The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The shift to partnership thinking

Two years ago, I made a prediction: that within the next five years, the people who know how to build community/school partnerships were going to become some of the most important people in public education. As we start the new school year, I’m hearing more and more indicating that this shift is starting to occur. This includes updates I’m getting from partnership leaders around the country, such as the one who told me last week that her superintendent, for the first time, was starting to emphasize community partnerships at every meeting with principals. It also includes the education stories in various newspapers that are starting to focus on the funding crisis, detailing how school and district leaders are beginning to look to their communities for help.

Two newspaper items I saw just this weekend:

The first, “Cash-strapped California schools seek commercial sponsors to raise funds,” describes how some schools are making it a priority to secure new sources of revenue. Beverly Hills schools are considering launching an apparel line; Chino Valley schools are interested in selling ads in their football stadiums and securing sponsorships for school assemblies; San Diego wants to sell naming rights for their science camps. While California is in a particularly bad place in terms of funding, I would expect to see more of this elsewhere starting in the very near future.

(And I want to be clear – I understand that selling sponsorships, or an apparel line for that matter, is not the same as building partnerships. I point to the article as evidence that schools are beginning to feel an urgent need to solicit support from the community, and that partnerships will inevitably be a part of that mix. After all, there are only so many ads that can be placed in the football stadium, and the economic environment is not conducive to getting top dollar for ads or sponsorships.)

The next is unprecedented: a school board candidate running with a focus on boosting revenue through private support and education partnerships. Part of a Q&A with school board candidate Carol Kaufmann, running for a seat on the Gravette (Arkansas) school board:

Q: What are your goals if elected?
A: The first goal would be to sustain and/or improve the existing curriculum and instruction. The second goal would be to research and exhaust all avenues of revenue prior to a millage increase.

Q: What challenges do you think need to be addressed?
A: I believe acquiring revenue for maintenance, upgrade, replacement and/or additional facilities is an ongoing challenge for all districts.

Q: How would you solve the district's problems?
A: I would look for alternative sources of revenue such as federal, state and working grant monies, Partners in Education, public and private industry and philanthropy.

It stands to reason that we’ll see more of this as the school year goes on, and that we’ll see more next year, and much more the year after (when the stimulus money is gone).


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