By Jason Schmucker
With the new school year just around the corner, Waconia schools are rolling out a new look – both in branding and online.
Officials at the school district – with assistance of Red Wing-based marketing firm Woodruff Sweitzer – have been gathering input from staff, parents and community members on how they view the work and mission of ISD 110.
“Waconia Public Schools has great stories to tell. The brand becomes the foundation that helps us share those stories. It also helps build on the strong tradition and pride that already exists in ISD110,” said Paul David, the district’s director of communications. “Consider our new tagline: ‘Explore your passions. Create your success.’ We feel this really captures the collective community that is Waconia Public Schools. This is not just something that we say we do, rather, it’s what we do.”
David said that Woodruff Sweitzer was selected – to the tune of $29,900 – to guide the rebranding process because of the firm’s reputation for gathering and relying heavily on community input. David said that Woodruff entered the process in December, but noted that plans to rebrand had been underway well before that.
As for the website, David said that users should find the new, streamlined interface easier to use.
“We created the website based on feedback that we have been hearing from parents, staff and students. We focused on organization, ease of navigation and efficient use of time,” David said. “For instance, all school calendars are now in one area. People can check which calendar they want to view and then they will be able to sync those calendars with their devices.”
David said that the website was long overdue for a facelift.
“The current website has been in existence for well over 10-years so it was time to create something new,” David said.
Beyond aesthetic value, David said that revamping the website carries some financial savings, as well.
“The existing site is owned by an outside vendor and we are paying around $13,000 every year in licensing fees. This new website doesn’t have this type of licensing fee structure and has been custom built for the school district. It is ours and we will maintain it moving forward,” David said. “Keeping that maintenance in house allows us to keep the site relevant, fresh and updated by posting pertinent and timely information on a daily basis. The cost of creating our custom website is $49,200 which, over time, will be less expensive when compared to the current model.”
The new website’s address will be isd110.org, but David said the district maintains ownership of the waconia.k12.mn.us address, and that address will now redirect to the new site at isd110.org.
Finding the new site when it rolls out on Aug. 3 also should be a little easier.
“We also expect the current challenge of being hard to find on the internet [search engine optimization] to be greatly improved with the new site,” David said.
District officials are optimistic that the new-look website and branding efforts will help not only retain students, but also better position the district to attract open-enrollment students. That retention of students and focus on enrollment growth is especially significant given that enrollment estimates for last school year fell well short of projections. District estimates placed enrollment growth for the 2016-17 school year at over 100 students, but in reality, enrollment grew by only 20 students.
Officials are quick to note that plans for the rebranding and website makeover are not a knee-jerk reaction to last year’s enrollment figures and are part of a larger vision for the future of the district.
“Both the new website and the branding process were well-underway prior student enrollment not meeting projections,” said ISD 110 superintendent Pat Devine. “It’s our goal that both of these initiatives will increase revenues by inspiring more students to come to our excellent school district.”