for School Boards Encourage Public Trust
Utilizing the right tools and technology, school boards can mitigate common challenges with trust that they experience. Cultivating trust, engagement, and transparency with the public supports the board in doing their best work for the success of the district.
Encourage and Share Feedback
School boards and administrators need to continuously invite and encourage feedback or other methods of evaluation from members of the district community: staff, students, parents, and other public members. Each of these groups have unique perspectives on ways to develop and grow the district that can be valuable for the school board and administrators to utilize.
Provide Public Access to Board Information
Members of the local community are stakeholders and stakeholders have a right to know what the return is on their investment. Success and a return on that investment can be found in treating the public with respect and maintaining public trust through sharing relevant information.
School boards can apply technology to ensure relevant information and updates regarding goals, events, resources, and projects are shared with the public. Providing the appropriate level of information with the public promotes community ownership. Creating simplified and streamlined access to pertinent materials for community members to stay informed is key in applying technology to cultivate trust and transparency with the community.
Leverage Technology to Further Communication and Trust
Building transparency and trust with the public should be a main objective of the board and technology can be applied in new and creative ways to support communication and openness with the district and community.
The right tools can be leveraged for school boards to streamline tasks involved in board work, which includes promoting trust and transparency. School boards can leverage board management software to provide meeting materials, district goal information, and even videos of meetings in a central online location.
Technology can mitigate issues faced by school boards by providing user-friendly and easily-accessible tools that engage and inform the public about key issues while supporting residents to participate in sharing their thoughts or concerns.
Leveraging the right board management software, like Community by Diligent, with its expansive features, school boards have the opportunity to apply technology in creative and collaborative ways that will encourage the local community to get involved in district affairs. With a return on increasing civic engagement within the public, making the investment in board management technology is truly worthwhile.
Community maintains essential board materials (such as: legislation, agendas, policies, minutes, and other pertinent documents) and can make this information easily accessible to school board members and the public (various security levels are available to protect sensitive information) through the board portal.
Not only are members of the public able to access this information, but it can be made searchable by keyword. This streamlined feature helps encourage citizens to participate in discussions regarding local public education.
Community by Diligent’s ADA compliant, multi-platform mobile capability supports and supports accessibility and involvement for the entire community. Creating seamless access to relevant materials for community members to stay informed demonstrates how technology can be leveraged for even greater collaboration between the public and the school board.
Community members utilize online platforms to stay informed and involved. However, social media and similar sites are not a suitable outlet to cultivate public trust or school board transparency. A secure, streamlined tool can be used to educate and empower public constituents while promoting school board transparency, community trust, and engagement. Community by Diligent leverages many key features key to supporting and encouraging trust and communication.
It is through the school board that the community can be heard and the performance of the schools can be held accountable. For these reasons, technology is vital to fostering and maintaining school board transparency and public engagement.
School boards are advocates who work to reflect the needs and interests of the community through local public education. It is imperative that school boards recognize the importance of establishing and cultivating a culture of trust, communication, and transparency between the board and community (including staff, students, administrators and other members of the public). Fostering public trust is an essential duty of the school board, not only for the benefits of the district, but to fulfill their responsibility as advocates and representatives of the community.