School Tours Help Share Your Story

    OPENING YOUR DOORS TO BUILD SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

    What is the best way to convince your local community, business leaders, and elected officials that the future of Texas is in our public schools?

    Get them through the school doors!

    Welcoming key influencers to your campus to experience a well-planned, well-executed school tour can help plant the seeds for long-term relationships that can provide key support for Texas public school students.

    BENEFITS OF EFFECTIVE CAMPUS VISITS

    FOR YOU

    Building Relationships: Making contact with key community members, including elected officials, is crucial to strengthening the network of people who are in the position to support your students and school. You may need to call on these people in the future. If you already have a relationship, making contact will be that much easier.

    Future Consideration of Your Program: You never know when a legislator will be sitting in a committee hearing considering legislation that directly impacts a program or initiative at your school. You want the positive memory of your school and students to be in the mind of that legislator when he/she votes on bills or funding related to an initiative (or even the entire public education system) that you hold dear.

    FOR YOUR ATTENDEES

    Knowledge: Movers and shakers in the community are always interested in learning more. Surprise them with what your school is doing! Show them something that will make them feel more connected to your school and public schools in general, and leave them with this impression: “Wow, I didn’t know our public schools were doing/were capable of that!”

    Partnerships: Beyond building relationships in general, developing strategic partnerships that can benefit your attendees and your students is critical. Your students will be the future employees, voters, and consumers of the people you are inviting to your campus. Always remember what they can do for you and what you or your students can do for them. Keep these opportunities in mind: Internships, mentorships, career-related classroom visits, business tours, etc.

    FOR THE STATE

    Set the Record Straight About Public Schools: Don’t take for granted the broader impact an effective visit to your campus can have statewide. The success of your campus and students can show that public schools positively impact communities and the state by increasing student learning and opportunities. An effective campus visit that offers face-to-face interaction with the best of public schools will prove that:

    • Public schools are community partners.
    • Public schools offer choice for students and parents.
    • Public schools are increasingly innovative.
    • Public schools can prepare students for 21st century opportunities.
    • The future of Texas is in our public schools.

    THE MAKINGS OF A GREAT CAMPUS VISIT

    Front-End Strategy

    The days of sipping lukewarm coffee and touring the cafeteria are gone. Just as school leaders must now consider themselves brand managers, campus visits must be considered opportunities to market your product to your most important stakeholders. Therefore, principals must take time on the front-end to create a strategy, message, and desired outcomes for school visits.

    The best way to make a lasting impact and not overwhelm your visitors with information is to feature one program, initiative, or student story that is particularly successful and inspiring. Your attendees are most likely to remember one student, teacher, or exercise, so don’t go overboard with showing off impressive facilities, every advanced class setting, or multiple programs that do different things. Tell a story.

    Your story will be even better if the selected pilot program, initiative, or course offering can be backed by strong statistics and outcomes showing how students have benefitted from it.

    Here are other strategic planning considerations:

    • Do you partner with outside entities (i.e. state agencies, non-profits, local businesses, universities, etc.) to provide a unique and effective program?
    • Which attendees could help you accomplish your purpose/goals? Think legislators, legislative staff, community leaders, business officials, parent influencers, etc.
    • Consider planning around frequency of tours, invitees, blending groups and specialized groups.

    Event Prep

    The event itself will require special planning, sometimes at both the campus and district levels. Seek out support and communicate with all parties involved so the theme and desired outcomes of the event are mutually valued and consistent.

    • Work with Central Office on planning and invitees; contact Governmental Relations office for larger districts.
    • Reach out to Raise Your Hand Texas regional directors and Austin staff for additional support if needed.
    • Send out agenda prior to event; include links or PDFs of pre-reading.
    • Work with teachers to coordinate classroom visit(s) in an effort to accomplish goals and stay consistent with outreach message/program theme.

    Game Day & Beyond

    Make the event as organized and focused as possible, so attendees will recognize:

    1. You’re prepared
    2. You value their time
    3. If everything you do is as effective as this visit, this school is in good hands


    Guidelines for what to consider during and after the event:

    • Formally introduce any elected officials or staff. Allow other participants to introduce themselves.
    • Weave in community support to show the collaborative effort.
    • Share general demographics of the campus and data about effectiveness of program/initiative, including test scores.
    • If applicable, mention relation to public school choice, waiting lists, community demand, etc.
    • Be prepared to answer the question, “What can I/we do to support this campus/program?”
    • Take photos of guests and ask permission to share on social media.
    • Alert Raise Your Hand Texas of visits so we may share also!
    • Follow-up after event to provide electronic copies of any handouts and offer to serve as future contact.

    SHARE YOUR SUCCESS STORY

    Have you hosted a successful campus visit for legislators and/or key community influencers? Tell us about it both the positive highlights and lessons learned so other leaders may benefit from your experience.

    P.S. If you liked this story, you might enjoy our Raise Your Hand newsletter. Receive stories, news, and ways to help, right in your inbox.  Sign up here.

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