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Community Involvement Overview


Q. Schools have too much on their plates. How is the society around them responding and helping?


Community organizations and other members of a school's "neighbors" are helping on local, state, regional and national levels. Every dollar they devote, and every volunteer hour they provide, saves taxpayer dollars and improves quality for kids:


Parents. The Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTO) and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA), along with many other school-based volunteer groups, are recruiting and developing more nontraditional school volunteers, including fathers, single parents, retirees, and older students.


Businesses. From partnerships with schools that help with fund-raising for those learning extras that mean so much, to providing matches for job shadowing and internship opportunities, businesses are there for kids, whether they make money on the K-12 school system or not.


Civic Groups. Sponsoring health drives, promoting educational think tanks, researching cost-effective educational practices, exposing waste and fraud, granting scholarships, distributing free books, giving free dictionaries . . . a wide range of volunteer organizations are pitching in.


Foundations. Previously limited to charitable works outside of governmental functions such as schooling, private, nonprofit charitable foundations are playing a huge role in public and private schools today. That includes paying a lot of the up-front costs for big and expensive new programs such as preschools, in-school clinics, and after-school enrichment. Those are often controversial, and so school boards can shift the pricetag and the pressure off themselves and onto the foundation.


Universities. They run laboratory schools to try out new program ideas in an academic setting, and post research and opinion on free online forums to educate the public about key K-12 issues.


Media. TV, radio and print media do a great job publicizing the need for back-to-school supplies, backpacks of weekend food, warm winter coats, and other needs that many children have.


Inner-City Schools. There's a growing number of effective partnerships between schools, civic organizations, nonprofits, church groups, businesses, health-care groups, other governmental agencies, and consultants working as a team to bring schools in disadvantaged areas up to speed.


Rural Schools. Among other organizations, the Rural School and Community Trust ( is an example of national nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing training, ideas and help to schools in small towns and rural areas.


Homework: An excellent how-to book describing how to build effective school-community partnerships is School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action, by Joyce L. Epstein and Associates (Corwin Press, 2009).


By Susan Darst Williams

Community Involvement 01 2009



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