The Sunnyside Unified School District has embarked on a marketing campaign to counter the controversies that have plagued the district this year.
The district has created posters, banners and bumper stickers to promote its accomplishments and everything officials believe make the district special. It also had a billboard installed on East Valencia Road at South Sears Boulevard, east of Campbell Avenue, that features a smiling, elementary school student.
There have also been radio advertisements, said district spokeswoman Mary Veres, who is overseeing the campaign.
“It’s a feel-good campaign, to think about the good things we do for the community,” Veres said.
The campaign comes after a turbulent year in which the district has endured budget cuts; criticism of Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo’s leadership; accusations of nepotism, intimidation and unethical practices; and division among board members, which has resulted in two opposing recall petition drives.
Many of the district’s school board meetings have been packed with angry parents, employees and area residents who have called for Isquierdo and many of the board members to step down.
The district is also in the midst of a tense override election campaign, with many programs likely to suffer deep cuts if voters don’t approve the measure in next month’s election.
This campaign is not connected to the override, but district officials say it could help create a favorable impression with voters.
Sunnyside wants to tout its highlights from this year, which includes a visit by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last month, the launch of its GradLink2 program for high school dropouts and the softball team from the area that won the Little League World Series.
Sunnyside is following the lead of other districts such as the Tucson Unified School District, which approved a $300,000 marketing campaign in June.
The district has spent $13,000 so far on its campaign, with money allotted from the budget for marketing, Veres said.
District officials set aside $15,000 for marketing this year.
Sunnyside usually kicks off a campaign each spring to attract open-enrollment students, but the series of controversies prompted district officials to begin now, she said.
The district began hanging banners at neighborhood parks and other areas a week before Duncan arrived as part of his annual back-to-school tour.
“Then we said: “If we do this, let’s go all the way,’” Veres said. So the district created more banners, as well as the bumper stickers, posters and a newsletter.
Most of the work was done in-house, with district employees and printing equipment, she said.
Sunnyside also will create yard signs to honor children who win student of the month, a recommendation that came from school principals.
Board President Louie Gonzales said it’s important to find other ways to let people know the district is making progress, outside of announcements at board meetings and other district functions.
“We’re really not getting the message out to the general public,” Gonzales said. “They have to know what we’re doing.”
Although the campaign is not connected to the upcoming override, voters, parents and other area residents maybe will realize Sunnyside is moving in the right direction, he said. “We’ve got to keep the community informed,” he said.