The mission of the RSU2 school district in Maine is to cultivate hope in all learners, centered around the idea that tomorrow can be better than today and that all kids should believe they have the power to make it so. RSU2 is a proficiency-based learning district made up of schools in five separate towns. Teachers know they must provide relevant opportunities for students to practice the skills that will build this sense of hope and perseverance but also know that they can’t do it alone. They have decided to engage members of local businesses and industry in order build a stronger support system for their greatest asset: kids.
Learn seven strategies RSU2 is using to partner with community to provide more relevant learning opportunities for students:
- Leverage Current Resources – Who already interacts with the schools in some capacity? Survey your teachers to see who they have an established relationship with and identify opportunities to continue and/or build upon those relationships. Gather a list of names, businesses, type of interaction (speaker, volunteer, field trip, etc.) and contact information. This is an easy starting point and odds are they will be open to future conversations.
- Get Inspired by the Power of Place – Asking community members to host meetings at their business locations accomplishes a few things: it highlights their value, allowing them to show off their space/resources they possess; it also encourages the group to dream big and view the vision through new perspectives. Make it easy for community members to host events. Offer to bring refreshments, handouts and help with communication.
- Define the Portrait of a Partnership – This must be a symbiotic relationship where all parties are getting their needs met – if not, the partnership is likely to end before it even gets started. Make sure all involved agree on the purpose and desired outcomes – all arrows need to be pointing in the same direction. By co-creating a Portrait of a Partnership, you can ensure everyone’s voice is heard. The Portrait should be a working document that evolves throughout the partnership.
- Bring a Friend – Once the initial meetings have taken place, ask members to invite someone to the table they think will enhance the conversation or might provide additional opportunities. By working through peoples’ extended networks, you may find partners you weren’t aware of and didn’t know you needed. Start small…. scale fast. You can never have enough people supporting kids!
- Develop a Partnership Continuum – Not everyone has same level of time, talent or resources to invest. Don’t let this be a barrier. Clearly define the differences between involvement and engagement – involvement requires less of a commitment while true engagement likely means more time, effort, etc. (It’s the difference between donating baked goods or mentoring a student through their capstone experience). Create a visual with examples at various points along the continuum. Partners need to feel comfortable that all levels are accepted. Over-committing prevents sustainability.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – People genuinely want to support each other but they often just don’t know how. Work together to create protocols and procedures for the community and district to communicate with one another. How do teachers know what community members have to offer? How do community members know what students are working on/how they can help?
- Digital Platform – Allow partnership members and students to design a platform that will house the portrait of a partnership, partnership continuum, SOP’s, etc. Designate someone to manage the site, adding content as the partnership progresses. This can be a fantastic way for students to show off their technical abilities!