Having just returned from the annual National Catholic Educators Association conference, my belief in the important role of advisory boards and the importance of marketing has been reaffirmed.
Over the past four years in my orientation sessions to new board members, I have been emphasizing the development of working committees. These committees should consist of board members who have specific skills in the areas of finance, facility assessment, marketing and long range planning. The pastor, principal and current board members share the responsibility of recruiting members to the board and committees with expertise in these areas.
One of the most important roles of all board members is to be the positive voice in marketing their school. With schools in our diocese and across the nation working to retain and increase enrollment, board members must take an active role in promoting the “good news” about Catholic education. Research indicates that 90 percent of enrollment increases come from word of mouth.
The purpose of this team is to establish enrollment objectives and to develop systematic procedures for reaching them. The end result of these efforts would be the development of a comprehensive promotion and communications plan. Typically the principal of the school initiates this process and approves the composition of the team. However, once the team is formed it is the responsibility of the leader of the team to motivate the members and develop the plan with final approval from the principal, pastor and school advisory board.
The purpose and expectations of an enrollment team would be:
• To analyze the school’s enrollment data and demographics of the school, parish and community
• To gain a solid understanding of the school’s strengths and weaknesses
• To identify opportunities to attract new students and strategies to counter threats to the current enrollment
• To determine realistic and measurable enrollment objectives and develop a strategic plan for effectively marketing the school to new prospective families
• To create a seamless or integrated communications plan for retaining existing students
• To evaluate how the school communicates its mission, programs, features, benefits and willingness to serve prospective and current families, staff, faculty alumni, media and other stakeholders.
The National Catholic Education Association is committed to becoming a warehouse of resource material that will benefit Catholic schools across the nation. There is a wealth of best practices in the form of webinars on many topics at the ncea.org to assist leaders in becoming more effective as school boards. The Diocese of Little Rock Office of Catholic Schools is committed to providing training locally for the school advisory boards.
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