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Keyword Archives: success stories

From the Podcast: 1:1 Technology Initiative in Your School

1:1 Technology Initiative in Schools : a podcast interview from Allerton Hill Consulting

April 11, 2016

Today’s show is about technology and 1:1 initiatives in public schools. Technology can be a great equalizer for students, but understanding all sides of implementation and day­to­day use is crucial to the success of any 1:1 technology program. Our guest is Keith Pomeroy, the Chief Technology Officer at Upper Arlington Schools in Ohio where they have recently successfully launched a 1:1 initiative.

“…changing what is possible in the classroom.”

To SUBSCRIBE to our podcast via iTunes, click here.


 Visit the We Love Schools Podcast Website »

Posted in Education, Podcast, Technology
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We Love Schools — and now we have a podcast to prove it!

We Love Schools Podcast

January 13, 2016

We’ve been working with schools to share their story, to celebrate their successes and to find critical support for well over 2 decades and we still LOVE what we do. Joel & Carole, Partners at Allerton Hill Consulting, are taking that passion to the next level with the launch of our new podcast, “We Love Schools”. We are so excited to be launching this new way to engage with educators and share our experiences and insights. We will be talking with superintendents, communications experts and media specialists.

“We Love Schools” will be a weekly podcast that highlights success stories in school communications campaigns. We will address the issues, obstacles and benefits of communicating with your community in today’s all-access social media-driven world.

To SUBSCRIBE to our podcast via iTunes, click here.

Listen here to our 3rd episode where we talk with Allerton Hill’s very own Amanda Morris about personal and school branding:

 Visit the WE LOVE SCHOOLS Podcast Website »

Posted in Allerton Hill News, Community Outreach, Podcast, Social Media
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Parental Engagement: Crucial Element of Successful Schools

October 8, 2015

As U.S. students begin another school year, conversations and even heated debates revolve around school quality and definitions of student success.

But the narrative is changing. The 47th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools found that student engagement and hope are more important measures of school effectiveness than test scores.

And here’s another key ingredient to school success: parents themselves. More specifically, parental engagement.

 Click here to continue reading this article on »

Posted in Community Outreach, Education
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Why School Superintendents Should Act More Like CEOs

September 3, 2015

Public School SuperintendentThe pressure on public schools today is immense. Public Schools are expected to be all things to all people. Provide top scores on testing, be accountable for every penny of tax dollars being spent and solve all the social problems our society faces. This pressure has meant the job of superintendent has gone from difficult to nearly impossible.

One of the main critiques of schools that I hear is that they need to be “more like the private sector” when they are running their school districts. This is true in one regard. Superintendents need to start acting like the CEOs they are instead of the educator that many were trained to be.

The job of school superintendent can be brutal. It includes long hours at the office, high levels of public scrutiny, a labor face to keep engaged and building a management team that meets high-level expectations, all while over seeing a multimillion-dollar budget.

 Read the Rest of This Article by Allerton Hill's Joel Gagne on Huffington Post » »

Posted in Allerton Hill News, Budget & Finance, Education
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AHC Success Story: Librarian’s creative plea for books gets clicks

June 26, 2015

The following is an article about using social media to get your student’s attention and drive action that features Liberty Elementary School, an AHC communications client for the past 5 years.

Communication with your public is a team effort.  Every success must be celebrated.  Every innovation must be mentioned.  No school can afford to keep quiet in the information age.



Liberty Elementary School librarian Mary Evelyn Smith proved she’s “All About Them Books” by creating a parody song and video to Meghan Trainor’s song, All About That Bass, as a plea for students to return overdue books to the school library.

The video has had more than 61,000 views so far on YouTube since it was posted late last month — and more than 1 million views on other websites. …


 Read the Full Article on »

Posted in Community Outreach, Education, Social Media
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Clear & Decisive Communications during a Crisis Earns the Public’s Trust

June 3, 2015

From the Marysville Journal-Tribune, an editorial posted May 29, 2015,
regarding the Marysville school district, an AHC client.

“Refreshing to see school issues handled swiftly, openly”

The sudden removal of an elementary school principal and a high school teacher from their posts in the Marysville school district have been the talk of the town for the last month.

Many local residents have bemoaned both situations as black eyes for the schools. District officials and educators probably wish both situations would resolve themselves and go away. Eventually they will.

But I believe the public’s knowledge of the situations is a positive thing.

At the root of the issues are allegations made against two individuals, not against the district. The only claim you can make against the district is that it heard claims made against two employees and handled them swiftly.

This has not always been the case around this town.

Allegations of student/teacher relationships swirled around Marysville High School when I was there more than 20 years ago. Similar allegations have surfaced while I have worked at the Journal-Tribune.

On at least two of the occasions, educators quietly left the district to seek employment elsewhere. No formal action was raised by the school district and law enforcement was never involved. They simply headed down the road to become someone else’s problem.

Last year, Trinity Lutheran School found out what can happen when teachers seek employment in another state following allegations. The school was forced to deal with a situation in which a teacher passed a background check and was hired despite a scandal involving a student in Illinois. Trinity had nothing to do with the allegations and it occurred years before the teacher arrived at the school, but Trinity was forced to deal with it because the district in Illinois hadn’t.

With the recent events, residents can at least take heart that the allegations were dealt with quickly and publicly. Parents and, for the most part, the public have been kept apprised of updates with the cases.

Details continue to trickle out on both situations allowing citizens to decide who they believe.

For people in this area to think that public employees, including educators, don’t make poor decisions is arrogant. There is no bubble of absolute morality that protects this school district or county.

Bad apples can be found in any barrel. The only thing you can hope is that the person tending the barrel has the sense to pluck it quickly, rather than push it to the bottom and deny it was rotten.

 From the Marysville Journal-Tribune, (Full Article only available for paid subscribers) »

Posted in Allerton Hill News, Community Outreach
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Changing Perception Over Time Is a Conversation Worth Having

May 8, 2015


Create an Ongoing Dialog to Rally Support for School Proposals


It’s a common tale, school districts are sure that everyone in the community is aware of what’s going on in the schools. But then a community satisfaction survey is done and hardly anyone is aware of what’s going on and they are usually frustrated with how the district is spending their money.

So how do you change this perception and get real information into the hands of your constituents? The answer is a constant stream of targeted communication.

For example, in 2007 Piqua City Schools were sure that everyone in the community knew about the $3 million in cuts that they enacted due to two consecutive operating levy loses. Regardless, the district fielded a high quality, third-party professional survey that would not only gauge the community’s satisfaction with their schools but also awareness on issues like the district’s $3 million in cuts.

The survey results surprised the Piqua City Schools. According to the survey only 37 percent knew about the cuts and only 35 percent thought they did a good job of spending money. Communication had to change and quickly. So, Piqua started working with Allerton-Hill Consulting. The district overhauled their communication strategy. They began sending out more information and on a steady basis on topics that the community cared about – finances. Moreover, the district was strategic in their engagement and formed community committees. They shared regular information through newsletters, mailers and media outlets and built a better understanding among their community for what was really happening in the schools.

The shift in community awareness and district pride were noticeable. The community understands the challenges that the schools are facing and how that impacts the residents. They also understand that the district is incredibly efficient and careful with its resources. In fact, over the course of the next seven years, the district increased by leaps on the fiscal trust and awareness survey question. Specifically, number of taxpayers who believe the district is doing a good job of spending money has increased by 23 percentage points (from 35 percent to 58 percent). For a public entity, 58 percent is a strong and high number to achieve on a survey.

Success with the ongoing community dialogue on finances also led Piqua from several ballot box loses to a streak of multiple public initiatives including a 10-year income tax, a $65 million bond issue and two Permanent Improvement renewals.

Engaging in continued communications about district priorities and finances is critical for any community. In the case of Piqua City Schools, the district was respectful of the community and talked with them about what they cared about – namely, finances. Thanks to the help of Allerton-Hill Consulting, and through constant community engagement, Piqua CSD gained the trust and support of their residents.

Posted in Budget & Finance, Campaigns, Community Outreach

Sharpening School Marketing

January 14, 2014

When residents of Macomb County, Mich., tune into Pandora internet radio, they may be surprised to hear ads selling something quite different from landscaping, new cars, or home repair services.

The Fraser Public School District is selling its schools on Pandora this year. The sophisticated, $130,000 ad campaign, which is only .25 percent of the total budget, uses internet, TV, print ads, and educational websites to court parents who live in neighboring districts. Although Fraser isn’t the first district to advertise, they are going about it in an ambitious and creative way.

Fraser operates in a state that suffered deep repercussions from the recent recession, including the restructuring of the auto industry, a loss of more than 850,000 jobs, and decreased income levels.

“During trying economic times, many school districts are forced to balance their budgets by cutting programs and reducing staff, and communications and marketing efforts often fall by the wayside,” says Joel Gagne, owner of Allerton Hill Consulting, LLC, a provider of marketing advice to schools. “If they want new students, public schools now find themselves having to go out and get them.”

In 2008, Fraser decided to aggressively inform the community about the benefits to students of a host of programs it was redesigning for learning in the 21st century. Fraser created a blended environment, allowing designated high school students to spend half their learning time in classrooms and half working online from home or the school media center.

The district also developed a dual-enrollment program, enabling students to take college-credit courses taught by Fraser teachers. Finally, the learning day was extended by giving an iPad to each student in third grade and above.

A taste of the commercials

Fraser School District officials created a few enrollment ads to entice students. They aired during last summer’s enrollment campaign and were used in broadcast and cable spots, as well as on digital ads.

As a result, Fraser was able to increase enrollment during the state’s economic downfall and is now continuing to cash in on school choice, which allows parents to send their children to other districts if they can provide their own transportation. Close to one-third of Fraser’s students come from other districts, having chosen it over their local schools.

Stemming a decline

David Richards, Fraser’s superintendent, is amazed at the degree of change he’s seen in school communications and outreach in the past 20 years. When he was a teacher and high school principal, he says, “communicating meant sending home newsletters and memos with the kids.”

In 2010, Richards took over as superintendent of Fraser’s four-square-mile, middle-income suburban district. He oversees nine schools and about 5,400 students, with about 1,700 coming through Schools of Choice, Michigan’s voluntary interdistrict program. Forty-five percent of all Fraser students receive free or reduced-price meals.

All of Macomb County’s 21 school districts participate in the interdistrict school choice program. Back in 2006, Fraser’s enrollment peaked at 5,088. However, over the next two years the population declined, and enrollment decreased to 4,845. The board of education was forced to consider closing a school.

“Community parents asked that we share the advantages of our schools to try to increase enrollment, so my predecessor started a marketing campaign in 2008,” Richards says.

And Fraser’s marketing is right on the mark, Richards says. “Our enrollment has increased every year since 2008, and most importantly, we’ve seen a very positive improvement in community support. Many applications are stimulated by referrals from family and friends.”

Competition for students is fierce

The first public school open enrollment program was introduced in Minnesota in 1988, and today, according to the Education Commission of the States, 36 states have voluntary interdistrict school choice programs. These programs give students opportunities to enroll in schools and/or districts outside of their neighborhoods. Studies show that students tend to move to districts with lower levels of poverty, higher median family income, and higher-than-average standardized test scores.

In Michigan, the program is voluntary, allowing district officials to decide whether or not they will accept students who live outside their districts. The Michigan Department of Education reports that during the 2011-12 school year, about half of the 545 districts participated, with about 100,000 students attending schools outside their home districts. Over the past 10 years, the state has seen a nearly 150 percent participation rate increase.

David Arsen, an economist and professor of educational administration at Michigan State University, has done extensive research on school choice. Arsen asserts that the growing trend for district advertising is a direct result of Michigan’s extremely competitive market for K12 education.

In Michigan and in most states, school funding is tied exclusively to the number of pupils enrolled, so many districts look at interdistrict choice as a way to increase revenues, Arsen says. Every year, the Michigan legislature decides how much revenue a district will receive per pupil.

Telling the tale

During Richards’ four years as Fraser superintendent, the district’s marketing has morphed from traditional to targeted. “In the beginning, we only used newsletters, ads in local papers, and billboards,” he says. “Since that time, we’ve expanded our campaign to focus on ‘smart marketing.’” Fraser now has a full-time community relations manager, Nicole Malak, who seeks advice and support from outside marketing experts, such as Sussman Sikes and Associates, and advertising managers at metro-Detroit TV stations.

“Smart marketing” means using sophisticated communications channels to reach targeted audiences, Malak says. For the past two years, Fraser has reallocated a large portion of its marketing funds from print to digital marketing, with the highest frequency of advertising occurring during the school enrollment period in July and August.

For example, Malak chose Pandora because it allows an advertiser to decide who views its message based on zip code. Fraser targets zip codes from its own and surrounding districts. When an ad displays on Pandora, viewers who click on it will be taken to Tracking the number of clicks allows Malak to evaluate each ad’s effectiveness.

In a state like Michigan where school choice is prevalent, parents with school-age children are likely to see ads for a variety of districts. If they seek information on educational or regional websites, such as or, they’ll also see ads for the Fraser district schools.

Many of Fraser’s teachers and administrators share information about the district’s programs on Twitter. Even the print ads take advantage of the digital connection. One ad carries an embedded QR-code, allowing readers to use a smartphone to access Fraser’s digital content, including videos. The videos, which vary from 30 seconds to 15 minutes, were created by Detroit’s Velocity Cow commercial, video and branding production company, and feature unscripted students, teachers, and parents discussing why they like school programs.

More traditional channels are employed in very targeted ways. Malak works with the latest Nielsen ratings and Scarborough data to target women with children who are in their home, placing ads on top womens’ television shows in the market, such as “The Ellen Show” and the “The Today Show” and on cable networks, including ABC Family, TLC and Lifetime. Mothers are considered to be the key decision-makers in choosing schools for their children.

The ads have a benefit beyond increased enrollment, Richards says. “More people in the community are aware of the good things we’re doing,” he says. “Whenever we get out and talk about a new initiative, we get a lot of positive support.”

Zero-sum game

One consequence of public school marketing and shifts in enrollment is an increase in competition between districts. “Superintendents understand the reality of the setting, and they know who is eating whose lunch,” Arsen says. “They didn’t set the rules, but the rules force them to think in a more competitive way. They have to protect their programs.”

Visitors to the metropolitan Detroit area will notice school districts there have increased their focus on attracting out-of-district students. Billboards, newspaper ads, and radio spots extoll the virtues of districts. When the school year begins, principals knock on doors in their neighborhoods, and Detroit schools have offered gift cards to students who enroll. “Competition for students has led to the necessity of advertising your district’s virtues,” Arsen says.

But it is still highly unusual for a district to advertise to the extent that Fraser does, says Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA. “Marketing for students is undoubtedly due to the economic pressures school districts are facing,” he says.

Oxford Community Schools—a middle-to-upper-middle-class rural and suburban area in northern Oakland County, Mich.—is another district that aggressively markets its academic programs. Superintendent William Skilling agrees with Arsen that school choice fuels competition. “Unfortunately, school enrollment is now a zero-sum game,” says Skilling. “My gain is another district’s loss. Many of my colleagues don’t like it.”

Richards shares this concern. “There’s a finite number of students, so interdistrict enrollment has an impact that is both positive and negative. If one district’s enrollment is growing, then another district’s enrollment is going down.”

So far, Richards and Skilling have been able to accommodate the students who want to enroll.

“Eventually, we’ll hit a point where we can’t continue to do that,” says Skilling. “And the system is designed so that if you aren’t growing, you are losing revenue.”

Matter of intensity

Does competition for students lead to improvements in the academic programs of districts that are losing students?

“It is a matter of intensity,” says Arsen. “If you’re losing 5 percent of your students, you are getting a signal that you need to make adjustments in your programs and can alter what you provide in your schools. But if you lose one-third of your students and revenue over a few years, that’s a downward spiral of a magnitude that is difficult to reverse.”

In such a competitive environment, schools cannot afford to be complacent. In Michigan today, schools are quite proactive and attentive to parents, more so than they were before school choice became a statewide option, Arsen says.

In the Fraser district, it appears the proactive stance will continue. for years to come “We invest a large amount of money in our marketing, and we take that very seriously,” says Richards. “So far, our board of education views it as a good investment, given the students we’ve gained, the exposure within the community, and the additional families buying homes in our district.”

And Richards concludes, “We’ve never spent more money than we’ve brought in with new students.”

 Read the Full Article on »

Posted in Education
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A great example of a school district staying on a message

March 22, 2013

The Piqua community is feeling pretty good about itself.

To help spread the word, the Positively Promoting Piqua committee held a community update meeting March 13 at one of the city’s success stories – the fourth floor ballroom of the renovated Fort Piqua Hotel downtown.

The nonprofit PPP was formed two and one-half years ago by residents to fight – successfully – a recall of four of five city commissioners, and then promote and support positive efforts to help the city improve and grow.

Joining with the organization to celebrate achievements were the city of Piqua and the Piqua City Schools.

Business leader Dan French of French Oil Mill Machinery Co. said Positively Promoting Piqua is a group “united to help make Piqua the best it can possibly be.”

A citizens committee helps the organization monitor the community pulse by serving as its “eyes and ears” and helping identify positive projects. For example, the committee helped last year with building the Mote Park Shelter.

French assured business leaders and residents who responded to a public invite for the Piqua Progress Report 2013 that a lot is getting done behind the scenes.

City Manager Gary Huff and Schools Superintendent Rick Hanes helped French and Dan Ramer, also of PPP, provide an update on progress.

Huff, who joined the city staff last year, said he believes “real success comes by more citizen involvement.”

He has worked with city staff to organize a number of projects/programs to open the door to citizen involvement. Among them so far are the Citizens Government Academy offering residents a first-hand look at how the city runs and a volunteer park ranger program scheduled to get under way this year.

Projects coming up will help boost Piqua even more, Huff said. He pointed to a $1.7 million high-speed fiber project and plans for the city’s first dog park, a mention that brought some of the event’s loudest applause.

Hanes talked about the schools and “significant progress” occurring in the district. “Our students are doing amazing things,’ he said.

The community’s attention soon will be on more district progress with the upcoming construction of two new elementary schools and an intermediate building.

For more information on Positively Promoting Piqua visit

 Read the Original Article on Dayton Daily News »

Posted in Community Outreach
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