School district upgrading branding effort

It will help with future bond issue request to expand facilities

by Mark Reaman

The Gunnison Watershed School District is at the halfway point of a rebranding project that should yield results this spring. The primary goals of the study are to end up with a more clear way to communicate with the public; make sure there is a realization that the schools in Crested Butte and the schools in Gunnison are part of the same district; and figure out more efficient ways to tout the accomplishments of the public education system in the area. All of those goals need to be met when the district brings a request to the public for a property tax increase to pay for a facility expansion in the next year or two.

“Rebranding might be a better term than branding,” explained district superintendent Leslie Nichols. “We want to be more on top of the perception people have about the district. It will include things like common words, colors and images that we use for the district.”

Other elements of the rebranding effort will include a better social media presence and improved communication plan for the district. “We want to effectively let people know about all the good things we do throughout the district,” she said.

The district put out a Request For Proposals (RFP) last summer and selected Springboard Communications of Denver to spearhead the branding effort. Nichols said they have deep experience with other K-12 programs. Springboard helped with marketing for a recent Denver Public Schools bond and mill levy campaign. The local district has budgeted $50,000 for the project.

“For us the first goal is pulling two strong high schools, one in Crested Butte and one in Gunnison, under the same district umbrella,” said Nichols. “I have talked to people who live here and don’t realize that the high schools are actually in the same district. We want to use branding elements to visually convey and verbally represent that we are one district. Part of the effort is to find connectivity between the two ends of the valley.”

She expects that Springboard will come up with three choices for the rebranding elements such as logos and images. A draft of the centerpiece messaging from Springboard based on local interviews reads, “Supported by exceptional teachers and caring communities, young people develop the curiosity and confidence to follow their passion and fulfill their purpose.”

Nichols admits that the study will be used if there is a future effort to go to voters and ask for a mill levy increase to expand facilities, as student numbers are increasing across the district and especially in Crested Butte.

“It is fair to say there is some relationship between this effort and a potential bond issue that will likely be needed to expand facilities,” Nichols said. “If we go to the voters there is a need for clear and compelling communication about what we do and why the taxpayers should decide to allow the district to go into debt to expand the facilities. So this would play a role. Voters need to understand all the good things we do if we want them to vote for a bond issue.”

The timeline is to continue with the study this winter and then receive hard recommendations this spring. The school administration along with the school board and a branding advisory committee will then review the options and choose a direction.

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