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You Can Tell That *Charter Schools Are Public Schools* by Their Marketing (um…)

October 17, 2019

Charter schools are public schools. No, really.

So, when charter schools sound more like businesses recruiting and retaining customers, just remember that all public schools do such things. (Ahem….)

Consider this job listing for a Dean of Operations (2020-21; Jackson, MS) for the RePublic charter chain.

RePublic introduces the Dean of Operations position as follows:

At RePublic, our school-based operations teams exist to block and tackle for staff to ensure that they can focus on what matters most each day – teaching and learning. Equal parts data mastermind, systems tuner, community builder, and leader in training, the Dean of Operations reports directly to the school-based Director of Operations. He/she works to implement and maintain crucial systems that enable our schools to run like clockwork to create an academic environment in which instruction is top priority – and does whatever it takes in service of this goal.

Strong operations allow our schools to be more academically successful – and our Ops teams do whatever it takes in service of this goal. Masterminds behind the scenes, the scene is better planned, organized, executed, documented, and communicated because of each school’s Operations Team.

Dean of Operations, “works to implement and maintain crucial systems that enable our schools to run like clockwork to create an academic environment in which instruction is top priority – and does whatever it takes in service of this goal.”

No mention of student recruitment and retention as part of the job.

However, in the “key responsibilities” summation that follows, “student recruitment and enrollment” is top of the list– just like it is in other sales jobs public schools:

Key Responsibilities

Student Recruitment + Enrollment

Lead the school-based team in all year-round student enrollment initiatives and activities including, but not limited to, phone banking, canvassing, visibility campaign planning, community event participation, and strategic social media marketing.

Manage the student enrollment process and drive enrollment results by converting potential applicants to fully enrolled scholars through phone calls, in-person meetings, and other strategic methods that build family investment in the school and RePublic model.

Plan and host major enrollment milestone events and assist families in completing enrollment paperwork, including, but not limited to, Lottery Events, New Student Orientation, and School Information Sessions.

Manage student retention risks. Collect, organize, and analyze data to determine school-wide trends and to identify individual students who are at risk of unenrolling from RePublic’s schools. Use data to lead and drive daily student risk meetings with the school-based leadership team. Invest leaders and manage action around attrition risks daily.

Build strong intentional relationships with new and returning scholars and families to ensure they persist year to year within the RePublic Schools network, through middle and high school.

Identifying students who are at risk– of unenrolling. Just like at any other public school.

Next comes what one from a public school might expect in a job description for a Dean of Operations (except for the mention of “school marketing materials” and creating “on-brand content”):

School Culture + Community Building

Develop a strong school community and identity by planning and owning the execution of school-wide and off-site events (ex. field trips, Family Nights, Spirit Weeks, school dances, and Parent Involvement Committee meetings), student athletic programs, and extracurricular activities and clubs.

Increase agency and access for families- produce high-quality written communication on the behalf of the school (family newsletters, flyers, school marketing materials, etc.).

Cultivate strong relationships with community partners, advocate for students and their parents; help provide access to multiple types of resources for our families.
Build and execute social media strategy. Generate, edit, publish and share on-brand content weekly (original text, images, and video) with the intent of showcasing the school’s greatest assets and to clearly communicate with families about upcoming events, calendar changes, and updates.

Student Data + Compliance

Serve as resident expert on and key manager of the district and school-facing student information management systems, and ensure accuracy of these systems.
Manage accurate submission of student attendance, grades, and behavior.
Ensure school is adhering to all local/state compliance and reporting requirements.

School Operations Support + Professional Development

Support the school-based operations team to ensure seamless execution of all operational systems each day, including, but not limited to, food provision, transportation (arrival and dismissal), emergency plans, facility maintenance and upkeep, school decor and beautification, supply and asset inventory and maintenance (technology, books, classroom supplies, etc.).

Work with the school operations team to manage logistical elements of major student assessments; collect and track important school paperwork from scholars and teachers.

Continuously seeks feedback for improvement with the ultimate intent of taking on increased operations leadership responsibilities in the future.

That last duty, regarding the “utlimate intent of taking on increased operations leadership,” sounds like an agreement to ultimately travel the unbalanced life-path toward professional burnout.

One of the “strong preferences” for job candidates is in “phone banking, canvassing, campaign strategy.”

Marketing to parents and students to convince them that they want you as their school choice.

Just like other businesses public schools do.

However, be sure, O Prospective Dean o’ Operations, to take a lesson from your counterparts in Nashville. From the September 15, 2017, Tennessean:

A Nashville-based charter school network has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by parents who objected to a series of mass text messages they received from the charter organization promoting enrollment at its schools.

RePublic Schools Nashville announced the settlement agreement in a statement late Friday that made clear they are not accepting fault. The school’s insurance policy would cover the full amount as well as RePublic’s attorney fees, the school said, and no tax dollars would go toward the settlement.

The settlement — which would deliver financial relief to 5,319 Metro school parents — comes amid an ongoing debate over the district’s sharing of student data and contact information with publicly-financed, privately-led charters.

RePublic has agreed to stop sending text messages to Metro school parents without permission. …

The lawsuit against RePublic, originally filed in January 2016, alleged that RePublic violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending messages through a commercial auto-dialing service without the consent of recipients. It claimed parents received the first set of mass text messages on phones on Nov. 16, 2015, and that three additional installments were made through January 2016.

One text message read: “4th-grade parents, your child is eligible to attend Nashville Academy of Computer Science next year. Please call us at 615-873-0484 to tour our facility!”

The lawsuit, which referred to the text messages as “spam,” took a significant turn in March when U.S. District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw granted class-action status to the plaintiffs.

The law firm representing the parents, Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, had sought up to $12 million in relief, $500 per text, or $1,500 per person.

“The plaintiffs are very pleased with the settlement, which if approved by the court will result in one of the largest recoveries on a per-class member basis ever in a spam text messaging lawsuit,” attorney Gerard Stranch said in an emailed statement. “It is also significant in that RePublic Schools Nashville has agreed to cease sending text messages to MNPS parents and guardians without first obtaining their express consent.”

Spamming parents and students already attending public schools via a commercial dialing service to try to convince them to attend your “public school”?

Why, that seems more like the practice of an education business than it does a public school.

Marketing is a charter school practice.

Charter schools are public schools. RePublic Schools are charter schools.

money apple

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Charters, Litigation

One Comment
  1. Cris permalink

    This article reminded me that the marketing aspect should include information on RALLY, a corporation that exists in California. Investigation of RALLY will reveal its extremely important role in promoting charter schools in Washington State. Unknown to most people is that RALLY was the marketing firm behind all the robo calls, the media, and trips to the Washington legislature to promote charter schools in Spokane. The President of RALLY, Felix Schein has a background in communications including Meet the Press and Nightly News, but as President of RALLY, his role includes litigation. He hired Howli Ledbetter, who had been the marketer to promote President Obama’s programs for 6 years. Howli must have married, or somehow changed her last name after joining Felix Schein’s organization. He bragged about his role in Washington State’s legislation to by-pass the State Constitution’s language and fund Charter Schools a different way.

    Cris Shardelman

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