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Building a Partnership: How Educational Leaders Connect the School and Community

Beyond ensuring academic achievement and staff retention, principals and administrators have another crucial responsibility — creating and sustaining productive relationships between their schools and the greater community. Every school can act as a community hub through which students and their families access resources, expand their knowledge and form stronger bonds with school leaders.

Graduates of the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Leadership program learn the concrete skills necessary to forge effective relationships with community organizations that support positive experiences for students and better classroom outcomes.

The Importance of School-Community Partnerships

School-community partnerships refer to collaborations between a school and any outside organization, whether a nonprofit group teaching English to new immigrants or an environmental group eager to establish a community garden on campus. Partner organizations often provide services like academic enrichment activities, health and social services, tutoring, behavior support or family and community engagement events.

Effective partnerships result from mutual respect and understanding of each organization’s goals. Researchers have found that successful school-community alliances can lead to a wide range of positive outcomes for students, including the following:

  • Social and emotional skill development
  • Higher attendance
  • Improved test grades and graduation rates

Community organizations can provide support at all levels of the educational ecosystem. On the campus itself, nonprofit groups and their volunteers can help students explore their interests outside of the typical school day, find individualized support with helpful adults and forge deeper connections with their parents and families as they become more enmeshed in their children’s educational lives.

The assistance is also helpful to staff members requesting extra support for students. However, principals should be aware of the logistical work involved in facilitating a successful partnership. This may require hiring new staff or giving existing staff fewer duties so they can dedicate more time to community engagement.

Strengthening Ties Between Schools and the Community

Principals and administrators play a key role in forming external partnerships and ensuring their success as programs launch and students interact with outside organizations. Partnerships could begin with information and enrollment events at community centers, houses of worship and nonprofit headquarters. Once administrators have more face time with community leaders, they can begin to explore the possibilities of formalized partnerships.

From there, educational leaders can identify gaps that nonprofit groups could fill with their services. If families have requested more opportunities to learn English or engage with the arts, such as music or dance, administrators could conduct introductory meetings with local groups to see how their goals overlap with the school.

Since Alabama elementary students receive arts instruction once a week for a single semester, one Alabama school partnered with an arts education collaborative to integrate the arts into subjects like reading and math. Arts leaders and educators developed a curriculum on sound waves that involved building cigar box guitars and learning simple chords. Students were highly engaged throughout the unit, and more educators became interested in developing arts curricula of their own involving ballet, theater and drama.

Principals can also explore other ideas that cultivate a sense of trust and belonging among students, their families and community members without children enrolled in the school. Providing group volunteer opportunities through groups like Kiwanis or Rotary can help everyone involved in campus life feel like part of a broader community.

Many educational leaders also explore mentorship programs that pair students with a “buddy” who provides both academic and emotional support to students. Such programs have proven to improve grades, attendance and students’ academic confidence.  

Hone Community Leadership Skills With the University of Louisiana Monroe

As part of ULM’s online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program, students complete a School Community Relations course. In this course, students explore how administrators and leaders develop school-community relations plans and examine the circumstances that impact school-community dynamics and student outcomes.

Upon graduation, rising educational leaders are ready to collaborate with community organizations to produce more engaged, successful students.

Learn more about the University of Louisiana Monroe’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership program.

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