Part 1b: Parents Have Choices

School Marketing Matters

As schools face both current and future challenges, the need for strong public support is clear. Once harnessed, the power of public support from parents, taxpayers, local businesses, civic leaders and elected officials leads to adequate funding, a boost in a school and district's reputation for quality education and even a district's credit rating - all ultimately contributing to the academic success of our students.

Charter, private and parochial schools have learned the importance of marketing, even to the extent in creating the perception that our public schools may be a poor choice for a high quality education.

Of course, parents should be able to decide what type of educational setting is best for their children. However, San Diego Unified is committed to creating quality schools in every neighborhood so that parents will see their neighborhood as the best option for their children.

In order to shift the public focus towards the many great positive qualities found at our schools, it's time to strategically share the "good news stories" happening across the district.

In jumpstarting the school marketing conversation, school leaders should answer these questions honestly:

  • Should parents choose our school?

  • Would I send my child, grandchild, niece or nephew to our school?

  • Are our faculty and staff equal to or better than other schools?

  • Are our "customers" - students, parents, staff and community supporters - satisfied with our school?

If you answer "no" to any of these questions, take a closer look at the areas of concern and brainstorm with your team on some realistic strategies to improve. Getting honest feedback from your staff, parents and community will help you to develop a plan and set realistic goals.

As public school educators, our goal should be to stay focused on continuous improvement, be proactive, share our successes as well as our challenges openly and honestly, and, in a planned and systematic way, work hard to create understanding and build support for our schools.

Remember, staff attitudes play a big part in making your school the school of choice for parents. Employees - teachers and front line staff in particular -- need to be knowledgeable, responsive, welcoming and family-friendly to thrive in a competitive school marketplace. All employees -- administrators, teachers, secretaries, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, maintenance workers, aides, etc. -- need to be represented in order to feel important and a part of the process.

The primary mission of a good public school marketing plan is to communicate the work of students and staff -- and the mission of your school -- so that people know and understand the real value of public education, where their tax dollars are going, and how their donations of time and resources benefit them as well as our students.

The audience for your school marketing efforts must include but extend well past parents and families. This is vitally important since our schools also need support from those in the community who no longer have children attending public schools, or never did. Only 20% of those who live within the San Diego Unified boundaries have children in our schools.

Marketing is a systematic approach to building a relationship between your school and the people you want to attract -- students, parents, teachers, alumni, community partners, businesses, volunteers and the wider public, among others.