General Advocacy Tips for Changing School Start Times
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Start early to educate the community and all parties involved. Use hard data and testimonials. Consider the research and what you hope to gain, not lose. Network with other schools to learn from their experience. Apply what you learn to your school district’s particular challenges or concerns. Be prepared with concrete examples of the successes of others.
Community engagement is key and this means invlolving parents, students, teachers, as well as transportation, cafeteria, and extracurricular personnel, coaches, employers and others impacted by this issue. Understand from the beginning that a change in start times will affect the entire community, and set out to make sure that all of these parties are involved in the process. Involve the community in a variety of ways (Email, letters, forums, surveys, etc.) and allow everyone the opportunity to express their opinions anonymously.
Be clear about your goals. Keep your eye on the bottom line: the academic performance, health, safety and quality of life for students. Do not get overwhelmed by the logistics and obstacles, rather, continue to emphasize the positives of the overall goal. Students’ needs are foremost.
Be flexible as the process proceeds. Consider all of the issues, the needs and agendas of all parties. Identify potential sources of resistance and address their needs. Be prepared with research and the facts. Zealots generally are not effective.
Have a clear plan. Gather a coalition and form organized committees. Develop a timetable. Decide on guidelines for the change and create goals to measure your progress.
Communicate all along the way and especially through the implementation of the changes. Allow time to adjust and plan for these changes.