St. Paul schools spread the good word, seek more students

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2011 - 11:15 PM

A $225,000 marketing push looks to tell what's good about the district.

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Tseyone Bogale, 10, was among students who got to write on a school bus — without fear of being hauled into the principal’s office — as part of the district’s efforts to attract 5,000 more students.

Photo: Kathy M Helgeson, Special to the Star Tribune

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Officials from the St. Paul Schools are hoping to market their schools the old-fashioned way -- word of mouth.

Wednesday, amid fun and fanfare, the district launched a privately funded marketing campaign dubbed "One thing I love about St. Paul Public Schools."

Students, parents, graduates, employees and others are being encouraged to spread the word about how their school has affected their lives.

The goal is to attract more students to the district, which has seen a decline of 2,000 students in the past six years. The state's open enrollment laws, which allow students to transfer to suburban schools, as well as competition from charter schools, have siphoned many of those students.

Superintendent Valeria Silva has set a goal of attracting up to 5,000 more students by 2014.

The marketing effort will be paid for with $225,000 received from several local organizations. A revamped website featuring student testimonials and flashy videos debuted this week at www.spps.org/home.

Over the next several months, a multi-colored bus with the campaign's logo sprawled across it will travel to more than 30 schools and events. Students will be able to write testimonials on the side of the bus.

At Wednesday's kick-off event at the Rondo Education Center, parents, students and teachers gave testimonials about positive experiences with St. Paul Schools.

"We know that in St. Paul, we're doing the right things," Silva said. "You trust us that when you give us your child every day, we're going to help make them into a better child, learner and a leader for our future."

More students than expected showed up for classes in St. Paul schools this year, Silva said. Administrators credited an increase of school-age children living in St. Paul and a grass-roots marketing campaign for helping the district exceed projections by 400 students, bringing total enrollment to 37,838 students.

That's 73 more students than the district had at this time last year, the first increase in numbers the district has seen in a decade.

"This is an early way to measure our success in changes," Silva said.

School officials also hope that recent initiatives can reverse the decline.

A "Strong Schools, Strong Communities" plan, which converts many magnet schools to community schools, drastically reduces citywide busing and is an effort to create more equity across the district and thus retain more students.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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