Whitehall News

District rebranding's message to students: Come back

Superintendent: Old-fashioned logo, image don't positively reflect current state of district

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The Whitehall City School District's rebranding will begin with a new logo this summer as the district seeks to update its image and attract students back to local classrooms.

Board members approved the move earlier this month, but not without some dissent. Both board Vice President Blythe Wood and board member Mike Adkins voted against putting money toward marketing. Wood said she wanted more information about the promotion plan before she committed to the project.

District Superintendent Brian Hamler said he felt it was imperative that the board approve the contract in April in order to get started on the campaign as soon as possible. He proposed the contract be awarded to Creative Spot, which recently completed a campaign with the city, saying the money would be well-spent.

"Public schooling has changed drastically over the last 10 to 15 years," Hamler said. "Both public and community schools now must fight for students. It was never this way before. Community schools spend a lot of money on marketing to attempt to attract students away from public school districts.

"We are now in a position where we have to fight back and compete for those same students," he said.

Around 415 Whitehall children currently attend community schools at a cost of $2.8 million a year to the district. Under Ohio law, when a student leaves a school district to attend a charter school or private school, state funding follows that student.

Wood said she was hesitant to spend the proposed $13,500 to $17,300 to rebrand the district.

"Seventeen thousand dollars is a classroom full of computers," she said.

But Treasurer Steve McAfee said if the district drew back just three students through its marketing campaign, the effort would be paid in full.

Hamler said the rebranding also would go a long way toward touting the district's improvements.

"A logo needs to have the ability to tell your story, your attitude, your current state without saying a word," said Hamler. "I felt like our current logo doesn't necessarily reflect who we are anymore. We have state-of-the-art facilities and very progressive, forward-thinking teachers. Our logo is that of an old-fashioned one-room schoolhouse. I often wonder if this image resonates appropriately with today's parents.

"There have been many positive changes occurring in our district over the last few years with the opening of our new schools, rising enrollment, successes of our athletic and extracurricular programs and an increased rigor of academic programming," he added. "With these positive changes comes a renewed sense of who we are as a district."

Board member Leo Knoblauch, a former Whitehall City Council member, said he was pleased with the amount the district plans to spend on the marking campaign, which comes at about half the cost spent by the city for its similar efforts.

Hamler said because Creative Spot already has worked with the city, he feels the company has a jump-start on the pulse of the community. Information and data will be collected, though, from district families through a series of phone interviews and/or group discussions. Hamler said those who have opted to send their children to community schools will be targeted in the surveys.

Wood raised concerns about how to measure the campaign's effectiveness.

"The most tangible way to determine whether our goals were met or not is to measure the number of students we can attract back to the district and reduce the number of students leaving the district," said Hamler.

"Another way to measure impact is the amount of buzz a new brand can create. One particular advantage we have in Whitehall is we can easily hear people talking. Word travels fast in Whitehall and that's a good thing."

Hamler said he hopes to have a new logo and tagline created and completed in time for Whitehall's Fourth of July parade.

After the unveiling during the parade, Hamler plans for a gradual rollout of the new brand over the 2014-15 school year.

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