Money talks: ECISD's $100,000 ad contract finds some dissension
Jan 12, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Ector County Independent School District is taking a nod from its counterparts in hiring professionals in the marketing and advertising world to improve communication with parents and the community of Odessa.
However, the $100,000 contract is rubbing some Odessans the wrong way.
ECISD Chief of Staff H.T. Sanchez supports the 7-0 decision by the elected board of trustees to approve the contract at Tuesday's special board meeting. He and the board agree that it's been a goal for years and a necessary expense for the benefits it will bring.
"Odessa College, for example, you know what's going on there. What classes they're offering so you can make an informed decision. Their information is all over the place," said H.T. Sanchez, ECISD's chief of staff. He used the University of Texas of Permian Basin and Odessa's two hospitals as similar examples of public entities that utilize professionals in marketing and advertising to effectively communicate.
The $100,000 contract is with Odessa-based Hunt Advertising and Consulting Inc. and will "increase awareness of positive activities of ECISD and ECISD employees, students and alumni, and increase favorable impression of ECISD services," according to the contract provided to the Odessa American on Thursday. It was the only bid submitted for the job.
While there was no dissenting voice from the seven-member board of trustees, there has been some within the community, including one citizen who calls the decision "the apex of absurdity."
Radio show host and local businessman Jason Moore -- an outspoken opponent of the $129.75 million bond measure passed by voters in November -- asks what other communication is necessary if parents are already being contacted and given pertinent information.
"Good results are the best communication," Moore said. He said he likes and appreciates the director of communications Mike Adkins, who -- as he puts it -- can go before the media anytime he wants to relay information.
"This will do nothing to improve education in Ector County ... zero," he said.
The fact that the vote was 7-0 by the board is "truly a sad day for taxpayers."
The $100,000 contract, which spans from now until Aug. 31, will pay for a variety of items, such as creative development, agency service fees, broadcast and print production, social media and website enhancements, though many details will become clearer following meetings between ECISD staff and Hunt Advertising.
At Midland Independent School District in 2011-12, the district spent around $16,000 on marketing and advertising, according to Elizabeth York, the communications specialist at MISD.
Included in that (over an entire year) is an MISD page in the Midland Reporter-Telegram, $12,754; CommunityLink ad in the Chamber of Commerce Annual Guide, $1,895; Constant Contact E-Newsletter Service, $924; and MISD brochures printing, $900. So far this year, MISD has spent about $8,701, with anticipated cost of about the same amount as last year.
Around Odessa, some taxpayer paid organizations utilize marketing and advertising, while others such as the Odessa Police Department do not. The City of Odessa's advertising budget this year is $199,578 and has so far spent $93,967. The Odessa Development Corporation's marketing plan budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is $287,500 and last year the ODC spent $182,588.
A request was made for the annual advertising/marketing budgets from Odessa College and UTPB, but they were not available by press time.
In 2006, ECISD board members, community members, people from the business community and other stakeholders met to establish the strategic plan. In it are the strategies "we will communicate effectively to serve our mission" and "we will model and market our new culture throughout our community to ensure support and participation." The plan to do so ranges from staff meeting before public meetings, recognizing those who have carried out the message of the district, training for ECISD leaders, using market research data to determine expectations, utilizing public service announcements, holding a monthly press conference and organizing town hall meetings as appropriate.
ECISD does employ a director of communications, Mike Adkins, and a secretary, Gabriela Granado, though Sanchez described the department as a "one-man show." The answer to "how can ECISD improve " -- something Sanchez says he hears all of the time -- isn't going to be found by hiring more staff in the office of communications, but learning from people trained in the field and utilizing their advice.
Even Sanchez has missed out on an event at his child's school in ECISD.
"I'm missing information " Sanchez said. "Then we're not getting the message out and we can learn from it, and leverage what we already have to do it better."
Currently, the district uses "ParentLink" to send out phone calls and messages to parents with important announcements, an e-newsletter, a Facebook page, Twitter and press releases. Social media outreach will likely be a part of the forthcoming conversations between Hunt Advertising staff and ECISD, but for now the community can find the district on Twitter @EctorCountyISD and on Facebook, search Ector County ISD. The district employs 3,400 people and serves more than 27,000 students in Ector County.
"What (Hunt) can do is take 'education speak' or take a wordy message and make it to the point. This is our first attempt to try it ... we're trying to do something differently. So we looked around and said, 'How does UTPB do it How does the Medical Center do it Why aren't we doing it ' I don't know. It's almost so simple and makes so much sense," Sanchez said.
As for the title of the actual agenda item from Tuesday's meeting -- "request for approval of contract for community educational initiative services" -- it added a bit of levity to the discussion, since the word "communication" was not included in the public notice.
"There's a case in point of why we need help in that. We think we're being clear on that ... despite our best efforts it only shows our deficiency, so when you know that you can ignore it or look at it and address it," Sanchez said.
--Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.
___ (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Visit the Odessa American
(Odessa, Texas) at www.oaoa.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]