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Leading Through Communication: Altering U.S. Public Perception of Public Schools
Unformatted Document Text:  Section IStatement of the Issue and Literature Review For the past 33 years, the Phi Delta Kappa /Gallup Poll (Rose & Gallup, 2001) has conducted a survey designed to assess the U. S. public’s attitudes toward the public educational school system. Each year the poll has found that individuals who are directly affected or involved in school activities and functions usually feel more positively towards the public school system than those individuals who are not involved or directly affected by the school. At a macro level, distanced from the immediate environment of the public school community is a nation that is disgruntled, frustrated, and unsupportive of the public school’s curriculum, purpose, and teachers (Wadsworth, 1998). Consequently, there have been concerns regarding the legitimacy of the public school system (Mathews, 1997). Mathews noted that organizations such as the Kettering Foundation have been conducting research regarding the deteriorating relationship between the public and the public education system for more than 10 years. The public’s lack of accurate information regarding for example, student achievement, state mandated exams, and teacher preparation, as well as limited organizational interaction, and trust has led to a “disconnection” from the public school system. Mathews argued that the U.S. public’s disconnection and lack of perceived legitimacy of the public school system has led to an increase in charter schools, home schooling, and private school attendance. These and other “solutions” may ultimately affect the ability of the institution of public education to remain intact. Therefore, to alter the U.S. public’s perception of public education, a model of communication is needed to establish a strategy regarding public relations and issues management. According to Potter (1997), “Schools can live or die by public opinion, and public relations is the key to garnering public support” (p. 22). However, Hicks (2000) noted that one of the significant variables that led to the nonsupport of the public school system is the public school system itself. Hicks argued that the people who make up the school system such as the administrators, principals, superintendents, and teachers coupled with government officials and politicians have done little to assist in the formulation of a public relations strategy to address the public’s concern for the institution of public education. For this very reason, Milo (1997) stated that administrators, principals, and superintendents must work with their individual school boards in developing a public relations strategy designed to meet the needs of the unique school’s communities. Public relations practices should consist of strategies that permit school administrators to share positive stories about their schools with the public, as well as techniques for addressing negative information released about their schools, and issues management activities. Issues management is a relatively new phenomenon that stems from the realm of public relations (Kitto, 1998). The focus of issues management is quite different than that of public relations. Although public relations is concerned with the public in terms of image, rapport building, or persuasive topics regarding the bolstering of external support, issues management is focused upon addressing and identifying public issues that could have damaging effects on the business. According to Bryan (1997), an issue is “a gap between corporate action and stakeholder expectation” (p. 14). Issues management refers to the actions and reactions taken by corporations to meet external constituent expectations regarding various public concerns designed to minimize the gap. Tucker, Broom, and Caywood (1993) define issues management as “a process whose goal is to

Authors: Robinson, Renee.
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Section I
Statement of the Issue and Literature Review
For the past 33 years, the Phi Delta Kappa /Gallup Poll (Rose & Gallup, 2001)
has conducted a survey designed to assess the U. S. public’s attitudes toward the public
educational school system. Each year the poll has found that individuals who are directly
affected or involved in school activities and functions usually feel more positively
towards the public school system than those individuals who are not involved or directly
affected by the school. At a macro level, distanced from the immediate environment of
the public school community is a nation that is disgruntled, frustrated, and unsupportive
of the public school’s curriculum, purpose, and teachers (Wadsworth, 1998).
Consequently, there have been concerns regarding the legitimacy of the public school
system (Mathews, 1997). Mathews noted that organizations such as the Kettering
Foundation have been conducting research regarding the deteriorating relationship
between the public and the public education system for more than 10 years. The public’s
lack of accurate information regarding for example, student achievement, state mandated
exams, and teacher preparation, as well as limited organizational interaction, and trust has
led to a “disconnection” from the public school system. Mathews argued that the U.S.
public’s disconnection and lack of perceived legitimacy of the public school system has
led to an increase in charter schools, home schooling, and private school attendance.
These and other “solutions” may ultimately affect the ability of the institution of public
education to remain intact. Therefore, to alter the U.S. public’s perception of public
education, a model of communication is needed to establish a strategy regarding public
relations and issues management.
According to Potter (1997), “Schools can live or die by public opinion, and public
relations is the key to garnering public support” (p. 22). However, Hicks (2000) noted
that one of the significant variables that led to the nonsupport of the public school system
is the public school system itself. Hicks argued that the people who make up the school
system such as the administrators, principals, superintendents, and teachers coupled with
government officials and politicians have done little to assist in the formulation of a
public relations strategy to address the public’s concern for the institution of public
education. For this very reason, Milo (1997) stated that administrators, principals, and
superintendents must work with their individual school boards in developing a public
relations strategy designed to meet the needs of the unique school’s communities.
Public relations practices should consist of strategies that permit school administrators to
share positive stories about their schools with the public, as well as techniques for
addressing negative information released about their schools, and issues management
activities.
Issues management is a relatively new phenomenon that stems from the realm of
public relations (Kitto, 1998). The focus of issues management is quite different than that
of public relations. Although public relations is concerned with the public in terms of
image, rapport building, or persuasive topics regarding the bolstering of external support,
issues management is focused upon addressing and identifying public issues that could
have damaging effects on the business. According to Bryan (1997), an issue is “a gap
between corporate action and stakeholder expectation” (p. 14). Issues management refers
to the actions and reactions taken by corporations to meet external constituent
expectations regarding various public concerns designed to minimize the gap. Tucker,
Broom, and Caywood (1993) define issues management as “a process whose goal is to


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