June 5th, 2008 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

Marketing K-8 Schools: Lipstick on a Pig?

imagesOne focus of Portland Public Schools' work in recent months has been to improve the district's K-8 schools, those "new" schools sprinkled across some parts of the district that are the result of former Superintendent Vicki Phillips' decision to merge elementary and middle grades under single, existing buildings. The move was either a cost-cutting measure or an effort to boost academic achievement, depending on the day's sales pitch.

Almost a year after Phillips' departure, here's what parents had to say about the K-8 schools at a districtwide PTA meeting in February. It wasn't pretty.

Now here's an excerpt from a new RFP (request for proposal) from the school district:
Marketing Plan Development Scope of Work

Portland Public Schools needs a comprehensive marketing framework for its schools -- a timeline, materials, priority list and goals for schools at every level to sell themselves to their communities. Current marketing efforts are uncoordinated, vary in effectiveness and do not set thoughtful and equitable priorities for scare marketing and communications resources. The need for [a] comprehensive marketing plan has been called out by the School Board and PPS leaders in the Enrollment and School Choice Work Plan

According to the school district, a federal "school-choice" grant is to pay for the marketing work, which is also supposed to focus on the district's K-8 schools.
Pilot schools

Identify a cadre of schools (perhaps Clark, Creative Science School, Bridger and Ockley Green) as pilot for new materials. Create fliers that represent the "personality" of the schools and offer academic data as well as demographic information about each school. Each flier would be tailored to the school, but would also have some consistencies in feel or identity as part of the PPS family. Create parent questionnaire, ensure that materials are translated as needed, and help the school leaders extend formal invitations to preschool parents, day care providers, community and faith-based groups. Offer other direct support to these schools as appropriate given timing of the enrollment and school choice cycle.

For more background on PPS's school choice program, check out "School Colors."
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