There are many answers.
The ones we are focusing on in our admissions campaign to define the value of the Randolph experience are these:
• Deep and abiding relationships—a small nurturing community where all students are known, challenged and valued,
• Excellent teachers enjoy the autonomy to practice their craft—an exceptional teaching and learning climate where teachers are free to teach and students are free to learn,
• Parents and students share values that make us all better,
• Students are challenged by high standards and expectations across all areas of school life.
When I was a student in the 80s my career had not been invented. Schools did not, by and large, have dedicated communications offices or marketing efforts. Someone in the admissions office did a brochure with a picture of the school building and some happy children. A parent or a retired teacher might constitute the alumni office. A typed school newsletter might include black and white pictures and news of recent graduates. There were no websites.
As a college student, I knew I would major in English, but I was strongly drawn to art history, which was unofficially my minor. I like words and pictures. I like schools. Over time, text and image have evolved from word processing to websites to blogs, from film to Photoshop to Instagram.
The core of the work is to best convey the essence of a school, to show how we live our mission, to show what the school is like to prospective students and their families, and to affirm affiliation for current families and alumni. Over time, these efforts have become more intentional, more sophisticated, more dynamic and multifaceted. Gone are the days of the headmaster’s thrice yearly state of the school letter mailed home. Byron’s three letters a year have become two or three blog posts a month. And you don't have to be a parent to read them.
When I started at Randolph, I asked if my job title, Director of Communications and Marketing, could be shortened to just Communications. After all, as the job has evolved, marketing is an integral part of it, plus there was something too uneducational sounding about marketing. A school as good as Randolph didn’t need the tricks or the hard sell that marketing implies, it just needed to be shown, heard, seen, understood.
That works for people who are in listening range, but we also have to “get the word out” and speak to people who are not tuned in. For many people in Huntsville, even though data tells us that cost should not be an issue, Randolph is not somewhere they are considering sending their child. There are also many families who could afford Randolph if they saw the value in it as the investment in their child’s future we believe it to be.
"My other car is a Randolph education"
This year we enlisted a small group of parents and started thinking more intentionally like marketers to develop a value proposition of what we believe to be the key benefits of attending Randolph. We will be using those points in our marketing materials, which are now a little bolder and edgier. We are also assembling a team of advocates in the form of the Randolph Ambassador Network who will help increase our visibility in the community. At a recent meeting we joked that we should give our parents bumper stickers that say, “My other car is a Randolph education,” to acknowledge the sacrifice we make to send our children here and to assert the value of that trade-off, real or symbolic. Too edgy? Maybe…
I enjoyed listening to Os Guinness address the Upper School in March. In conversation with students afterwards, talking about the inconsistency between the Founding Fathers’ ideals and the institution of slavery, he described a medallion created by Josiah Wedgwood in 1787, which depicted a shackled slave and was inscribed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”
Wedgwood phrased his opinion as a question, Guinness said, because “questions are more subversive than statements.” I liked this. Byron often speaks about Randolph as being countercultural. While the nation’s public schools move toward more standardization, we are moving away. We’re not like the other schools in Huntsville. We never have been. We are not trying to be.
We will pose more questions. We hope that you will help us answer them.
Randolph will hold a Kindergarten discovery evening on Tuesday, April 23,
5:30 -7 PM. Please help us get the word out. Click here for more information or to register.