At a special luncheon last week, the Austintown Local Schools announced a
new partnership with a Toledo marketing firm. Rachel Wixey and Associates will
be handling a program geared to bring students back to the district.
"When they leave the district, they are taking precious dollars with them," said Austintown Superintendent Vince Colaluca.
As a way to try to get back some of that money, the agency will be working with Austintown schools to help develop a market plan and strategy aimed at the over 500 Austintown students who have left the school system for other alternatives.
Colaluca said the other alternatives include parochial schools, online schools and private academies and learning centers. He said about half are attending parochial schools such as St. Joseph Immaculate Heart of Mary, St Christine, and Ursuline and Mooney high schools. While those attending parochial schools have always been around, the other half of the student loss are to the private and online schools.
Austintown School Board Treasurer Mary Ann Herschel explained how the district loses when a student leaves the system. She said the state has determined that $5,700 is needed to educate a student each year. The state gives a percentage of that, or roughly $3,700, according to Colaluca. The rest is made up from local funds coming from property taxes.
When a student leaves the public system, the dollars go with him to whatever school choice was made. Austintown schools don't give just the state funds, but lose the entire $5,700 to the new school choice.
"That is why so many school districts are going to open enrollment," Herschel said.
She said the actual numbers are constantly changing, but that the number attending open enrollment in other districts is presently around 169, with another 90 attending charter schools. In order to get some of them to come back home, the district went with a marketing plan.
According to Nekiesha Taylor from the Toledo firm, her company is not new to this strategy.
"We work with several school districts in the Toledo area," she said. "Austintown is the first one on this side of the state."
She said her company will create a marketing plan to better the chances of getting some of those students to re-enter the local system. She said it has worked for school districts in Toledo and she sees no reason it won't do the same here.
Herschel said if the district can just get seven students to return, Wixey's contract price will be covered. Any more than that will just help Austintown Local School's bottom line.
The program will include the new online school that is presently seeing close to 130 students enrolled.