Now that you’ve determined the three to five traits that make your school “remarkable,” or, perhaps, “distinctive,” in the minds of parents of prospective students, remember that they must be truly remarkable traits about your school. There are private Christian and Catholic schools which still believe that because they espouse Gospel values that they are remarkable. In this day and age, that may be enough when the enrollment choices are either the local faith-based school or the local public school.

However, there are many choices today – public, private, parochial, cyber, charter, cyber-charter, and, if NONE of the schools in the area are what the parent believes is the best educational environment for their child, then the choice can be home schooling.

The case is more obvious, however, if there are three Catholic schools and a Christian school within a four-mile radius of a child’s home. Saying that the number one remarkable characteristic about the school is that the curriculum is infused with the message of the Gospel is a moot marketing point because all four schools can say that – or at least, have the potential to say that

If you build your school on that singular quality, please note that other schools have done the same thing…and are no longer open. Christian values are EXPECTATIONS in a Christian or Catholic faith-based school. That’s like buying a car because it can go in reverse and stop when the brakes are applied.

If you’re considering that to be your distinctive marketing trait, and there are other schools in the area that consider that to be their distinctive marketing trait, then, in the mind of the parent, there is “no significant difference” between the choices.  When that happens, the school with the lowest cost or, the best financial aid package, is the school they’ll choose.

Before going further, some explanation is necessary.

The word “parent” is italicized in the above paragraph because it really doesn’t matter what you believe about your school.  In the past, it did.

Times have changed.

Today, a “brand” is determined by the experience the customer (your parent community) has with your school.  This new way of thinking is one of the largest mindset shifts to occur in marketing.  Just as technology has caused disruption and transformation within so many markets today, this is the overall concept that has turned the marketing world upside-down.  It’s even infiltrated our basic concepts of right and wrong, since truths may be now perceived as “untruths” just because a growing number of people “believe” that same way.

Here’s an example to support that assertion.

When my wife and I moved in to a new community about 25 years ago, there was no room for our children in the local Catholic school, and we were put on a waiting list.  So, we enrolled them in the local public school.  At our 5th grader’s Thanksgiving program, the children all gathered to sing, “We Gather Together.”  Hearing the first line of the song (“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.”) prompted me to whisper to the person standing next to me, “Wow – they’re singing this a public school!”  The person whispered back their response: “Yep, and that’s the way we like it, because we’re the public.”  I wonder how that scenario would play out today.

To apply this phenomenon to the marketplace today, public health and scientific research is now challenged by those who are believe they know what’s best for them.  And while it’s still true that parents are the first teachers of their children, we must take time to reflect upon this: what are parents teaching their children when they defy guidelines and bully school leaders rather than engage in a civil and intelligent debate?

Now – do you still have five remarkable traits? How about this – make sure you have three. Want examples? Here are some:

– Even though our school is located in one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the city, we have some of the highest test scores in the county!

– Our jump rope team has started a national trend, has performed at the White House, and two members went to the world championships in England last year!

– We have a weekly all-school Mass at 1 PM on Friday afternoons, followed by tours for interested families!

– Our average SAT scores are among the highest in the county, and all our high school seniors pass the National Latin Exam and the National Greek Exam!

– We have a “buddy system” at our school where we pair up students in the higher grades with “little buddies” in the lower grades. Rather than sitting with their class at Mass, they sit with their buddies, sometimes have lunch with their buddies, and work on special projects for their parents in art class together!  Because of this, there are no issues with bullying in the school, since we live and teach community.

Remarkable or distinctive traits are ones that will make parents go, “Whoa….!” Excitement is a great thing, but when one is truly emotionally and powerfully impacted, the reaction is not necessarily demonstrated by jumps and screams. Sometimes, it’s a stunned silence with an agape mouth. Once again, these remarkable traits must be yours and only yours. If someone else is doing it too, you may be perceived as an imitator rather than an innovator.

Next week, we’ll get to the three places where these remarkable traits should be published, and then where two of those printed publications should be placed.

If you’re still having trouble finding what your school has that no other school has, there is always one thing that your school has that no other school in the world has!  If you’d like to know what that one thing is, send an email to [email protected] with the words “The One Remarkable Thing” in the subject line.  It’s actually so powerful that it’s part of the evolution of SchoolAdvancement, since SchoolAdvancement has been focusing on only one of the five systems that are functioning in your school.  And frankly, if you can’t call this one thing remarkable, then you have some significant work ahead of you in order to grow your school – or, at least, stop it from shrinking.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2023