CASE STUDY: Saving Rhode Island’s First Charter Public School
CLIENT: Academy for Career Exploration (formerly known as the Textron Chamber of Commerce Providence Public Charter School)
ISSUE: Citing poor math performance and inadequate leadership, in June 2012, the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommended the closure of the Academy for Career (ACE), Rhode Island’s first charter public school. With the recommendation issued at the end of the academic year, ACE faced an uphill battle of pleading its case before the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, without the ability to easily contact and engage the school’s students, parents and faculty during their summer vacation. Facing panicked students and faculty members as the media continued to report the news and word of mouth spread, ACE’s leadership engaged Advocacy Solutions to lead its crisis communications, proactive public relations and advocacy strategy to keep the school open.
CAMPAIGN: To help keep ACE’s doors open and maintain its reputation and credibility, Advocacy Solutions:
- Developed and executed an integrated public affairs plan to educate community and political stakeholders about the school and support its charter renewal.
- Managed proactive and reactive media outreach to local and state media outlets to promote positive information about the school and respond to misinformation.
- Advised and provided communications and political strategy support to prepare school leadership for media inquiries, interviews and outreach to local and state decision-makers.
- Held training sessions on public policy advocacy and media/messaging for board members, teachers and faculty, as well as students, parents and school supporters.
- Created and maintained the “Friends of ACE” Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FriendsofACE) to facilitate communication with school supporters and community members over summer 2012.
- Developed supportive school collateral and strategic communications documents, including talking points and testimony, sample letters to the editor, op-eds, media advisories and press releases, as well as internal communications materials.
RESULTS: ACE received a groundswell of support from its faculty and staff, students and families, the media and local decision-makers. After making over 85 positive local and state media impressions, recruiting nearly 100 active Facebook supporters and engaging hundreds of community members to attend and testify at Board of Regents meetings, the Board of Regents unanimously voted to defer the Department’s recommendation and grant the school a conditional renewal for two years.