Austintown Launches Marketing Campaign

Firm to highlight district
By Elise Franco

Thursday, March 1, 2012

By Elise Franco


The Austintown School District is rolling out a plan to retain current students and bring back ones who have left for open enrollment or charter schools.

The district hired The Wixey Network, a marketing firm based in Toledo, to bring district highlights and accomplishments to the forefront, Superintendent Vince Colaluca said Wednesday during a luncheon with local media representatives.

Colaluca said when he was interviewed for the superintendent’s position three years ago he talked of implementing a marketing campaign.

It wasn’t until last summer, however, that the board began to act on the idea.

“The point is to inform the community, parents and students of things we’re doing,” he said. “We just assume people know about our different programs and things like that, but they don’t.”

Colaluca said Wixey will serve as a consultant to the district’s marketing committee, comprised of board members, staff and residents. The one-year contract will cost the district $35,000, which will come from the general fund.

Wixey “will help to guide us and understand best practices and implementation,” he said. “But our committee will be making all the decisions. They’ll be at the core of the campaign.”

Colaluca said since 1992, Austintown has lost about $9 million in state funding from students who open enroll in other districts or choose to attend a Catholic or charter school.

He said moving to open enrollment in 2009 and implementing an online academic program for students in 2010 has helped the district regain some of its financial footing, but the campaign will take it one step further.

“We’re going down the road of needing to compete for our students,” he said. “We have to market Austintown schools so that parents understand what we do and keep their kids here.”

Nekiesha Taylor, marketing and recruitment director for Wixey, said the campaign will run in different phases over the next 12 months.

“Every couple of months our campaign slogan will morph to focus our message and communication on different topics,” she said. “The first phase — ‘Your choice, our resources’ — will focus on identifying and understanding that everybody here in Austintown has a choice.”

Taylor said over the next 12 months they’ll begin by distributing several hundred posters throughout the schools, as well as the township.

“Each phase will highlight the resources the district has to offer,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone knows what’s there.”

Colaluca said at this point the board has no set budget for the campaign and will assess each phase individually. He said hiring Wixey as an outside firm was he best financial option because a full-time marketing administrator’s salary could potentially cost much more in the long run.

“Many other districts have put resources toward this type of thing,” he said. “We’re at a point in education where we can’t afford not to do this.”