I had an appointment today to tour a local charter school in preparation for my son’s first year in middle school. I learned of the school at a school fair earlier this year. The teachers and volunteers working the booth for the school were well versed in the school’s activities and curriculum, and they brought along with them an interesting display of a school project. I admit I was intrigued. My son was…slightly – he was more focused on a much larger demonstration by another school.
Allow me to step back for a moment and mention – in our area, there is a magnet school system as well as school choice. The public school system promotes the two very heavily (as if neighborhood schools aren’t good enough…but I will save that for another post). Parents have become more proactive in selecting a school to meet the interests and needs of their children, and the lottery process has become quite competitive.
Now prior to scheduling the tour for this school, I of course looked them up on the web. The website for the school is quite engaging, and presented much better than the majority of the public schools in the area. The site is nearly the caliber of a private school who has dedicated resources to their web presence. Reviewing all the activities and programs the school had to offer, I was hooked. I began to look forward to my visit today. I expressed my excitement with my son, who was still not moved.
Insert the hoodwink. I arrive at the school, five minutes late because I couldn’t quite figure out where/how to enter. Instead of the warm reception I anticipated, I stepped into a very junkie make-shift reception/office area that had a direct entrance to the gym for the school. We begin our very brief tour with a stop by a very warm (tempature warm) science classroom before proceeding to the gym/cafeteria, of which serves as the center of the building. Classrooms are set up at either side of the gym. We walk into another classroom, and instead of seeing the charts and posters and bulletin board cut-outs I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in public elementary schools, I see torn paper, handwritten words and ragged carpet and very bare walls. Not to mention students were not in their seats and seemed to have the run of the small school.
Thoughts of disorganization, fear and chaos ran through my mind. How could any one of the parents of the 300 students accept this as their school of choice? Couldn’t the school leaders request corporate support to upgrade their facilities? What happened to the great presentation and website that brought me to this point? Is this what I want for my child? I tried not to let the disappointment show on my face as she concluded my tour.
The point I want to make here is that the power of good marketing can draw someone in, but thought must also be given to the system that is going to keep someone there.
The school may or may have not been aware that their website (and ‘trade show’ presentation) could draw so much attention. If they are, then they are guilty of a poor follow up. If not, they are still guilty for a lack of positive physical presentation. I wonder how the school could be in such poor shape. Perhaps I am the only one that really noticed, or am I just too picky?
My grandmother always told me that I could not invite company over to a dirty house, and I teach my kids the same thing.