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Woodland Hills School District Looks to Begin Advertising Campaign

Competition from charter and private schools are forcing districts to get creative.

Joe Lafferty wears his pride for on his sleeve and he looks forward to telling people exactly why he thinks the district deserves the chance to educate the area's children.

Lafferty gave a presentation during Wednesday’s school board meeting outlining how and why the district could and should market itself to parents of potential students.

With charter schools opening in many school districts across Pennsylvania, competition between public and private schools are in a new realm of consumerism. More and more school districts, like McKeesport, now advertise within their communities.

Woodland Hills budgeted $25,000 to be used for marketing, and Lafferty, who is a football coach in the district and a 1990 graduate, is tasked with coming up with ways to utilize the money as efficiently and creatively as possible.

Lafferty is a marketing businessman who is serving the district as an unpaid special assistant to the superintendent for community relations, he said.

With two cable TV channels on Comcast, Lafferty said there’s a great opportunity to brag about the district and change the minds of parents who are considering moving their children to a private school.  

He said he’d like to see the two cable channels run more like commercial channels that include regular programing and commercials touting the district. He envisions three-minute vignettes featuring successful alumni that would not only inspire parents, but students in the district.

“We’ve been around 25 years now so we have some great stories,” he said.

Students most likely will be involved with productions, giving them chances to gain practical world experience in broadcasting.

Lafferty's plan also includes billboards advertising in the district, as well as web ads. The message he’s imagining is: “Woodland Hills Where Diversity Works,” focusing on its diverse citizens and diverse curriculum.

Board member Robert Tomasic suggested Lafferty push school safety hard when devising marketing strategies. The dozen or so parents he talked with who moved their children out of the district, all said it was because of their concerns with school and bus safety, he said.

The board asked Lafferty to return next month and present some examples of the kinds of advertising and video vignettes, as well as a cost sheet.

“I think it can be very powerful,” he said.

The school board acted on the following items at Wednesday’s regular school board meeting:

  • Approved disposing of a large cache of old and outdated text and library reference books that are being stored at Rankin Promise School. The district will first try to sell the books. If buyers can’t be found, the district will try to donate them to organizations in need. All money made will go to district libraries.
  • Approved for senior members of the high school’s music department to make a trip to New York City Jan 18-21. The trip will cost $600 per student and chaperone, and includes two Broadway shows and a trip to Ellis Island, among other sightseeing. The district is not responsible for the costs.
  • The board accepted an energy study conducted by Foreman Architecture that was needed in order to continue with renovation plans to the high school. State law requires an energy study to be conducted on all the school district’s buildings even if only one building is being renovated or constructed. 

Energy efficiency varied wildly from one building to the next. The least energy efficient two buildings were the academy and junior high. The best two were Fairless and the high school, with the remainder of the buildings rating about the same.

Steve Karas September 21, 2012 at 01:51 PM
As far as advertising, try these free places: bolgspot, twitter, facebook, you-tube, linked-in, press-releases, free websites. Also consider establishing a connection with specific media. If they know they can call you or email at any time and get information, they will. Put up a few hundred dollars and I bet you can find some students to help you!!
Steve Karas September 21, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Instead of joining the discussion under an assumed name, why not do some research and then suggest a way for the district to improve? Anyone can complain. It take someone who cares to try to make a change. Schools NOT making AYP in our county: Duquesne, McKeesport, Sto-Rox, Bethel Park, Clairton, Keystone Oaks, North Hills, Pittsburgh, Steel Valley,West Mifflin, Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel,Mt. Lebanon, and North Allegheny did not submit all of their data. Think AYP is a good test? Probably not. Public schools educate everyone. Private schools can select their students, so there will probably always be a difference.
Joe Lafferty September 22, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I agree Zandy
Joe Lafferty September 22, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Great comments Steve.
Louise September 22, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Well said Mr. Dove. My son is a senior who is doing quite well at WHHS. He chose to go to Woody BECAUSE of the diversity and the opportunities he is now taking advantage of. He is taking a bunch of AP classes, is active in the band and a proud member of the rifle team. He will begin tutoring other students next week. He did k-8 at a local private school. Gotta say that Woody has brought him into the wider world and that when he goes to college next year I think he will be better off. Oh,by the way, the safety thing? When was the last time any of you dropped by the high school to pick you child? Did you see any fights? Has your child told you about any? No That is because they take safety seriously.

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