In 2002, Gordon C. James Public Relations continued its relationship with the Madison School District. GCJPR started bolstering the district’s profile in the media in 2001 and it built upon this success. The Madison district is a small, landlocked district of 5,000 students with perhaps one of the state’s most varied demographic profiles: Children from million-dollar homes attend school alongside children from the opposite end of the economic spectrum. More than 40 percent of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch programs.
Despite this disparity, the Madison School District has consistently ranked among the state’s best on standardized tests. District officials wanted to let the public know about the quality teachers, educational philosophies and fiscally responsible management that contribute to these results. By establishing Madison’s reputation for quality through media placements, they hoped to attract more out-of-district students to its campuses and its magnet program for the highly gifted.
GCJPR’s evaluations of the Madison district showed a dynamic faculty, staff and administration that compares favorably to districts with more plentiful resources, including stronger tax bases. GCJPR did a thorough review of district programs and staff that would interest the local media outlets and be a source of positive publicity. GCJPR also strengthened its ties to district officials and educators, which helped build its list of ideas.
The district’s programs were a great source of media pitches. GCJPR’s sources for pitches included: A project which helps low-income district families afford homes through low-interest loans offered by a local bank; a pay-for-performance plan for teachers that awards them for strong, measurable results in the classroom; high marks on a statewide evaluation of standardized test scores; the Madison superintendent winning a Good Government Award from a government watchdog group; and a Madison teacher who sculpted a larger-than-life-size statue of Supreme Court Justice Sandra O’Connor for the federal courthouse in Phoenix that bears her name.
GCJPR achieved a generous amount of meaningful news coverage through these pitches. GCJPR also ensured that Madison was at the forefront of any opportunity to be seen as an education leader. When Dr. Eugene Hickok, the U.S. Undersecretary of Education, made a visit to Phoenix, GCJPR arranged for him to visit Madison officials. Dr. Hickok publicly praised Madison’s pay-for-performance plan as a model other districts should follow.
GCJPR helped Madison established a strong rapport with local reporters; this resulted in positive coverage and a positive view of Madison from members of the community. Through these efforts, Madison became a frequent source and subject for news stories in the Arizona Republic and other local newspapers.
According to district officials, GCJPR’s work resulted in more substantial, positive stories. GCJPR campaign to establish Madison as a premier educational choice has been a success. The district has attracted students from far outside its border, some of whom travel for nearly an hour to attend Madison schools.