By JEROD CLAPP
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Before the school year hits full swing, some parents in Clark County received a mailer enticing them to bring their children to a place where they could succeed and find unique educational opportunities.
But it wasn’t from a charter or private school — a neighboring district sent the postcards out.
With each student counting toward more funding, some districts in Clark and Floyd counties have sought ways to bring in new students and keep parents from taking their children elsewhere.
Kim Knott, superintendent of Clarksville Community Schools, said for good or bad, changes in the legislature and the business of education are something all school corporations will have to get used to.
“If you have a monopoly on or in an area, then you owe it to your people to provide the best service possible,” Knott said. “And for years, I think public education took our customers for granted. With the advent of technology, we no longer can do that. It’s leveled the playing field and flattened the world. If nothing else, our competition will be the Internet. In Indiana with interdistrict choice, our general assembly has said if districts choose, you can take people from other districts.”
With the first state enrollment count coming up in September, districts are opening their doors to as many students and as many dollars as possible.
OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
The New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. employed a couple of tactics to attract students to their buildings. Along with the mailer sent to Clark County families, the district also funded a billboard along Interstate-265.
Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent, said he expects his district to bring in about 100 students from other districts by the time their enrollment count comes next month.
With getting the word out about their schools part of the job now, he said it’s important to present what’s best about the district to as many people as possible.
“We have plenty of room for out-of-county transfers,” Briscoe said. “We think we’re very competitive; not only academically, but we think we also offer a wide variety of programs that makes people want to say that New Albany-Floyd County is a place they want to send their children.”
The Greater Clark School Corporation also used a billboard this year, but their mailers stayed in Clark County.
Travis Haire, assistant superintendent, said their purpose was mainly to remind parents who have children about to begin school about the new start dates.
“We did send direct mailing to Clark County families, but it was folks who had kids from [ages] 2-5 about kindergarten and that enrollment,” Haire said. “We want to attract kids and parents to our schools, then we want to do everything we can to keep them here.”
Erin Bojorquez, the district’s supervisor of communicatins and public relations, said they also expect about 100 students coming in from surrounding districts for the first enrollment count.
In Clarksville Community Schools, the board has kept count at their most recent board meetings.
With about 130 students in already — which amounts to about 10 percent of their total student population — Knott said they haven’t made any efforts at the administrative level to attract parents and students.
She said she thinks current parents, students and teachers do that part of the lifting for the district, keeping the board from spending money on advertising.
But she said that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t consider it.
“I don’t know if we’ll do the same kinds of things, but it’s not to say we wouldn’t allocate resources for more marketing in the future,” Knott said. “Again, I just go back to how we choose as consumers, how we make our choices. If I’m looking for a good dentist, I go to people who choose a certain dentist.”
John Reed, assistant superintendent for West Clark Community Schools, said their initial enrollment counts are looking good for them. With 4,454 students this year and growth of 65 students, he said about 380 of those transferred into the district.
They didn’t have to do anything to get them into the district.
“I think that we are an attractive area in that it’s a safe environment here, our schools are good schools, there’s easy access to larger cities,” Reed said. “But yet, we’re still kind of a rural setting. You don’t have to go far to find some country land here. I think those are some things that have attracted people.”
Though other districts have looked at a number of ways to get more students into their doors, Reed said the Silver Creek schools in particular get a lot of growth from year to year.
While other districts may have different programs, he said the idea of competing for students doesn’t bother him. But families with more means may be able to drive their student to a school with a different band or sports program, whereas a poor family may not.
Though the districts in Clark and Floyd counties don’t charge additional tuition on students so long as they come in before the enrollment count, he said families still incur more costs by moving their student to another district than they would if they stayed within their school corporation’s boundaries.
“If you’ve got a kid that plays a trumpet and does it well, you may be prone to get that kid into another district,” Reed said. “Again, it depends on where you want to send your kids. But you’re not going to have a school bus come and get your kid. Wear and tear on vehicle and gas, 180 days, that gets expensive.”
Knott said with the changed landscape for public education, adjusting to the concept of a marketplace for parents is an important survival tactic.
“I think we all realize our profession is different today because of school choice,” Knott said. “Whether it’s a parent’s decision from one public school to another or a charter school or otherwise, we know our profession is different. We know that for the first time, our customer has choices. I think we also know we can’t be all things to all people.”