by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
What is a school community?
For some, it lies within the confines of a school’s perimeter and consists of school staff, students and parents. For others, the definition of “community” extends into neighborhoods where students and their families live, work, play and worship. Sometimes it extends even further.
Having a broad view of community isn’t about borders or boundaries; it’s about being inclusive and forming relationships, partnerships and alliances with community members, organizations and groups to make things better. It’s about reaching out to those you may not think you have much in common with, and finding out that indeed you do. It’s what is known as “community outreach,” and it has never been more important for CTA members to engage in this practice. After all, it takes a community to build good schools and to ensure all members of society are treated with dignity and respect.
“How will we ever close the achievement gap if we don’t reach out and have community organizations and parents and students collaborating and working with us?” asks Jim Thrasher, who manages CTA’s Community Outreach Department. “It’s important for CTA chapters and members to reach out to communities they serve, even though they may not live in those communities. Once they do, communities will support us in efforts to help their children.”
Community outreach is about giving back to the community and sending a message about “who we are and what we are about,” says Thrasher. Some examples are having a booth at a library fair, sponsoring a library story night, holding parent workshops, and collecting canned goods for families in need. True community outreach is not a onetime event; it’s about constant dialogue with other community stakeholders. It is not just a program; it is also a philosophy.
The following are some examples of community outreach conducted by CTA chapters that are working to make their communities better, increase chapter visibility and build strong bonds members can rely on during difficult times.