Principals Attend Public Relations Seminar


Eighty school principals from across the island have participated in a public relations seminar, to help them better position their school in the eyes of the general public, students, parents and their community.
Under the theme, ‘Challenges, Approaches and Responses’, the event was held on February 26 in the conference room of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) on Church Street, in Downtown Kingston.
The seminar, which attracted principals from all levels of the system – infant and primary schools, traditional high schools, upgraded, and technical high schools – comes on the heels of negative publicity, which schools have been attracting.
“It is really timely,” said President of the JTA, Ena Barclay, adding that, “since September (2007), we notice that we have been having lots of publicity, because there are so many issues that arise pertaining to education.”
Citing issues of violence in schools, literacy and performance in the various examinations, both locally and in the Caribbean, Ms. Barclay said that as a result, “we really thought that we had to bring our principals together, to help them to strategise as to how they position their school in the wider society, how they get the attention of the public, how they maintain standards within their school, how to promote those standards so the public will really be impressed and want to give the necessary support, in terms of buying into the school’s policies and programmes, as well as providing financial support.”
In hosting the seminar, the JTA President said that they were aware of the role which the association has to play in ensuring that teachers are operating at a high standard, especially principals, who are managing the system.
“We need to prepare our managers to be able to respond to the various needs as they concern reporting in the media,” she said.
Director of Communications at the Ministry of Education, Dr. Charlene Ashley, in her presentation, spoke about the principals’ role in public relations in the school environment.
Encouraging them to create a marketing plan, she pointed out that principals must employ marketing strategies to create the desired image and maintain their identity. She outlined a blue print, involving a number of steps, such as understanding the school’s stakeholders and what is important to them, and how to make them listen to the school’s message, as there are competing messages.
She argued that a school’s best marketing tools are its students, and how they behave in and out of school determines the image of the school. As an additional marketing tool, she recommended the use of telephones, which she stressed, must be answered and in a certain way, as parents can become upset and this can affect the image the school is attempting to build.
Dr. Ashley also stressed that standards and boundaries be maintained, group psychology used, critical influencers chosen, and balance maintained between good and bad publicity.
Executive Assistant at the Ministry, Claudette Chin highlighted the importance of determining what needs to be communicated, such as the school’s vision and mission, strategy, organization structure, financial plans, and budget.
Commenting on the seminar, Lena Russel, Principal of Tacius Golding High School in Browns Hall, St. Catherine, a non-traditional high school, said that it was timely, as in recent times schools have been in the media. She expressed the view that principals need to be trained in communicating with the media.
“We spoke about advertising, selling your school, creating an image for your school and that is very important,” she noted, adding that “although we have a communication protocol, clearly from this seminar, I recognize that we need to formalize how we communicate to our many publics – our students, parents, Ministry of Education and the public in general.”

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