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My Turn: Communication crucial to successful marketing of C-OC School District
4/26/2012 8:07:00 AM
In the past few months, many of you have commented on the increased communication and positive media that our district is receiving. This feedback has been crucial to the future of our district and has been the result of one of the Governing Board’s structural goals of providing increased communication both internally to staff and externally to students, families and community. (COCSD Blueprint Plan)
In an attempt to clarify the recent information about COCSD hiring a P.R./Marketing firm, I want to provide you with some of the background information and persuasive reasons that compelled the Board to move forward with hiring a P.R./Marketing firm.
• Four years ago the board created a Blueprint Goal to Increase Parent and Community Communication. During this time internal staff attempted to meet this goal with mixed results. The Board directed administration to hire a part-time person to help achieve the goal of increased communication. This person moved and the responsibility fell back onto multiple staff members, with less than desirable results. It was realized that it was difficult to create a concerted plan for communicating to an ever-increasing diverse audience.
• In this complex world of communication and marketing of today’s school districts, it is understood that the District doesn’t possess the professional expertise to communicate what a great job the educational experts are doing at COCSD to the public.
• It was believed that through the course of extremely tough budget years, where exceedingly tough decisions had to be made, permanent damage could be done to the District’s image and proactive steps needed to be taken to refute a negative perception of the District due to the tough budget decisions that were made.
• With the growth of the Internet, and the ability to be anonymous on various media outlets there is an increased challenge of communicating the positive things that are occurring in the District.
• Getting timely information to our constituents now requires the use of a wide range of communication tools to reach both internal members and external members.
• Knowing that the district will be going out for an override in 2014, communicating clearly, within the district and without, will provide improved transparency to increase understanding of the district accomplishments and challenges. This knowledge will make it easier for voters to make an informed decision about the override.
• There is an understanding that the local school district is no longer the only option for families for educating their children. There is now more competition than ever for students. There is a need to market the District, as charter schools and other districts do, sharing the many positive things the District is doing and the outstanding job our teachers do in educating students.
• As an action step in meeting the goal of increased parent and community communication, the Board held their summer retreat in 2011 with administration, community members and staff; with all schools being represented. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the public’s perception of the district and how best to communicate the District’s message to our constituents. At the meeting, the community and staff members made it clear that the District needed to increase our communication with the public and its diverse constituents.
It has been a four-year journey to find the best means of achieving the goal of Increased Parent and Community Communication and we are not done yet. The need for increased communication is evident and the Board has determined that it is in the best interest of the District to contract these services out to a professional firm. Hardsale Communication (HC) will be attending the District’s May 8 governing board meeting to present the data from the recent community phone surveys and focus groups and offer guidance to the board for next steps.
I encourage all of you to attend this board meeting to gain a better understanding and how the use of a P.R./Marketing services may positively impact our schools and the public we serve.
Barb U’Ren is the superintendent of the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.
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