After a year of closing schools and cutting millions of dollars in education services, the Tucson Unified School District is considering spending $300,000 on a marketing campaign to polish its image and gain the public's trust.
The initiative, if successful, would help Tucson's largest school district increase enrollment, TUSD officials believe.
The proposal will go before the Governing Board tonight for a vote.
The one-year campaign would be paid for through desegregation funds, magnet grants and the maintenance-and-operations budget. It is one of many requirements outlined in TUSD's plan to bring its schools into racial balance.
The district would contract with an outside vendor to create a new district logo, brochures, posters, mailers, pamphlets and media advertisements. The plans also include community events and market research to determine effective messaging.
The proposal for the campaign comes after the district was forced to close 11 schools and issue pink slips to hundreds of employees to eliminate a $17 million deficit. TUSD has long struggled with declining enrollment, low academic achievement and desegregation issues.
"This isn't smoke and mirrors when you talk about marketing," said TUSD spokeswoman Cara Rene. "It's making sure (the public) understands the things we're doing really well right now, and we're doing a lot of things really well."
TUSD wouldn't be the first to actively market its school district. The neighboring Sunnyside Unified School District sent out thousands of postcards touting the message: "More than 1,200 families from other districts chose Sunnyside. What do they know?" and "Others talk a good game, Sunnyside is winning the game."
TUSD's marketing campaign has been in the works for some time. But for the most part it has been stymied by finances, which is why the funding sources are being combined.
"This is something we've been anxious to embrace for a long time," said TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone. "A lot of the things that other districts have done we have looked at with great jealousy. Part of it is thoughtfully examining what we need to do and how we need to be different and unique."
Governing Board member Mark Stegeman supports the idea of marketing TUSD but had concerns about paying for services community members may be willing to assist with for free or that could be done in-house.
Fellow board member Kristel Ann Foster noted the importance of supporting teachers and staffers to ensure morale is high, saying they are the district's ambassadors.
On StarNet: Find more education and TUSD news and resources at azstarnet.com/education
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea