The ABC’s of school access: building and maintianing relationships

As a child, access to school enabled you to learn the alphabet. But, as Scouting volunteers, can we recite the ABCs of school access? We can assist with the concepts of Assessment, Building, and Communication with the public, private, and home school leaders in our districts if we remember these points:

A: Assess the school’s unique needs and characteristics.

Every school in a district has unique elements. Perhaps it is the school’s cultural composition, or maybe the fact that it focuses on specific academic or values-based goals.

Leaders should try to determine whether the principal, superintendent, or other school official has a Scouting background or history of supporting Scouting. The purpose of assessment is to begin formulating an answer to the question "How can we help the school achieve its goals?"

B: Build a relationship with the gatekeepers.

Gatekeepers are the people who can help open or shut the door of opportunity for access to schools. These individuals may include superintendents, principals, ministers of religious-based private schools, school counselors, teachers, and secretaries.

With the coordination of the district executive and membership chair, unit leaders can make sure the principals understand that we want to help them develop youth and extracurricular opportunities and to be helpful. An effective method for communicating this is to simply ask questions about the school and how Scouting can help the students, while not making a litany of requests.

When meeting with school officials to present Scouting’s benefits, leaders can include examples of Eagle Scout projects that served the district, a school, or its students. Service to the community can play a valuable role in building relationships. School access is dependent on each principal’s interpretation of the school board’s policy, but leaders’ relationships with principals often make all the difference.

While principals and superintendents are two key players in obtaining school access, there are other gatekeepers with whom leaders can build a relationships. School secretaries hold a great deal of power and may be able to make decisions without the principal’s input. Be sensitive to their deadlines for receiving and distributing fliers and other materials.

It is important to show respect for teachers as well. When teachers report to the principal that their experiences with Scouting leaders in school are positive, then the relationship can grow.

C: Communicate frequently to maintain relationships.

We must communicate and follow through to maintain a relationship. Whether dealing with public, private, or home-schoolers, leaders must stay in contact and communicate regularly with educational leaders, and not give them the chance to forget about Scouting and its benefits.

Units can invite school leaders to Scouting activities and events such as pinewood derbies and Blue & Gold banquets to keep them informed of how their students are serving and growing in Scouting. More important, school leaders can be invited to get involved in Scouting activities. They can serve on an Eagle board of review or the district’s nominating committee.

Building relationships does require effort. But by remembering these ABCs, the task becomes much easier.

[ Originally published in the summer 2006 edition of CPC Times ]

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