Stephanie Kopala designed the brochure and a postcard.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Declining enrollment and school choice options are lending some competitive overtones to local school districts and Drury High School to make sure parents understand what it has to offer.
The School Committee recently authorized the use of up to $5,000 to print a brochure and postcard to get the word out about the opportunities available at the high school.
"I see this as an investment. This is an investment it to do some outreach to our school community," Superintendent Barbara Malkas said at the June 4 meeting. "That will hopefully maintain the level of enrollment at the high school so we're able to keep our high quality staff and keep our programs going at the high school in an area of declining population, declining enrollment.
"It's very important that the community recognize the good work that's happening there."
Principal Timothy Callahan said the idea of promoting Drury had come up during a scholarship he and Malkas attended at Hancock Shaker Village last summer.
"At that reception, one of our students who was a transfer student to Drury basically dominated the conversation by talking about how amazing Drury was from her perspective," he told the committee. "Other kids who were at the reception from other schools had no idea that's what Drury was like."
He said it was frustrating to hear about students deciding to go McCann Technical School or Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School or elsewhere because they may not realize what Drury has to offer.
"And when I want to talk to those parents, they often have have misconceptions about Drury," Callahan continued, like it doesn't have college prep or that there's a lot of trouble there. "They are misconceptions that are just not based on the reality that I've experienced in my 21 years there at all."
They decided that the school needed to look at marketing materials to get the word out about the school's benefits -- such as Advance Placement classes, performing arts program, technical workshops, and award-winning band.
Student interns, including recent valedictorian Vincienza Alicandri, came up with materials and input from classmates. Stephanie Kopala, a history teacher and director of curriculum and instruction, designed the brochure and a 5x7 card on her own time. Teacher Krista Gmeiner took over the school's Instagram account, druryhighschoolna, that's filled with #wearedrury posts of current and past students. and the Student Council has a Facebook page.
"We, too, are sensitive to the fact that we have more students school choicing out than school choicing in, and we want to change that," Callahan said. "And we think we can if people just know the reality."
Kopala explained that the brochure lists all the courses including AP courses that are offered at Drury, the fact that students can also take certain courses at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the higher education institutions that Drury graduates have successfully attended, student testimonials, highlights of sports and arts, off-campus activities and community connections.
"I absolutely adore the school I work in. And I love it with all my heart," she said. "And I want everyone to know all the great things we do. So this is my love of Drury in this promotion."
Callahan said the school was looking for permission to have copies printed by Beck's Printing. The thought was about 350 brochures and 500-600 of the postcards that could be sent to sixth-grade families.
"We want to disseminate it and we want to get it out to the community," he said. "We want to get it out to business leaders, we want to get out to feeder schools, also to people in other areas to see this is what Drury is about. And we want to send it straight to families -- not all the families, but the families whose kids might be thinking about coming to Drury."
Kopala said the Student Council page also has a $17 credit that could be used to promote a link to a digital copy of the brochure.
Callahan added that Kopala and Myers were donating their time because of how strongly they felt about the school but while fantastic, it wasn't sustainable.
"If we want to have a promotional approach, we need to make sure people are getting paid for the time that they're spending, or else it will just start to diminish over the months as it becomes an exhausting task that no one is getting reimbursed for," he said, asking that some time of stipend be bundled into the proposal.
School Committee Tara Jacobs thought this could be an initiative for alumni and community members to help fund raise for and that the school could possibly hold other open house events, perhaps getting younger students up there to see what's happening.
Callahan said the school has done events but they tend to be a "closed system" in that those who are involved in the school already tend to go and there are limitations as to how many events teachers must attend.
Kopala said they wanted to have the brochures and cards available for the Downtown Celebration and also to have a booth at the Adams Agricultural Fair.
The administrators said the focus was just to get the word out, noting the Student Council postings are reaching about 2,000 people -- beyond the Drury circle at this point.
Committee member Ian Bergeron asked how they would evaluate how well the promotions are working.
"We're operating blind because there's no information out there for the community about our high school other than what is kind of internal," Callahan said. "So this is our first attempt at getting something out there. And then I think we can start collecting survey data about perception."
Malkas said they've already seen some results from the social media efforts. Each year the school does a survey and in the past has had to beg to get attention; this year, they had gotten more than 260 responses.
"I think with just like the little superficial things we've been doing, we've gotten a little bit broader reach in terms of people understanding that our schools are safe and good places for their children to attend," she said.
There was some discussion among members about times and how much to spend and how many printings to do, but Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the committee, cut through to recommend $5,000 toward the effort through the school choice revolving account.
The matter was swiftly approved in a unanimous vote.
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The National Weather Service is forecasting excessive heat and humidity to begin this afternoon, peaking Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Daytime highs are forecast to be in the 90s to low 100s today through Sunday, with dew points in the low to mid 70s. Little cooling is expected to take place in the overnight hours, with lows in most areas only dropping to the mid 70s to near 80.
Heat index values are expected to reach 95 to 100 degrees this afternoon. Heat index values could reach 107 to 112 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon for most of Massachusetts, with values between 96 and 102 locally in the Berkshires.
This level of heat and humidity is dangerous and relatively rare for this part of the country. Prolonged exposure to heat and humidity will increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.
"MEMA urges residents to take precautions during the upcoming extreme heat. Never leave children or pets alone in a closed vehicle, find an air-conditioned public space, cooling center, or other cool spot for relief, and watch for heat-related illnesses," said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Samantha Phillips. "Please check on your family, friends, or neighbors to make sure they are safe during the extreme heat."
In preparation and response to the weather forecast and high heat advisory, the city of North Adams has announced that the following locations are available to residents seeking relief from the heat and humidity:
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