Gaining Community Support as a Newly Appointed Principal

Gaining community support is a worthy goal because the more people share a vision, the more likely it will succeed. Communities are usually quite diverse, but If you follow these strategies you can count on support. Be visible, be understood, and learn as much as you can about the school, community, and district.

There are several ways to be visible, but one often ignored is relocating. While not every new leader will have this desire, or opportunity, it is worth considering. There is an impression that only custodians, bus drivers, and aides live where they work, but this should not be the case. The song People in Your Neighborhood from Sesame Street holds some real wisdom. The more role models, the better. Whether you decide to stay put or move (perhaps just closer) attending community events such as parades, annual festivals or sporting competitions will add to your understanding of the culture. Shopping at the local stores, or a meal now and then at local restaurants will make you visible and show you support the community too.

The next item is to be understood. Don’t let others make your first impression. The reputation you have built prior to earning a principalship is your best assurance of being able to define yourself. Get the message out that you are excited for an opportunity to work at the school and share parts of your vision. You can do this by writing a letter, posting on the school’s website, and sharing on social media. As you introduce yourself be sure to provide ways to be reached. You want to encourage communication, and be available when you say you will. Large assemblies serve a purpose, but meeting with small groups is a better way to build relationships.

Paramount to garnering support is learning about the school and community. Read the local papers, school and community websites, and board of education minutes. Survey members of the community. I’m not saying become what the community wants, but I am saying be what the community needs. Ask questions, learn from past success and failure. Read the parent/student handbooks and determine if policy is matching practice.

Perhaps most important to gaining support is spending time with individuals, and listening. Find meaningful opportunities for every person that is willing to support the school. You will discover which volunteers are better behind the scenes, and which ones should be visible. Be thankful for the opportunity to serve. If the community knows you care, they will too.

Finally, do not be discouraged if gaining support takes time. It is a process that might just start by saying hello, taking time to listen, and remembering more than just their name. You matter, and so do they.

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