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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hinds

Beyond the Classroom: Sparking Innovation with Community Partnerships

In the early days of my journey into the world of educational leadership, the very thought of reaching out to a business for a potential partnership filled me with dread. Navigating who to speak with and how to broach the subject seemed like uncharted territory, a realm I had yet to explore. That was until a pivotal figure entered my professional life, an assistant principal with a background that spanned both education and business ownership. Jim, with his seamless ability to engage in dialogue with anyone, anywhere, quickly became my mentor in the art of fostering community connections.

Our adventures in partnership-building often began as casual outings, where Jim would effortlessly initiate conversations with managers and business owners. Whether we were dining out or strolling through a local shopping center, his knack for dialogue opened doors to numerous collaborations, from nail salons to restaurants. His approach was simple yet revolutionary to me: just start the conversation.

One memorable project was our “Night at the Museum”, conceived to showcase the creative efforts of our students. What started as a simple exhibition quickly evolved into a community-wide celebration of the arts, necessitating a venue beyond our school's capacity. Our solution? A partnership with an empty furniture store and surrounding businesses, transforming the event into a vibrant showcase of talent and community spirit.

images depicting student work displayed at a "pop-up" museum

As I grew more comfortable in these conversations, my own experiences began to mirror Jim's. A casual chat with a BBQ restaurant owner led to a Give Back Night, sparking a chain of collaborations that culminated in a festival-like atmosphere, benefiting both the school and the local community. This event was a testament to the power of community engagement and the positive impact it can have on all involved.

Would you like to see an example of a recent partnership between a school and a local business? Watch this video where students promote an upcoming Give Back Night at a restaurant near their school.

Here are some things that school leaders can do to cultivate and maintain community partnerships that will be mutually beneficial:

  • Invite community/business partners to a meeting before the school year begins. Share the events you have planned, and brainstorm ways they can support you that will also help to promote their businesses.

  • Invite everyone you can find to your Back to School Night.

  • Hold monthly meetings with your business partners to highlight participation and benefits to the businesses.

  • Always have some type of job fair during after school events. This benefits your businesses and parents!

  • Write about your partnerships in your blog, newsletter, social media.

Jim's influence taught me the importance of proactive community engagement and the value of a well-planned calendar. Knowing in advance what your school needs allows you to articulate these needs clearly, aligning your goals with the values and resources of local businesses. The journey from hesitant newcomer to confident community connector has been transformative, underscoring the significance of mentorship and the profound effect of community support on educational leadership.

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