Boise schools launch marketing campaign

The Boise School District plans to launch a marketing and promotional campaign this school year in order to retain and attract students.

A board-driven communications committee spent six months developing the plan.

Don Coberly

The district will dedicate $175,000 for the campaign in 2018-19, with an ongoing commitment for at least three years, according to documents obtained by Idaho Education News.

Advertising agencies can submit proposals until Sept. 28.

“Everybody’s competing for kids and we said, ‘Let’s get the word out that we are the No. 1 choice,’” said Superintendent Don Coberly.

The purpose is to thwart “ongoing efforts by the charter school movement, voucher supporters and pro-privatization organizations to chip away at the confidence” in traditional public schools. This, in turn, poses serious budgetary threats to traditional schools.

A variety of factors prompted Boise to take action.

For example, Coberly cited Bluum, a nonprofit group that advocates for school choice, and its “20 in 10” goal to create 20,000 new charter school seats in Idaho in the next decade. Coberly also cited legislative discussions of voucher programs, which could divert taxpayer funds from public schools into private or parochial schools.

“We’re willing to respond because we’ve got the goods,” Coberly said.

Boise’s average daily student attendance has dropped from 24,802 to 24,490 over the last four years, despite rapid growth within the district’s borders.

The U.S. Census Bureau labeled Idaho the fastest growing state in the nation, and said Ada and Canyon counties account for 50 percent of that growth. Additionally, Boise earned the No. 1 spot on Forbes’ 2018 list of the nation’s fastest growing cities.

But Idaho families face a growing number of educational choices.

Two new charter schools opened in Boise this month, enrolling about 500 students. There are now six charter schools within district boundaries, serving more than 2,500 students. Online, private and parochial schools are also available to Boise families.

“To ensure the Boise School District remains the first choice of parents, we are seeking an advertising agency to develop and execute a cross-platform, multi-year, branding and promotional campaign designed to retain and attract students,” said the district’s request for proposals.

The advertising campaign will be a component of the district’s strategic plan for communication and community relations. The district hopes to improve awareness and “customer satisfaction” metrics across select demographic groups, improve student retention and convince parents to enroll their kids in Boise schools — even after sending their children to other schools.

After market research in July, the district identified a target audience for the campaign: current and future parents who are 28 to 44 years old; who have a college education; who have a household income of more than $50,000 per year; and who have lived in Boise for less than 10 years.

“The strength of our teaching force will be a large part of the campaign. We know they are the driving force of our success,” Coberly said. “We’re willing to put forward that we have rigorous high schools and diverse elementary schools. We’re the place to go.”

Boise is Idaho’s second largest school district, with 4,300 employees.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.

Bluum and Idaho Education News are funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. 

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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