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February 28, 2017

Advocacy & Outreach

Today's students are growing up in a global, complex and highly competitive society that demands much more than a basic education. It is the duty and mission of DCS to provide students with the depth and breadth of educational programs and services so they have the skills and knowledge to be college and career-ready, whether their plans include higher education, the workplace, a trade or craft, family business or the military.

In recent years, Duanesburg Central School District and other small, rural school districts have been challenged in their mission to continue providing a high-quality education by flat or decreasing school aid, rising costs, increasing state mandates and the state's tax levy limit.

DCS is proud of its schools, students and community, and committed to moving forward as a place where people want to live, raise and educate their children. The district encourages the community to be a part of that process and help prepare students for the future.

The district also remains committed to balancing the needs of its students and schools with fiscal responsibility and the needs of the community. Steps taken by the board of education and district leaders in recent years have put DCS on firm financial footing and ensured a brighter future.

Every budget season, DCS officials review the district’s expenses and try to find areas where savings can be sought. DCS also shares services, participates in bulk purchasing and procures grants to fund some areas of the budget.

How to take action

Advocacy takes many forms. It could be a formal letter to an elected official asking for change, an informal letter with an anecdote, a comment made during a public forum, a letter to a newspaper editor or formal testimony at public hearings.

It's not as hard as you might think to become an advocate for education--and your school district. Anyone can be an advocate. The only requirement is to have a desire to stand up for and support students and your school district!

Effective advocates to their homework. They know the issues and plan their communications accordingly. Most of all, they give their time and energy to advance their cause.

What does effective advocacy look like?

Personal contact with your elected representatives helps build relationships and establishes open lines of communication that ensure that the district's story is being heard by people who can help take action. Whether your choose to contact your elected representatives by phone, email or in person, please keep in mind the following tips and courtesies to help you convey your message in the most effective and respectful way possible.

  • Be brief. Stick to your key points ("laser talk") and be mindful that legislators are often very busy and face a variety of special interest groups that compete for their time and attention. By keeping your conversation brief, your message is more likely to be heard and remembered. Additionally, your elected officials will appreciate and value your succinct delivery and courtesy of their busy schedules.

  • Be respectful. Even if you disagree on a position, be respectful in your dialogue and stick to the facts. When appropriate be passionate, not emotional. Remember this adage: "You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar."

  • Be clear and specific. Let your elected representatives know exactly what you want them to do (i.e., vote in favor of a bill, pass legislation) in a way that requires a "yes" or "no" response. Ask them how they will vote, follow up on your conversation and hold them accountable.

  • Be a reliable source of information. Research your issue and know the facts so that you can provide accurate information to legislators and be able to answer their questions. Do not assume that legislators know specifics about Duanesburg Schools or education issues in general. Be prepared to follow up with answers to any questions you many not know on the spot.

  • Be honest about your concerns. Convey the real situation, even if it is harsh. Share the ramifications of an action/inaction for Duanesburg Schools and students. Use personal or compelling stories coupled with facts and data.

  • Be timely and persistent. If an issue has a deadline, such as the passage of the state budget, make sure you give your elected representatives time to respond to the issue. Frequent, regular reminders about the importance of the issue, particularly from more than one advocate, can increase the likelihood that legislators will pay attention to a cause.

Tips for effective written correspondence
Some forms of written communication are more effective than others. For example, emails and form letters are good, but personal letters convey a stronger message. They demonstrate the importance of your concerns and the level of your interest by showing that you took the time to make them known. Writing a letter and making a follow-up phone call takes a few extra minutes, but those steps ensure that your elected representatives know just how you want to be represented.
When writing a letter, you should:
  • Keep your letter short; a single page is best.
  • Be concise and specific, but add personal touches on how your selected issue impacts you and your family.
The letter should include the following parts:
  • Introduction
  • Problem statement
  • Proposed solution
  • Conclusion and call to action
  • Your contact information--including home address, phone numbers (home and cell) and email address--so you can be reached.
Tips for effective in-person meetings
A face-to-face meeting with your elected representative(s) is a great way to personalize an issue, and to make sure that your message is heard. It is also a great opportunity to educate your representative about a particular issue and to answer any questions they may have on the topic. Community members can opt to meet with legislators on an individual basis, or go in a small group (no more than four people.)
Before the meeting
  • Make an appointment
  • Prepare for the meeting by 1. defining your goals; 2. gathering the facts; 3. gathering data
  • Practice your talking points
  • Reconfirm the meeting by phone a few days before the meeting
During the meeting
  • Be on time
  • Introduce yourself and your group
  • Be polite and gracious
  • Stay on topic
  • Tell your elected representative why you are there: Give background on your issue; tell your story and explain the impact of any action/inaction; and make your recommendation or request for action
  • Get a commitment
  • Allow time for questions
  • Respect the legislator's schedule and end the meeting on time
  • Leave your contact information and copies of any supporting materials
After the meeting
  • Send a thank you note
  • Follow up on action items
  • Sustain the relationship
Tips for using social media to advocate
Family and friends use social media to stay in touch, but legislators also use it to connect with constituents. As a community advocate, you can tap into the power of social media to help spread the word about the challenges facing public schools.
Have a Facebook page?
  • Search for and then “like” your local legislators’ Facebook pages. Visit these pages often to learn more about their legislative activities and
    interests.
  • When a legislator’s Facebook post relates to education, be sure to “comment” on the post or “like” the post if you support it.
  • “Share” the post on your own Facebook page to draw your friends’ attention to the legislator’s stance on education issues.
Have a Twitter feed?
  • Search for and then “follow” your local legislators’ Twitter feeds so they appear on your Twitter “home” page.
  • When a legislator tweets about education, “retweet” it with some comments on the issue. Your retweet will appear on your Twitter feed and on the “home” page of those who “follow” you.
  • Send a tweet that includes the legislator’s Twitter handle so anyone who views “all” tweets related to the legislator will see your comments (e.g., I support @SenXYZ).
  • Use hashtags in your tweets to encourage others to share a particular advocacy message (e.g., @NYGovCuomo: Schools are the key
     to the future for our kids and our state. Stand up for both and END the GEA now! #nyschoolsinperil).

What to do - and not to do - when talking with legislators

 

  • DO: Introduce yourself and identify what cause you are associated with
  • DO:  Thank them for their service to the community and for their time to meet with you and/or read your letter
  • DO: Remember that you are a constituent and have every right to express your opinions, ideas and concerns
  • DO: Stick to a few key points ("laser talk") when communicating with elected representatives
  • DO: Get back to legislators in a timely fashion with answers to questions they may have
  • DO: Ask for some sort of action from the legislator, and follow up to be sure that action was taken
  • DO: Develop a relationship with the staff in your elected representatives office
  • DO: Maintain your relationship with elected representatives throughout the year, not just when you need them to take action

 

  • DON'T: Lecture your elected representatives
  • DON'T: Overwhelm legislators with excessive facts, figures or jargon
  • DON'T: Be rude or intimidating
  • DON'T: Get into a lengthy conversation that strays from the original topic
  • DON'T: Be afraid to admit when you do not know the answer to a question
  • DON'T: Overstay your allotted meeting time
  • DON'T: Expect your elected representatives to be experts on all issues
  • DON'T: Underestimate your influence

 

tool kitAdvocacy tool kit

 

Looking for a handy summary of the information and tips on this webpage?

 DOWNLOAD THE ADVOCACY TOOL KIT (pdf)

 

 

 

Additional resources to aid with advocacy

If you would like to learn more about advocacy and the issues facing public education, visit these websites:

 

 

 

 

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