- Indiana's Gary Community School Corporation, currently under state takeover, is facing backlash from state officials over potential violations of state law related to enrollment incentives it marketed in the fall, The Northwest Indiana Times reports.
- In addition to offering a $25 Visa gift card to parents providing successful enrollment referrals, numerous posts on the district's social media profiles on Sept. 12 and 13 advertised entry in a raffle for two iPads for students enrolled by 5 p.m. on Sept. 13, the paper reports.
- Under Indiana law, public, charter or private schools receiving state funding can't offer incentives that include "any item that has monetary value, including cash or a gift card," but Gary district officials say the items weren't purchased or awarded, and that the district's enrollment didn't increase as a result of the promotions.
In an environment where public schools face increasing competition from charters, private school voucher programs, and other choice options, marketing has grown as an important means to keep students (and per-pupil funding) within districts. But, as this incident highlights, there are right and wrong ways to go about doing that.
When it comes to convincing families that a particular school or district is their best option, rather than trying to entice them with a superficial giveaway, it's far more important for administrators to use social media and other tools at their disposal to tell their schools' stories.
Among administrators who excel at this are Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Joe Sanfelippo, superintendent of Wisconsin's rural Fall Creek School District. Carvalho recently told Education Dive that authenticity is key in telling the story, which includes admitting where improvement is needed along with what's going well.
"Don't tell a story that doesn't exist because it will be punished," Carvalho said. "But if you tell a story realistically portraying the work and the results and the community understands that, the community shall reward you."
What opportunities to grow do students have that they won't get elsewhere? How are the resources at their disposal accommodating this? By using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms to engage members of the local community on such questions, schools and districts can successfully take control of their stories and focus on the good things happening with students in their classrooms, which in turn can open new partnership and funding opportunities within the community and beyond.