How Does Public Education Shape a Community’s Culture?

Response from “Ask Former Trustees – Clear Creek ISD Chapter”: Joanna Baleson, Ken Baliker, Jennifer Broddle, Bob Davee, Glenn Freedman, Ann Hammond, Charlie Pond, Page Rander, Dee Scott, Win Weber

Community culture refers to the set of values, beliefs, and cusotms that bind a community. Sociologists typically define a community’s culture as its blend of education, healthcare, economy, level of tolerance, and shared history.

There are three categories of relationships that help define a school district’s contributions to community culture:
1. Each School’s Key Relationships: Each public school has its own cultural sphere, as typically defined by its attendance zones. From the students to the PTA to demographics to the perceptions of academic quality within an ideal learning environment, each school has a culture and contributes to the community.

2. The District’s Key Relationships with Parents and Staff: School districts develop their reputation as trusted or not, friendly and receptive or not, high quality or not, fiscally responsible or not, and relevant or not. ISDs establish the community standards in academics, the arts, athletics, career, and college preparation, and much more. A district in which students thrive is a district relevant to the community.

3. The District’s Key Relationships with Business and All Other Residents: Business success in a community starts with its schools. Every business needs a quality workforce, a place for families to live and enjoy, and a quality of life that is conducive to its success. Public education is where that all begins. Further, a community’s citizens should all understand that they are connected to the schools in fundamental ways.

Specifically, what should we look for in our schools in building a healthy community?

1. Student Engagement: Students should be working together, learning and playing cooperatively. Schools and families should be communicating and sharing necessary information to keep students connected – from Pre-K through to graduation.

2. Student-Teacher-Principal Engagement: Students, teachers, and principals should know one another beyond the classroom, conversing formally and informally as the situations warrant. Adults should also collaborate and demonstrate respect for the ideas of others. Every school has its own distinctive micro-culture, with the tone set by the principal and reinforced by the teaching staff. When that culture is positive, learning can flourish.

3. Community Engagement: Healthy schools have healthy relationships with their community – from businesses to non-profits to families. Strong schools can count on the community for support through student mentoring, fund-raising, bonds, advocacy, and for helping to defend public education’s importance and viability in a free society. At an individual level, schools and families should be communicating and sharing the necessary information to keep students involved from pre-K through to graduation.
4. Transitional Engagement: A public school education is a multi-year process that ideally leads to each student’s successful transition to jobs and careers, higher education, the military, or other adult pursuits. We should be able to observe this process unfold for each child. Such awareness as well as participation grow productive adults and create a healthy community

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