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Schools plan to spread word

July 15, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

The Washington County Board of Education last year started using its new strategic plan, a blueprint for the school system's future improvement.

Now the School Board wants public relations to explain the plan and show its progress.

Community Relations Specialist Donna Messina developed a marketing proposal for the strategic plan. It includes sending a mass mailing, making public service announcements and filming a video annually to show to civic groups.

In January, the School Board considered paying Marketing Solutions, Inc. to revamp its image and improve communications with its staff and the public.

Instead of hiring the firm, Schools Superintendent Herman Bartlett asked Messina to create an in-house plan. She reported her proposal to the School Board last week, projecting an annual cost of about $700.

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"I think it's very important that we have a systematic plan to keep the public informed about what we're doing," Messina said.

The School Board approved her proposal July 6, according to President Edwin Hayes.

The strategic plan was designed in 1998 by more than 200 community members and School Board staff. In a series of committee meetings, they hammered out a vision for the future designed to ensure students a quality education.

The strategic plan grew out of a 1997 curriculum audit that uncovered several problems in the system. The plan made several recommendations, such as a staff reorganization and the hiring of a technology director, both of which have since been done.

"The plan must be kept alive in the eyes of the community," Messina's proposal says. In order to do that, she recommends continuous communication with target groups.

The "internal and external" public includes school teachers and support staff, students, Central Office personnel, board members, community groups, the general public and news media.

Staff will be updated on progress with circulated reports. A five- to seven-minute video will be created annually in the Central Office studio.

Using it, staff members will make presentations to Rotary and Optimist clubs, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations.

"The video will show not only what we've accomplished but also where we're headed," Messina said.

She also will record five 30-second public service announcements for radio. Staff members will appear on local radio and television shows.

In a partnership with Hagerstown Community College, a one-page "strategic plan update" will be sent to 44,000 households with HCC's October mailing, according to the proposal.

Posters will be printed to display the mission and vision statements of the school system in each school. When Washington County Hospital gives welcome packets to new parents, the hospital will include a card from the School Board.

"The card is an opportunity for the school system to open communications with parents before they consider alternatives to public education," Messina's proposal says.

The cost is minimal because the materials and labor will come from within the School Board's Central Office. Messina estimates the cost of printing documents and producing video tapes at $700 per year.

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