Win-Win Partnerships

By J. Howard Johnston and Lew Armistead

Across the nation, school board members and administrators are seeing how their districts benefit when corporations, universities, and local businesses come together in partnerships. Yet others haven’t discovered the right approach to initiate and maintain a partnership where both students benefit and the partner receives value from its participation.

Partnerships range from providing mentors for students, to offering leadership training for principals and other administrators, to recognition programs for teachers, students, and others. These partnerships can be critical for districts that are time strapped and cash squeezed.

Board members speak often about the critical role that business partners play in school improvement. Danny Goldman, chair of the Innovation and School Reform Committee for the Milwaukee, Wis., school board, says effective leaders find that “business skills are increasingly necessary.” And Adelita Grijalva, president of Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District board, calls business partnerships “vital.”

How can boards and administrators play an important role in establishing effective partnerships? We have worked to improve partnerships for more than 20 years and have found that “two C’s” -- climate and communication -- are essential to create a “win-win” for both sides.

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