Friday, October 21, 2005
Marketing grad students help local school district
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
Downtown Mount Clemens has worked for years to clean up its image and become a modern city where people can come to eat, shop and do business. While the city’s transformation has been successful, Mount Clemens Community Schools is still struggling. Students from OU’s Marketing 560 class put together presentations that provide the school board with ways to make a successful transition.
Larry Schramm, lecturer for the MKT 560 class, gives all of his marketing classes a project to help a real company market a real product. The summer MKT 560 students had to help Mount Clemens Schools develop a marketing plan to attract students to the district through the school of choice program, where students from outside the district can opt to attend the school.
“This was a great class project,” Schramm said. “It really pushed them to think outside the box.”
With some information from the school administration, the six groups were out to develop the best idea in the class, which were be presented to the school board for review.
Fred Coe and Bill Kidder were in one of the two groups that were chosen to present to the school board. Coe and Kidder, along with group members Balapriya Mannivannan, Alberto Ferrero and Pradeep Divvela did research on the district, visited the area and talked to employees to identify areas that could be used for marketing or needed improvement.
“The most glaring problem in the school district is that their MEAP scores are low,” Kidder said. “We gave them concrete ideas and plans and a budget on how to raise MEAP scores.”
The group suggested the district implement an after-school program that would feed kids while they studied. They also suggested encouraging employers to pay their student employees to study.
Communication to the public is key, so the group recommended the district improve communication with the city and the community by attending city council meetings to defend their reputation and promote successes in the school. They suggested the students go out in the community and get involved in parades and other city events. The district could even volunteer to bring the community into the schools by providing them space for events.
Many companies are beginning to make Mount Clemens and the surrounding area home. The group told the district to encourage students who live a distance to enroll their children in Mount Clemens schools. The parents would be closer to the children during the day and many would appreciate that. Besides transporting their children to school, there is no cost to parents to enroll in the school of choice program.
The city of Mount Clemens has taken the initiative to clean up many areas and the marketing group recommended the school district do the same. They felt encouraging beautification would enhance the feel of the district.
“Marketing is all perception,” Kidder said.
When searching for a school, tech-savvy parents are now looking for school districts online and comparing the statistics. This is a new trend and the schools need to adapt to it.
“The Web site needed to be redesigned,” Coe said. “Parents of prospective students should be able to locate information quickly and easily,” which the current site just didn’t allow.
While the group presented many ideas to the school board, they said there isn’t one magic answer.
“They can’t just do one thing. It’s a multifaceted approach,” Kidder said.
While the groups were constrained to a budget for the project, Kidder said the costs were low and many of the ideas recommended would pay for themselves. And as students join the districts, the state funding for the district increases.
While none of the group members are from the Mount Clemens district and most of the group had limited marketing experience, they were able to find many ways the school could heighten its reputation among area districts.
“It opened up a huge discussion among school board members,” Schramm said.
The school district hasn’t made a decision as to which ideas it will implement, but Kidder and Coe want to stay in touch with the district to find out what the outcome is.
Kidder and Coe said they benefited from the experience.
“The project was set up really well,” said Coe, who complemented Schramm for giving the students guidance without telling them what to do, allowing the group members to think for themselves.