Will cash from Scottsdale’s override lure students?

The Scottsdale Unified School District is promoting the passage of its override last month as part of a marketing campaign to lure back students.

The additional money from the override will allow Scottsdale to reduce class sizes and restore art, music and physical-education classes next fall.

The district recently sent letters touting those changes to hundreds of families who left the district this year, asking them to come back.

This month, officials also will update a television commercial about Scottsdale to focus on the classroom improvements that will happen starting next fall because of the override.

Voters had rejected the override property tax in 2012 and 2013, and that prompted deep budget cuts. Scottsdale eliminated dozens of teaching jobs, which increased class sizes, reduced art, music and physical-education classes, known as “specials,” in elementary grades, and caused the district to make every Wednesday an early-release day this year.

The override approval last month will mean an additional $18 million in revenue for the schools.

In October, the district sent letters to nearly 1,000 middle- and high-school families who had left. But Scottsdale delayed sending letters to 700 elementary families until after the election.

“We felt it was important to hold off on those because we recognized we lost students once we scaled back the specials, and with that, the Wednesday early release,” according to Kristine Harrington, public information and marketing officer for the district.

“We received feedback that that was something that made people think twice about attending our schools.”

Overall enrollment in the district is down nearly 4 percent this year compared to last year, and about 9 percent less than 2010-11.

Administrators analyzed records from transferring students to see where they were going. The review of 1,095 transfer requests made from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2014, showed:

Fourth grade had the highest number of students leaving the district — 194 — with the highest percentage of any grade level moving to a charter school – 68 percent.

Across all grades, 43 percent of students who left went to a charter school.

About 27 percent went to other public schools in Arizona. The district found that of those, about 30 percent went to districts near Scottsdale, and about 70 percent went farther afield.

Twenty-one percent of the students moved out of state.

About 4.5 percent went to another school within the Scottsdale district.

Three percent transferred to a private school, and 16 students withdrew to be home schooled.

Open enrollment is ongoing, but Harrington said that so far, about two-dozen families have mentioned the letters when they re-enrolled their children in the district.

Besides sending letters, the district also bought online and television advertising with Cox this fall. The online banner ads launch a 30-second video.

The video opens and closes with swooping overhead shots that were filmed by a production company using a drone, Harrington said. Students are shown playing sports, working in a science lab and performing on stage.

The online ads appear to Scottsdale-area people who visit sites including Zillow, ESPN, Facebook, Yahoo, WebMD, People, YouTube, Ancestry.com and Overstock.com.

The commercials have been shown on Cox Channel 7, as well as to local audiences on ABC Family, TNT and HGTV.

The online and TV ads, which are targeted to people who live in Scottsdale and adjacent zip codes, will run through December.

The campaign cost $25,000, and the money came from revenue the district collects from advertising on its school buses, as well as some donated money.

Harrington said future campaigns will depend on how much the district earns from the bus signs.

Scottsdale recently signed a $34,000 contract with the Phoenix Zoo to advertise on 42 elementary school buses.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/12/12/scottsdale-touts-override-passage-lure-back-students/20257709/