Advocating for your band or orchestra program with an administrator or superintendent can be an important necessity in determining your program's success. Perhaps your program is growing rapidly? Or an expensive piece of equipment needs to be replaced? Or perhaps scheduling constraints are making it difficult to recruit students to the band or orchestra? These are all legitimate concerns that can lead to tensions within a school or district that need to be addressed to ensure a program's success. However, it is also important that these matters be handled in a way that is beneficial for all parties without creating unnecessary tension or frustration. Here are some "Tips for Success" to consider when communicating with your administration.
- Request a meeting with your principal or immediate superior to ensure you are respecting the "chain of command".
- Prepare thoroughly for your meeting in advance with facts, tables, or other valuable information to validate your requests or concerns.
- Anticipate what concerns your administrators may have and prepare for them in advance of your meeting. This allows you to cover as much ground as possible in a limited time frame.
- Remember that principles and administrators must consider the "bigger picture" of your request and may need to balance your requests with the requests of other programs or teacher's needs.
- Attend local school board meetings to be up-to-date on issues within your school district.
- Ensure your program is fulfilling its role as a positive representative within the community.
- Making ultimatums that if certain actions are not taken, you intend to: leave your position, bring this up at the next school board meeting, etc.
- Flexing the muscle of your parents. Flooding a school board meeting with angry parents, an email inbox, or voicemail box often leads to a "One and Done Teacher". (One more year and you're done.)
STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE LOBBYING
by JoAnna Newhouse, Action Chairperson Los Angeles City Elementary School Music Association
Thoughts on Strategies for Effective Lobbying of School Boards and School Administration
- Think of the crisis in the positive vein as being an "opportunity" to educate board members and administration in the value of music in the schools.
- Plan group visitations to each board member. Keep the visit in a positive light. They are interested in the welfare of the students just as you are. 3. Never use the word "frill." Music is essential and belongs in the core curriculum. Be adamant on this issue.
- Never suggest cuts in someone else's program. Show that you are willing to work for the good of all students. Keep the issues student-centered (not teacher:lob centered).
- Be current on issues presented at board meetings. Have representatives of your group regularly attend and give reports back to your group.
- Get to know your area board member personally. Be involved in the board member's campaign. Attend and speak at the board member's open house.
- Invite board members to student concerts. Let the board members see and experience the value of what you do.
- Be prepared for any crisis by doing the following:
- Have in place a telephone tree/email list of your group ready months in advance of any budget announcements, and revise it annually thereafter.
- Have in place a list of names, email addresses and phone numbers of parent and community supporters for each member of your group. Be ready to network hundreds of phone calls and emails in twenty-lour hours. This list should be ready months in advance of budget announcements.
- Have in place a list of speakers who are ready to address the school board and administration. Have four times the number of speakers you will actually use, as meetings will be canceled and rescheduled, possibly over months.
- Know the rules of the boardroom: length of time for speeches; who may call in speakers; how far in advance can speakers be scheduled; are buttons or banners allowed in the room, is instrument playing allowed etc.
- Address the board and administration with proper titles. E.g. begin the speech with "Mr. Superintendent, Madame Chair, members of the board".
- Use the "trilogy" three speaker consecutive approach in addressing the board.
- Parent: Articulates value of music education in the schools. States that music must not be cut.
- Student: Eloquently speaks un-coerced by teacher or parent. Has parent's approval. Explains what music has meant in his/her life. Speech is in students' own words.
- Music teacher or university professor: Ties in the value of music in the curriculum.
- Fill the boardroom when your speakers are scheduled. Think of a support audience in the hundreds. Numbers count here. It may be advantageous to have a rally occurring at the same time.
- Don't have a series of repetitive speakers all saying music is wonderful. Be sure each speaker addresses the issue with a different slant and input. Give different information.
- Be prepared with facts concerning the status of music in your district. Key your emotion to these FACTS. Do your homework and know the issues.
- Should a written proposal become necessary to address the board and administration, utilize John Benham's manual for the music advocate.
- Have community supporters call, email and/or write the board and administration. Petitions are nice but the mileage will come from phone calls, emails and letters which are tallied.
- Do not use form letters addressed to administration or school boards. They must be individually written.
- Send thank-you notes to administration and school board members for positive comments or positive reactions showing interest or support of music in the schools.
- Be proud of what you do. Take control. Plan, analyze, and act in positive professional ways that will also gain you respect.
WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK!