Step 7: Identify & Advocate With Influential Decision Makers

One of the most important parts of effective advocacy planning involves identifying the people of influence who need to hear your messages, be convinced that change is needed, and have the power to effect change. Elected or appointed public officials and district and building administrators are key stakeholders at the local level that need to be engaged in advocacy campaigns promoting the NASP Practice Model. Communicating with these influential people requires understanding their roles, priorities, and scope of influence and crafting key messages around these factors. Below are some tips for effective communications with school administrators and school board members.

Tips for Educating School Building Leaders

1. Identify your influential school building leaders and become an asset to their work. Who are the decision makers in your school building, what are they working on, and how can your skills as a school psychologist help them? In most cases, your building principal will be right at the top of the list. But it is likely that your principal is supported by other people you should also connect with, such as assistant principals and department chairs. It is important that, for each identified person of influence, you learn what his or her priorities are and work to become a valuable resource to him or her in some way. We typically recommend that you schedule a weekly meeting with your principal where you sit down together and ask, "What are you working on and how can I help you?" The more indispensable you are to influential leaders, the more readily these leaders will work to support your efforts to align your role with the NASP Practice Model.

2. Participate and contribute to your building's faculty meetings. Participating in faculty meetings is critical for establishing relationships and being viewed as a valued member of the school community. It is important that you contribute your expertise when appropriate, make presentations when possible, and volunteer for committees and other responsibilities. When making a formal presentation, be sure to rehearse your statement and emphasize 2-3 key messages that will resonate with your audience. Be concise and present your points in order of importance within the time allotted to you.

3. Review and make public school and student outcome data that are linked to your school services and the NASP Practice Model. Take the time to educate key school leaders on the NASP Practice Model services and how your work aligns with these standards. Share the data you have collected with school leaders, staff, families, and the community about the needs of your school and students and the positive outcomes experienced as a result of your.

4. Ask your school administrator and other essential school leaders to help you transform your role to align with the NASP Practice Model. Once you have established a positive relationship with school staff and leaders, discuss how adopting the model is a way to ensure that these positive practices persist beyond your work in the school. Work with other stakeholders (teachers, parents, other school-employed mental health providers) to ensure the collaborative and comprehensive nature of this model. Ask that the school administrator assist in having your school and/or school district officially adopt the model as the goal for school psychological services.

5. Communicate your school's intent to align services and supports with the NASP Practice Model. Through school newsletters, brochures, website postings, and more, communicate how your work is aligned with the NASP Practice Model and how this standard of practice is to be the model for school psychologists serving your building/district. Provide ongoing evidence of data that supports the positive relationship between the model, your services, and school and student outcomes.

Tips for Educating Superintendents and School Boards About Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services

1. Identify your local school board members and superintendent. Review facts about them including involvement in education, children going to school in the system, and personal connections you can make to their bios. Educate yourself on the jurisdiction the school board has over local policy and budget decisions, as this can vary across districts and states. Assess their knowledge about school psychological services and associated positive school and student outcomes.

2. Communicate with your school board members and/or superintendent that you may be an untapped resource and can be an asset to their work. Determine what the priorities of your school board and superintendent are and work to support best practices associated with those priorities. Offer to be a resource if they have questions about a particular issue. Be sure to use your personal e-mail address. If pertinent to the issue, provide a written summary of research, data, and other information that supports your issue. NASP has a variety of fact sheets, position papers, brochures, and other information available at the NASP Research Center and Advocacy Resources pages.

3. Sign up to speak at your school board meetings. You may team up with other colleagues and specialized instructional support personnel (e.g., school counselors and school social workers) to present at school board meetings. This is particularly effective during budget deliberations. Develop a brief statement summarizing the importance of comprehensive and integrated school psychological services, and give specific examples that pertain to your district. Relate at least one real-life example illustrating how critical comprehensive and integrated school psychological services are to educational success. Be sure to know the time allotted to you and rehearse your presentation or statement so that your key messages are communicated succinctly and efficiently.

4. Invite school board members and superintendents, in collaboration with other school personnel, to visit your school(s). Make your invitations personal and be determined to include them. Share with them exciting services you are delivering and the positive outcomes being experienced. Make sure that you check with your school principal and supervisor before you invite the superintendent and school board members to visit your school. Coordinate your invitation with your building administrators and supervisor.

5. Review district board policies related to school psychologists and suggest improvements that align policies and practices with NASP standards. Directly ask if they would be willing to support specific policy proposals and/or modifications. Offer to be a local resource person if the member has questions about the relationship between comprehensive and integrated school psychological services and strong outcomes for students. Suggest specific ways that policies can be strengthened to improve services and supports for students.

6. If the school board member or superintendent says something you disagree with, practice good active listening skills, and politely offer facts (if you have them) to rebut the statement. A polite, positive approach is always best. After you leave, you may think of a point or find relevant information to support your argument. This gives you a perfect opportunity to follow up with the school board member and restate your point. The more they hear from you (without you being annoying, defensive, or confrontational), the more you will make the issues known and you will become a resource to them. Sometimes it takes years to correct faulty information or beliefs ... be patient, polite, positive, and persistent.

7. Remember to keep track of your connections. Keep a record of contacts made with your school officials including meetings (date, time), issues you discussed, and any other personal tidbits that help personalize and prioritize your issues. These connections help personalize the relationship and will help the official have a greater interest in your work. Also, always follow through with any request made by an elected official. Failure to follow through can result in negative impressions, including perceived untrustworthiness.