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PR blitz completes the circle

January 12, 1999

The Washington County Board of Education needs a new image. That's the message from Marketing Solutions Inc., a local PR firm that was hired to stick its toe into the waters of board/community interrelations and comment on their warmth.

The school board has developed a strategic plan and paid Marketing Solutions $6,800 to ask the philosophical question: "If a strategic plan falls in the woods and no one is around to untangle its bureaucratic gibberish, is it still worthy of being put on the shelf to gather dust until the next strategic plan strikes the forest floor?"

Obviously, the answer is no. People need to hear about this strategic plan and understand it so parents can see for themselves all the great things the school board could do but probably won't. And what company does Marketing Solutions say is the perfect company to get the word out? Why Marketing Solutions Inc. For a fee, naturally.

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This seamlessly completes the government-study circle in a cosmic harmony on par with Aquarius. But what can you expect? Asking a PR firm if your image could be better is like asking a computer salesman if he thinks you need more RAM.

Apparently the strategic plan is dense foliage and needs to be pureed for spoon feeding to the public. Board member Mary Wilfong said one woman told her she had read the report seven times and still didn't understand it. So I guess we know that this is a really complicated report - that, or a really persistent woman, one of the two. I don't know about you, but if I don't understand something after the third or fourth try I usually give up. You have to admire her stick-to-it-tiveness, but I can only hope she got "War and Peace" by the second read tops, or she's going to be in for a really busy life.

Further, Marketing Solutions said it surveyed 105 parents in an "image perception scan" and was shocked to find they all rang up "Produce-2/99." No, just kidding. Actually it found that the board needs better communication with the parents.

Not to be petty, but I want to hear about the inner guts of education policy about as much as I want to hear about Monica Lewinsky and her boyfriend problem.

I want schools to teach, just like I want cars to run. I don't need to know what weight of grease is in the gearbox. But if you have kids, I suppose it's different, so I will concede this point.

Another idea I liked was that part of the cost of the plan could be paid for by corporate sponsorship. Which means kids will go out for their Tristate Electric Recess or to their Bookstore Etc. Study Hall.

The consultant also recommended a - I am not kidding - "new identity system" for the schools, including corporate-style logo, new stationery, lapel pins and a new official name for the school board.

A logo and a new name. Gosh. I didn't realize fixing the education system would be so simple. And here we've been fiddling away our time on curriculum.

So what's the logo going to be, a whirlpool? A Japanese Weeping Maple? A zippy new name shouldn't be too hard, something like the Washington County Board of Slackerbusters. A colleague suggested instead of the Washington County Board of Education we could call it the Board of Education for Washington County. That ought to perk up those test scores. And the motto I think is a no-brainer: "Washington County, Y2K-12."

Board Member Marie Byers, bless her, had reservations, saying, "we need not rush into this." Although Board Member Dori Nipps may have been more unintentionally accurate when she said "We need immediate help."




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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