Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge launches public schools branding campaign

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 2:52 PM

In an effort to shed a positive light on the Department of Education's recent public school initiatives, Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge launched a statewide marketing campaign yesterday called "Georgia's Future. Now!"

The superintendent introduced the branding effort at Twin Rivers Middle School in Buford, which aims to promote some of the good things that Georgia's public schools are currently doing. It may also attempt to steer some of the conversation away from the charter school movement's recent surge as well as number of traditional public school scandals.

"The campaign is an effort to package the various initiatives that we have going on in Georgia that are contributing to the increases in student achievement," Barge told CL in a phone interview following the announcement.

The Associated Press reports that the efforts would include "printed literature, knickknacks with a logo, and a speaker's bureau of teachers to address community groups." Barge also said that a new online comedy series, titled "Modern Teacher" would launch in January (and adopt the incredibly lukewarm comedic style used in the popular TV show "Modern Family," as seen in the trailer after the jump).

"We use humor to kind of poke fun at ourselves as educators, but we're getting out the message, a very serious message, about things like teacher evaluations," Barge said. "Each of those humorous episodes [are] going to be followed by serious roundtable discussions by teachers and leaders and community folks about the very important work that we have going on."

The branding effort doesn't introduce any new education policies, instead highlighting recent programs he says are "moving the ball forward" in public schools. Among those efforts are the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, more rigorous curriculum, a new teacher and leader evaluation system, and some career pathways initiatives.

"There are no new initiatives," Barge says. "The campaign is really a communications plan to package the initiatives together into a single message about what good is going on in public education.

AP also said yesterday that the Department of Education has already spent an estimated $60,000 in public cash on the initiative. The majority of that money has gone to Voss & Associates, a education marketing and public relations firm based in Florida.

Bert Brantley, a spokesman for the charter school advocacy group that opposed Barge's position during the recent amendment debate, was surprised to hear that the department was using public funds to an out-of-state firm. Barge, along with many amendment opponents, cited outsourcing as a major problem in the charter school system.

"For him to say we spent $60,000 of tax money and giving it to a for-profit firm given his stance during the charter campaign," Brantley says. "The hypocrisy is stunning."

Despite where the money has been spent so far, he "doesn't question the need" for the branding campaign and adds that public schools get a bad rap.

"I think our schools are better than what they're perceived at," he adds, pointing to the school that his kids attend in Henry County as an example.

While there's nothing new being announced, Barge's new campaign is making an effort to remind people of some of the good things happening in the public school system. There isn't a specific timeframe for the campaign's length, according to Barge, so expect the positive re-enforcement to continue for a while.

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