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Manteca Unified plans PR blitz to counter exodus to charter schools

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POSTED September 10, 2013 11:49 p.m.

Coming soon to a movie theater near you – advertising touting the good things about the Manteca Unified School District.

But that’s not the only place where you may see a saturation of advertising highlighting and “celebrating” MUSD staff and students and their accomplishments.

That is part of the proposed “Proud to be MUSD” public relations plan – at an estimated cost of $135,400 – that was unveiled during Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The reason behind this ambitious PR effort, however, is the sobering statistics presented before the board. Manteca Unified enrollment losses to charter schools during the school year 2013-2014 that just started about tripled since school year 2011-2012.

Approximate numbers shown at the board meeting indicate the increasing losses in enrollments to charter schools:

•School year 2011-2012 – charter school enrollment loss – 600 (2.7 %)

•School year 2012-2013 – charter school enrollment loss – 1,200 (5.3&)

•School year 2013-2014 – charter school enrollment loss – 1,800 (8%)

Percentages are based on MUSD’s approximate total enrollment of 23,000.

Superintendent Jason Messer indicated that the exodus of many of the district’s students went to Great Valley Academy at Button Avenue in Manteca, and to the River Islands Technology Academy at the River Islands at Lathrop that is yet to turn the dirt for the first new home.

River Islands opened its doors in August. The new school principal, Brenda Scholl, who is also from Manteca Unified, said during the dedication of the school about a week before the start of school that they have a waiting list of about 300 students.

Great Valley Academy, which started its third school year in August, also has as many students on its waiting list. Principal Russell Howell reported that they actually had to close enrollments early in the summer because all spaces had been filled.

Both charter schools are funded by ADA (average daily attendance) funds from the state, the same as any public school. Their curriculums, however, are slightly different from that of the public schools in that they offer additional classes such as business and foreign languages, in the case of Great Valley Academy, for example.

Messer acknowledged all that saying that’s part of the challenges the district will have to address in the proposed PR campaign.

“There’s a real need to go out and compete with charter schools…. There’s a need to decide if (the district) should engage in this kind of competition,” he said.

“It’s a different era,” he added, referring to the enrollment competition the district is facing with charter schools.

Public relations project being considered for the public relations campaign include the following with their estimated budgets:

•signage – $40,000

•paper inserts in the Manteca Bulletin – $12,000

•advertising – $20,000

•lapel pins – $500

•coins – $400

•Internet web page – $9,500

•telephone system – $53,000

Still to be researched are the possible use of radio advertising, billboards, and ads in movie theaters.

Any advertising outside of the school district geographical area would focus on enrollment recruitment for the district’s Manteca Unified Vocational Academy. MUVA is now in its second year of operation which started with the offering of the Culinary Arts program. This school year opened with the addition of another vocational course, Industrial Technology and Design. A third course will be added next year, Messer said.

A copy of the draft “Proud to be MUSD” public relations brochure was presented to the board at the meeting. No action was taken at this time.

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