This week, we’ve begun the celebration of Christmas.  Oh sure, the department, mall and big box stores along with radio stations started playing Christmas music a couple of months ago.  But the first day of Christmas is Christmas Day!

Then what were we doing buying gifts, making cookies, decorating the house and the tree, and gearing up for festive get-togethers?  We were preparing, right?  And the season of preparation for Christmas is called “Advent.”

During that time, when we were trying to select that perfect gift for those on our list, we not only looked for something the gift recipient would like, but something they also want.  As for our schools, since our parents are our customers (because they are footing a good portion of the cost of educating their children in your school), giving them what they want is what will help retain your students for years to come.  Just as Jesus gave us the example to be a servant, so we must offer SERVICE:

Synergy – results from parents who want to be involved.  They are, after all, the first teachers of their children.  When parents and schools work together, the result is far greater than the sum of all the parts.

Environment – which must be healthy, safe, inviting and conducive to learning.  While we know our schools are faced with challenges, the atmosphere in the school must be positive, so that parents know good things are happening there.  While it may be difficult at first to describe the feeling you get when entering a school, if you are aware that you must do so, it becomes easier.  Check out other schools as well – what is the feeling you get when you go there?  The local public school might be a beautiful structure, but how may layers of security do you need to go through to get in?  Are parents welcomed with a handshake, or are they told to “sit over there” while they’re waiting for their appointment to begin?

Reputation – can be summed up in three words: Word of Mouth.  Positive word of mouth is strong…stronger than any other type of marketing.  There is only one thing stronger than positive word of mouth, and that’s negative word of mouth.  Parents want their children to attend schools with a reputation for a rigorous and relevant curriculum, classes that are engaging, and an atmosphere that is positively charged.  While a school might work to receive positive comments, negative comments, if merited, will outpace positive comments 10 to 1.

Voice – is what each parent needs to have, and wants it to be heard.  Parents want their thoughts to be acknowledged.  Many (if not most) of them are highly educated as well.  Some may even be teachers in the local public school system.  Parents have talents that need to be recognized and utilized…although many won’t unless you ask them to share.  When you’re wondering why more parents or guardians aren’t involved in the workings of your school, realize that you need to invite them.  Further, you need to invite them personally!  I can remember my grandmother saying to me, “What are you waiting for…an engraved invitation?”  To that question, today’s parents respond with a resounding, “Exactly!”  Even if they can’t due to time restrictions or other limitations, they will feel that their “voice” is being heard.

Integrity – is simply defined as doing the right thing, even when nobody’s looking.  It’s what parents of children in our schools expect, and, if nothing else, it’s the one character trait that should define our students.

Convenience – is the hallmark trait of the 21st century.  We do so many things because it’s convenient for the school, or because of tradition, since “that’s the way it’s always been done.”  If we can make something more convenient for our parents, our efforts will show that we are listening, and care about what they have to say.

Experience – can be defined three ways:  1) Parents want to leave their children in the care of experienced professionals; 2) they want their child to have an excellent experience; and 3) the parents want to have an excellent experience, too!   Today’s businesses are also concerned about the “customer experience.”  Make whatever students (and parents) experience a memorable one, and they’ll definitely share it with others.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20061218)