The Tucson Unified School District is working to attract non-minority students to three of its magnet schools.

Robison K-5 Magnet, Ochoa Magnet Elementary and Safford K-8 Magnet schools will be the focus of a television, radio and Internet marketing campaign.

The $92,000 campaign, approved 4-1 by the TUSD Governing Board on Tuesday night, will be funded by a federal grant geared toward bringing diverse groups of children together.

Board President Mark Stegeman voted no. He was concerned about spending that much on marketing, not education.

TUSD was one of 36 districts across the country to receive such a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and the only recipient in Arizona.

"The intent of the magnet schools has always been to attract a variety of students," said TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone. "But in a district where 75 percent of students are minority, the reality is there is a need to attract Caucasian kids to get some kind of balance. We must have processes that encourage students from all ends of the district to access the opportune programs available."

At the end of last school year, Ochoa's Hispanic population made up nearly 85 percent of the student body; at Safford it was nearly 80 percent, and at Robison it was 88 percent.

Ochoa and Safford have had Hispanic populations in the 80 percent or above range going back 15 years, according to enrollment data from TUSD. At Robison that wasn't the case until the 2002-2003 school year - up to 77 percent from 64 percent in the preceding years.

As magnet schools, each of the three campuses has special offerings.

Ochoa has been working toward becoming a Reggio Emilia-Inspired school. It's an approach that focuses on exploratory learning and inviting environments.

Robison Elementary is hoping to offer the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. The midtown school has applied and is awaiting approval. IB schools share a common philosophy - a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education.

Safford has a focus on engineering and technology. The downtown school is also a candidate for the International Baccalaureate Primary and Middle Years Programme.

Now that the campaign has been given the green light, the advertisements are expected to be rolled out immediately, Pedicone said.

The contract for marketing services runs through the end of December 2012 with the option to renew through December 2013.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.