This article was published in the Abington Patch on October 21, 2019.
Local public relations professional Leza Raffel shared her insight on how to recapture charter school students at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference. The multi-day conference is a joint effort between PASA (Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators) and PSBA (Pennsylvania School Board Association) held Oct. 16-18 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, Pa.
Raffel presented “Yes, You Can Recapture Charter School Students: Strategies for Success” with Dr. Samuel Lee, superintendent at Bensalem Township School District, and Jason Palaia, director of elementary and secondary education at Coatesville Area School District.
As the president and founder of the public relations and marketing firm, The Communication Solutions Group in Jenkintown, Pa., Raffel provides strategic communication support for 56 Pennsylvania school districts. She worked with Bensalem and Coatesville on their initiatives to bring charter school students back into public schools. Bensalem noted the return of 100 charter school students since the district’s re-engagement efforts began in 2018.
“Surveying families to secure primary data is critical in understanding what contributed to parents’ decisions to enroll their children in charter schools,” said Raffel.
She recommends starting with a quantitative survey to learn what charter school parents know or don’t know about the school district, and what they like and dislike about their children attending charter schools.
Once a district understands why students left by analyzing survey and focus group data, Raffel said the district can recapture students with an outreach campaign that utilizes rebranding, direct mail, customized events and click-through advertising on social media.
“The growth of charter schools means that families now have a choice of where their students attend school,” said Raffel. “School districts need to market themselves more proactively.”
A few of her suggestions include that districts allow parents to tour or “shadow” classes, hold Open Houses for prospective families, and expand their mailing lists of newsletters and annual reports to include all residents in the district.