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Mon, July 22

PUSD looks to PR for enrollment help

PRESCOTT – Hoping to reverse a six-year enrollment decline, Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) officials have hired an alliance of local firms to coordinate community relations and come up with a marketing plan.

Superintendent Kevin J. Kapp said Abbie Roses Communications and Kirk Design will work in concert as ARC/KD to entice parents and students away from charter schools and back to the district.

The budget for the project is $35,000. Kapp said the money will come from a "civic contingency" fund comprising fees the district receives from renting out space in buildings it owns. He emphasized that the district will not use regular money, earmarked for teacher salaries or student programs, for marketing purposes.

So far this school year, total enrollment in the district's eight schools is down 1 percent, to 4,682. That translates into a loss of about $190,000, considering that the district gets about $4,300 in state tuition for each student.

The district wants to sign up additional students before its 100th school day on Jan. 29, 2002. That day's count sets state financing levels for next year. However, it needs to gain nine additional students just to offset the project's cost.

Hiring a part-time coordinator and marketing the schools are among the District Governing Board's goals this year.

"The reason we're entering these uncharted waters is to begin increasing enrollment," Kapp said. "A reasonable objective for this project would be increasing enrollment between 1 percent and 2 percent."

The district has set a $20,000 cap on remuneration to the marketing firm. That leaves $15,000 for advertising, supplies and related costs for this school year.

Part of that is already at work, buying $500 worth of TV ads each month. December's ad will feature Prescott High School, which faces competition from about a dozen others.

The district entered the marketing arena gradually. This past year, it spent about $3,000 in producing a newsletter that it mailed to every area resident. Two years ago, it spent roughly $2,000 for publicity through another marketing firm.

"The benefits are difficult to quantify, but we were able to get the district somewhat more visible in the community," Kapp said, "and we hope those efforts slowed down the declining enrollment trend."

The district selected the ARC/KD application from 15 it received.

Abbie Roses, of Abbie Roses Communications, and her family moved to Prescott in 1997. She has several local clients, including Inter-Cal Nutraceuticals.

Roses and her architect husband, Chris Browning, have five children. She volunteers at Abia Judd Elementary School and serves on the board of the new Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Prescott.

Mary Jo Kirk, of Kirk Design, Inc., created the Whiskey Row Marathon posters as well as the City of Prescott's downtown and airport promotional brochures. Other accounts include Inter-Cal Nutraceuticals, Phippen Museum and the United Way.

Kirk has two sons. One is an eighth-grader at Prescott Mile High Middle School; the other is a freshman at the University of Arizona.

"Our goal is to get right to the heart of the matter by planning, creating and implementing a comprehensive campaign that builds awareness among locals, as well as relocating families, of the PUSD's excellence," Roses said. "Our activities will focus on setting PUSD's schools apart from the competition as the best choice parents can make for educating their children in the Prescott community."

During his announcement, Kapp explained the district's logic in using district funds for advancement. He noted that local charter schools and Valley of the Sun public schools regularly buy ads to apparent good effect. The larger Phoenix public schools even have marketing personnel on staff, he added.

"The charter schools have raised the bar," Kapp said. "It's time to change our approach."

Contact Louise Koniarski at lkoniarski@prescottaz.com

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