Should school districts pay for advertising and marketing services? Why?

Why pay for public school advertising and PR?

I have a degree in Advertising from Michigan State, and I enjoyed working in that field for many years.

"Nothing happens until somebody sells something," was a quote often repeated by my old boss at the Detroit News, where I worked in automotive advertising fresh out of college.  Products must be bought to market and sold.  Profits must be made.  More products must be developed, and sold.  Advertising and PR generated interest and good will in the marketplace.  Advertising dollars represented money well-spent to stimulate sales.

Where does paid advertising fit into public education?

Michigan has 550 local school districts.  Should our state have 550 public school marketing departments?

Over the past decade, it seems that some school districts are employing PR directors and marketing/advertising staffs.  We see billboards for school districts (and universities).  We see paid ads in local publications and on the Patch.  "Come to our schools!"  "Be what you want to be."  Why do we need to do this?  Why do we need to PAY to say these things?

Some districts are "borderless."  They take non-resident students.  They pay to advertise to non-residents, to bring in more kids.

Bloomfield Hills is not borderless.  So why do we advertise?

Seems to me that if a local public school district does a good job educating, the resident families will enroll their children.   Why wouldn't they?

Public schools tend to be located in and near residential subdivisions, and often provide bus transportation at no cost to users.  Convenient.

Public education has a huge advantage over private:  It's FREE. 

(Well, pretty much.  Some districts charge a fee for participation in sports, clubs and activities.  Some might ask students to take part in fundraising, or to purchase a uniform, equipment or instrument. )

But, the education part is FREE.  The math, science, etc.  Free.  Generous property owners cover the cost.

Seems like that would be a pretty easy thing to "sell."

In a perfect world, public school districts would not need to employ adults to create "spin" or "sizzle," to tempt the public to bring their children to local public schools.  In a perfect world, public education would be not only reputable, but outstanding, so that  that families would be perfectly happy to have their children educated in public schools.  Especially in well-funded districts like ours.

An excellent education, promised and delivered; high national rankings, well-prepared successful graduates, would suffice to draw enrollment.  I think that would work far better than "spin."  Spin can work against an organization....people are not so easily "spun."  Often they resent it.

Here in Bloomfield Hills, where residents and property owners pay premium local school taxes, we do not want to see advertising directed to attract non-resident students.  We want to operate a district with geographic boundaries, so that our superior funding is spent to educate our own resident students.

Many families may want to include a religious or cultural element to their child's daily or weekly schedule, and I'm sure that can be arranged on a private basis, outside of school.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jon September 30, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I know that I was new to the community then, and was shocked by the magnitude of the conflict and the ugliness of the rhetoric. My first reaction was that I had made a mistake by moving to Bloomfield instead of Birmingham. I had never seen people behave so viciously, and left me with the impression that the area was full of irrational, angry people. That period, followed by three controversial runs for a Board seat, accidentally offensive mailings, vicious public comments at Board meetings, inflammatory statements, and an aggressive recall effort, have all left me feeling like that Jenny Greenwell is not an appropriate choice for the Board of Education. It is exactly that history that is the source of the friction and divisiveness in our community, and it would be good to put it behind us.
Amy Cardin September 30, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Sorry Jenny, could not reply under your comment to me. Yes, you remember correctly, I was indeed in favor of the original 2 schools on one campus plan, which you and 2020 members coined the "mega school." I still believe it was an idea ahead of it's time. We would have kept our two small high schools but share a common campus and facilities like an auditorium, athletic facilities, etc. Not sure what you mean by "tandem" programs. The high schools would have maintained their own identities. It was far from top secret, as nearly 100 community members were on the committee that began investigating high school facility options. Jenny, you hardly were the savior you fancy yourself. There was much community input and in the end, the plan was not even put to a vote. I maintain that that 2020 drove the divisive wedge in the district. The heinous behavior by you and your supporters was hard to fathom. And still to this day, you post comments like this. I was fortunate to get to work with Dr. Gaynor during my tenure as PTO Council president, a member of the facilities committee and in my capacity as an active district volunteer. He was extremely smart and well respected in education circles. 2020 made him a lightening rod, which was very sad. Did I always agree with everything he did? No, but we had mutual respect for each other's ideas and he always listened. The way he was treated was absolutely a travesty.
Amy Cardin October 01, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Are you asking me? And have no idea what FTT's means.
S Sera October 01, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Mrs. Cardin, FTT means failure to thrive, but I'm pretty positive that isn't what Mr. Fellin was saying.
Neal Charness October 01, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Chris: You've made yourself irrelevant. No answers warranted


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