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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Respected Teacher Speaks out on CCSS

We think Kathy Powers is one of the most dynamic teachers in the state.

We first met her when she won the title of Arkansas Teacher of the Year,  and we were immediately impressed by two things -- her relationships with her students and her passion for improving learning for ALL students.

During her tenure as Teacher of the Year, she and her husband produced research identifying environmental factors associated with improving learning for lower socio-economic students. Those are the ones, after all, who often have the most ground to make up to reach their potentials. Her hope is that school districts and communities would work together to provide the best environment possible for student learning.

Today we stumbled on her blog about teaching the Common Core State Standards.  She recognizes the value of the standards, is honest about the challenges faced in transitioning, and confronts some of the myths spread by anti-CCSS folks.

In short, it's worth reading for any educator transitioning to the new standards.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What if we said ALL need college?

I cringe every time I hear someone say, “Not everyone needs to go to college.”

For too long, too many of us have assumed our children don’t need more education than we had. That’s when you hear, “I didn’t go to college, and I’m doing just fine.” Or, even worse, that line turns into an easy out for giving up on hard-to-teach or unmotivated kids.

Study after study tells us that most of the jobs of the future will require some level of education after high school. We also know that, if we want our youth to remain in Arkansas as adults, we have to be able to both build and attract the jobs that provide for a decent quality of life. Those jobs require more than a high school education.

No matter what set of statistics you look, Arkansas ranks poorly in education rankings: 
  • According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Arkansas's four-year college completion rate of 19.7 percent pales to Deleware's 54.8 percent, Missouri's 35 percent and even Mississippi's 26 percent.
  • In terms of two-year graduation rates, we rank closer to the middle, but with only 12.4 percent graduating on time.
  • If you rank states by the percent of 25-44 year-olds holding bachelor's degrees or higher, Arkansas sits at 46th.
Among the poorest fourth of Americans, fewer than one in 10 graduated from college, according to a recent Brookings Institution study. How many of those live in Arkansas, I wonder.
So maybe it's true that not every high school graduate needs to go to college, in Arkansas, a lot more of them do.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ugghh...not voucher talk again!

In our opinion.

Curtis Coleman addressed Little Rock’s Political Animal’s Club early this morning. Mostly he talked about cutting taxes (though, as you'd expect, not about the elimination of services those cuts would cause).

He did, finally, touch on education.

He said he was for school choice. Lest you be confused like I was, he wasn’t espousing legally expanding school choice between school districts. Nope, he meant the school-voucher-kind of school choice.  Not that he used the V word until questioned specifically about his meaning, but, yeah, he was talking about vouchers.

The V word was then followed by that tired ol’ platitude that the free market system is all we need to fix our schools.

Funny how the free-market system in education always entails public funds following students to private schools.  That’s government-subsidized business, isn’t it? Free market folks always want government to stay out of the way, yet they also want government money.

Really…this makes sense?

But let's say you follow Coleman’s so-called free-market process and let public funds follow kids to private schools, here’s what you’ll get: More and more folks will come out of the woodwork to open “private” schools. 

This is what happened with charter schools. Some – many, even – were well-meaning individuals with their hearts in the right place. They wanted to serve challenging student populations. But, often, they either underestimated the resources it would take to run a school or they knew too little about educating kids.

One of the most heart-breaking days I experienced while at the Arkansas Department of Education was hearing testimony about how students in a failed charter school (privately run) were several academic years behind their counterparts when the charter school closed and they returned to their local public schools.

We not only let these entrepreneurial educators experiment with our kids, we let them cause harm.

Granted, in Coleman’s world, there will be some high-achieving private schools. And, I’d bet, these will be located in the more affluent areas of the state because that’s where they can recruit and attract the faculty that will help them be successful. They will also very likely cater (simply by where they place their facility) to the higher-achieving students who will also make them look more successful. 

This will only exacerbates the problem this state has been working so hard to rectify: a situation in which kids from better off families and in more affluent areas of the state are more likely to have an exceptional education while poorer kids and kids in poorer parts of the state have fewer opportunities to sit in well-equipped classrooms taught by bright, talented teachers in up-to-date school buildings managed by progressive educational leaders.

So, instead of producing a better system, vouchers would make it worse.

Friday, July 19, 2013

AAAAGGHHH!!! Anti-Common Core Group Invades Arkansas

We just heard about next week's two-day hearing in front of the House and Senate Education committee apparently starring a new outfit called Arkansas Against Common Core.

But we hadn't heard of a group called Arkansas Against Common Core. So we did a little digging, and, while they may have rounded up a few Arkies to speak, we don't think the organization is Arkansan at all.

For starters, for a just-on-the-scene, grassroots-sounding group, they have quite a sophisticated website, but it appears full of stock photos -- no Arkansans on there that we can see.

The bigger tip-off is the list of folks they have on board to testify at the State Capitol -- via "call-in," for goodness' sake -- who are not Arkies:  Joy Pullman of School Reform News in Chicago; Dr. Neal McClusky with the CATO Institute in D.C. and Dr. James Milgram of Stanford University.

Then there's the other "State's Name Here Stop Common Core" groups around the country.

The main beef these folks have  is supposed "national" control of local schools. Besides that being a bunch of baloney, it makes us wonder who all's really funding this effort and what their motives are.

Another scary yet spurious charge tossed in is that the Common Core lowers learning standards, particularly by ill-preparing high school kids for math in college.

We were at the Arkansas Department of Education when Arkansas superintendents gave a standing ovation to the announcement of Arkansas's participation in the Common Core. We were there when the Common Core was adopted by our State Board of Education (who actually are Arkansans, by the way).

National control? No. For years before the Common Core existed, the Arkansas State Board of Education has approved the learning expectations for Arkansas students. It makes sure kids in Marianna are exposed to the same curriculum as kids in Mena. A good thing, indeed. How that curriculum is taught is up to individual teachers and schools.

What surprised - and still surprises - so many people, is that over the past decades, Arkansas had ratcheted up our standards to where we were considered national leaders. Yep, Arkansas's standards were mentioned in the same breath as Massachusetts' and Maryland's.

At the time I left the Arkansas Department of Education, curriculum leaders from around the state were meeting to map the Common Core learning standards to Arkansas's. Quite a bit of learning, such as mastering beginning algebra concepts, was being pushed to lower grades. Even in Arkansas, with our already high standards, teachers were having to teach new and harder things earlier. It's a challenge most we've heard from have accepted gladly, knowing they'd be better preparing students for life in the 21st century.

But the beauty of the Common Core is that it really focuses on mastery of important, fundamental concepts rather than quickly covering a  wide array of facts. That extreme breadth in subject matter was an oft-heard complaint from educators about Arkansas's student learning expectation. Teachers found it difficult to touch on so much material in nine months time.

Common Core allows more time on important concepts. It calls for deeper learning, and, in a sense, learning how to learn. That is what will prepare students for the demands of life beyond high school.

At First Class Communication, we hope these folks from out of state don't undo the good things that are happening for our students. We owe our children an education that allows them to compete with students nationally and, indeed, globally.

Common Core helps us accomplish that very important task. That's why these Arkansans are very much for it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Putting the relations in media relations

Last week First Class Communication was in Eureka Springs for another great Arkansas Rural Education Association Summer Conference.  Bill Abernathy does a fantastic job running the event, and it's always great to be around people -- both school personnel and many of the vendors -- who are working to improve education for Arkansas children.

While there, we presented two sessions to the group, one being, "Dealing with the Media in Good Times and Bad." (This links to our Prezi presentation; you'll need to give it a few seconds to load.) 

The key element we shared is to develop good working relationships with the reporters, editors and even bloggers in your community. Instead of treating them like the enemy, a pest or just another outside influence you have to deal with, understand their personalities, working situations and the kinds of stories that spark their interest.

Doing so will give you a stronger ability to share good news about your school district as well as ease those times of crisis when you must answer difficult questions under stress.

We also shared tips for preparing for the interview, sticking to your main message and appearing your best while being interviewed for television news.

But, as we said, the most important thing you can do is build those relationships.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Surprises in store at AREA

There'll be golf...great presentations...fellowship with colleagues ... and the Arkansas Association of Rural Educators will name the Superintendents of the Year during its Summer Conference in Eureka Springs July 8-10. 

What's more, the organization will honor two scholarship recipients -- Austin Eskola from Magnet Cove and Tyler Blasdel from Yellville -- as well as retiring superintendents.

First Class Communication is looking forward to all the fun! 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Quote of the Week

Love this quote in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Larry Schleicher, the new principal at Little Rock's Hall High School:

"I'm going to challenge students to do things that they have never done before, and I'm going to challenge teachers to do what they have never done before. I promise you every decision we make will be based on data. The answers are in the data, and that data has to be turned inside out and upside down. My goal is to make Hall the best school -- period."

We wish you great success, Mr. Schleicher!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

See you at AREA!

We're looking forward to our second Arkansas Rural Education Association summer conference in Eureka Springs next month.

We'll be back with our First Class Communication special-recipe cookies, of course. But we're most excited about presenting to some of you on Tuesday afternoon (July 9).

Our session will deal with the importance of branding your school district in this new age of school choice as well as developing media relations that work to your marketing advantage.

Feel free to send any thoughts or questions you'd like us to cover to We'll be sure to address them!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Recommended Reading

Memphis teacher Casey Jones writes an inspiring story in Education Week Teacher. In short, she says teachers can make a difference, despite a student's impoverished background.

No doubt it's hard work.

Jones, who teaches in an alternative environment, goes above and beyond everyday. She calls parents to regularly make sure their children will be present at school. She grades revised essays nightly to provide students' with immediate feedback.

It's paid off for her students. Many who had almost given up have graduated. Younger ones have mastered Common Core skills.

As she says, "Students, teachers, and administrators cannot use poverty as an excuse. We have to see through it and teach students how to maneuver around their obstacles. Our optimism becomes their hope."

Teachers like Jones are, indeed, our hope.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What a great idea!

Loved reading about the new Arkansas Teacher Corps in this morning's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (there's a paywall).

It's Teach for America with improvements.

True, everyone loves TFA's contributions to schools and students -- especially in those areas of the state that have a difficult time attracting licensed teachers.

But, many folks also point out that relatively few of TFA's bright, young teachers remain in the classroom after their two-year stints. While the lauded teaching program is an opportunity for recent college grads to "give back,"  it often proves a short-lived stepping stone to the rest of their lives.

That leads to high turnover for districts. And, it took up a teaching slot that might have been filled by an individual who wanted to devote his or her live to educating students. TFA can be costly, too, with fees paid to the program in addition to the teachers' salaries.

The focus of the Arkansas Teacher Corps, on the other hand, seems to be to attract these same bright, energetic, enthusiastic college graduates to the classroom so they can stay there. 

As the dean of the UA College of Education and Health Professions told the newspaper about the program, "We're identifying and recruiting young adults who are extremely capable, extremely bright, who didn't necessarily think they wanted to be a teacher when they started to college, but at the end of their college careers are looking for different opportunities."

One corps member interviewed has a doctorate in chemical engineering; one was a pre-med major and yet another graduated second in his class with an English degree. All now say they are committed to careers as educators.

What's more, schools pay salaries, but no fees.

Gotta say it again. What a great idea!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Practicing what we preach

You need a look. You need a color palette. You need catchy copy.

These are the things we tell -- okay, preach to -- our clients.

But, ugh, it's taken us a year-plus to put our own look together. Truth is, we got busy with projects. And that's a good thing. A really good thing!

But we needed to tend to our own garden, as they say. So we're very proud now to have a look that's ours, a color palette (no longer just cyan and red), catchy copy....

You can get a sample of it with our new website. (If you use a Mac like I do, check your "zoom" settings if things seem to overlap too much on the pages.)

If you'd like to see more, contact us and we'll be glad to send our one-page fact sheet,  promo cards about our services or our full-blown portfolio.  Just shoot us an email to

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

At long last, we've been tapped!

First Class Communication is now an awarded vendor with The Interlocal Purchasing System (TIPS/TAPS).
That's great news for us, and we hope for many of you as well. That means that the RFP system just got easier if you are a school or government entity (and a TIPS/TAPS member) as it eliminates the need for competitive bids.
We learned about the program at last summer's Arkansas Rural Education Association conference. We had to wait until March to be able to bid under the professional services umbrella, and we found out at the end of April that won a contract.
It's been a long wait, but it's been worth it!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Our Five Classy C's

A company worth your money is up-front with well-defined values.  At First Class Communication,  we call our value statement's our Five Classy C's.

Here they are:
Commitment to Excellence
We hold ourselves to high standards, and we don't mind working hard, long and late to meet them. We want to please our clients, but we also want to produce work of which we are proud. That's why you'll find us reading, researching and attending courses to stay on top of what's new and useful in our field. 
It's funny how folks in the communication business are sometimes the poorest communicators. Having worked in journalism and public relations for many years, we know that fact all too well. But we also know the power of honest, constructive, responsive and frequent communication. We strive to practice it daily, both within our own offices and with our clients and potential clients. 
The founding partners of First Class Communication joined together because we respected each other as persons of integrity, decency and trustworthiness. We believe those same traits must be at the core of our business. We make sure they are.
Dauphne and Julie share notes on a project.

Work is work, but it can be -- and should be -- enjoyable too. We believe in creating an empowering climate that fosters positive, professional relationships. At First Class Communication, we can honestly say we look forward to going to work each day. 
Working together as a team is a given in this field, so the trick is working together well. We do -- both within our First Class Communication team and as team members with our clients.

Friday, April 12, 2013

5 ways to help parents with prom safety

Spring brings all kinds of excitement for high school students, especially seniors...awards ceremonies! college decisions! graduation! But perhaps nothing about this time of year is more anticipated by students than the prom.

And while parents flash photos and help pin on boutonnieres, they also feel concern about their child's safety. I know. I'll be sending my son off for his magical night next week.

Many prom-safety-tip resources are available on line. We encourage high schools to share these with their parents. Meanwhile, here are five tips we've found most helpful:

1. Get a complete itinerary of the big night. You'll want address and phone number for the prom location as well as any after-prom parties. Also make sure you have phone numbers for your son/daughter's date and friends that he/she'll be partying with. (Bancorp Insurance)

2. Before your teen takes off in his tux (or your daughter in her gown), make sure his/her phone is charged. You want your child to be able to call if there are any late night emergencies. (State Farm)

3.  Stress that your son/daughter should never ride with a driver who has been drinking, and to call to be picked up instead. (Working Mother)

4.  Establish a no-questions-asked policy in the case that you do get a call to pick your child up from a situation or party that's grown out of control. (Working Mother)

5. Set a reasonable curfew. Prom night is traditionally later, but it doesn't have to be all night long. (Child Injury Lawyer Network)

Here's to a great prom night for all our high school students!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are you ready?

We've heard lots and lots of talk of late about how to respond to violent crises in schools. Most of it centers around things like letting teachers carry guns and locking all exterior doors.

No doubt, it's important to be ready to react. But don't forget the communication component.

Do you have a plan for for letting each segment of your school community know if something goes horribly awry? Who's the crisis team manager? Who deals with the media? What do you tell them? How do you tell them?

If you haven't thought through all these and have a plan of action at your ready, give us a call at 501.626.6960 or email us at

First Class Communication would love to assist with this extremely important part of your crisis-response plan.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I want to go to Harvard!

Timing is an interesting thing.

Last week, we visited with a group of middle schoolers in central Little Rock, all of whom had specific ideas about college. As one eighth-grade girl told us emphatically, "I want to go to Harvard."
These were all students in a Little Rock charter school that caters to underserved students, providing them not only with a college-prep education, but also with help in shaping and defining their post-high school goals.

So the just-released national study about the lack of top-performing, low-income student who enroll in elite colleges caught our eye. The study found that only a third of top-performing students in the lower fourth of income distribution attend one of the 238 most selective colleges. Meanwhile, 78 percent of their counterparts in the top income quartile are enrolled in the more prestigious schools.

Reasons for the disparity? Some say lower income students may not be aware of the financial aid available to them. They may never have met anyone who's attended a top school. They may not have many college-attending role models at all. Because of all those things, they may feel more comfortable staying closer to home.

That resonates with something we heard Dr. Glen Fenter of Mid-South Community College say years ago about low-income students in his part the state -- college is a foreign place for many of them. Not only are they often the first in their families to look at higher education, many times they've never stepped foot on a college campus.

As this study suggests, helping students from lower-income situations feel at ease with college class schedules, campus lifestyles and such seems to be as important as preparing them for the academic rigor of higher ed.

Schools, colleges and communities can and should partner to introduce young people to college experiences.  By doing so, they could be opening up lots of unimagined doors for lots of students.

In fact, we know one we bet will be on Harvard Square in about five years.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What to do with rural schools?

It's a tough question, and one that the Arkansas State Board of Education struggled with again yesterday. The issue? The Harrisburg School District's petition to close its Weiner High School campus.

The Weiner School District was annexed into Harrisburg in 2010 after Weiner fell below the state-mandated district minimum of 350 students for two year in a row.  Weiner residents fought the annexation then, largely out of fear of losing the schools in their 700-member community.

Since that time, the Weiner schools lost enrollment, though their academic records remained strong.

One community member attributed the departure of students to the fact that parents were not sure whether the school would be there for their children to attend in future years. Business and industry also hesitate to come to a community in which the schools face possible closing. (We've heard the same statements in Lead Hill, a school district that also faced consolidation due to enrollment numbers.)

We admit that the best answer for children in previous years has seemed to be the closing of the smaller campus to provide all students the same benefits of attending a larger, more resourced school. The drawbacks have always been the long bus rides and the loss of community involvement those closings often entail.

Yet, we believe advancing technology could make it more feasible to keep successful small schools open.

As one of the Weiner school supporters voiced to the State Board yesterday, a single teacher could teach a full class made of students from both campuses through "localized" distance learning. What's more, he or she could teach from one campus one day and from the other the next. This is just one of the efficiencies that would allow for more administrative consolidations without the tumultuous consolidation of schools themselves.

We'd love to hear about examples of this model operating successfully in the state. We know they're out there. But, as the Weiner High School will be no more at the end of this year, the Harrisburg School District will not be one of them.

Monday, March 4, 2013

We're on a mission

At First Class Communication, we've operated with a mission since day one -- we wanted to be a communication firm specializing in education. Now we've articulated that mission. Here it is:

To work with educators and those who care about education to build trustworthy reputations and promote shared values through intentional communication, conversations and partnerships.
Julie Johnson Holt and Dauphne Trenholm, Founding Partners

Friday, March 1, 2013

The promise keeps on growing

We love getting news out of El Dorado -- it's always so exciting.
Today we learned that the famous El Dorado Promise -- which has provided  scholarship money to more than 1,200 El Dorado High School graduates over the last six years -- is expanding the program.
Qualifying graduates receive scholarship amounts equal to the highest tuition charged by an Arkansas public university. But students had to live in El Dorado to qualify.
That's changing. Starting immediately, the residency requirement is no more.
That's good news for students and for the area.
After all, last month we heard from El Dorado Promise's Lila Phillips about the positive impact the Promise is making on standardized test scores. And that's not all. The Promise has increased college-going rates, increased enrollment and increased the community's overall culture of education.
Exciting, indeed!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Very cool -- "flipped education"

We love the way Prairie Grove English teacher Anne Minton is using technology to speed her students' mastery of important concepts.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette high-lighted Minton's technique in Monday's paper.

Minton sends video lessons of basic concepts -- verbals, in this instance -- along with a quiz to students via email. They learn that lesson at home, and have more time to delve into deeper -- and more interesting -- learning in the classroom. It's called "flipped education," and more and more teachers and schools are using it to their -- and students! -- advantage.

This is another great example of educators harnessing technology to actively engage students in the learning process.  Have more cool examples? Send them our way and we'll write about them.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Is $2,000 enough?

The Arkansas General Assembly will take up the issue of how to continue the state's promised Arkansas Challenge Scholarships with dwindling lottery funds. No doubt that must be done, but we hope legislators are not sold on the plan that's on the table.
That plan entails a $2,000 scholarship to freshmen, with a $1,000 increase in aid each year a student remains in school and qualifies for the scholarship.
Yes, this plan will use up fewer of the limited lottery dollars. Two, it could prove an incentive for students to remain in school.
Yet the original intent of providing the scholarship was to encourage more Arkansas high school graduates to go to college, and, wow, did it work! Enrollments leaped across the state.
We fear that $2,000 is not enough of a dent in tuition/board/fees to allow a student and his/her family to pay for that first year of college.
If you can't get them there, keeping them there is a moot point.
We encourage the legislature to accomplish its cost-cutting like this: start with a higher scholarship amount for freshmen and increase that amount by smaller increments for each subsequent year in school.
After all, we need all the college-educated Arkansans we can produce.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Here's a campaign platform: Supporting Children

There's an article in the Huffington Post this week that is a must read for all those who care about children. (And that should be everybody, right?) It might be especially good reading for someone running for, say, governor of our fair state.

Author Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus and First Focus Campaign for Children, says we must do better for our nation's young people because:
  • 16 million (1 in 5) live in poverty
  • 8 million lack health insurance
  • 1 million are homeless
  • 750,000 are abused and neglected
  • 1 in 5 drop out before high school graduation
  • the U.S. has the 2nd highest infant mortality rate among industrialized nations
We all know that life in Arkansas -- by these stats anyway -- doesn't stack up any better for our kids. And, while he doesn't mention the problem of hunger, it's huge in Arkansas, especially for children. More than one in four young Arkansans face food insecurity, meaning they don't always know if they will have their next meal.

Lesley proposes a number of strategies, but here's one we find especially intriguing -- create a Children's Commission. He's talking nationally, but what a great thing to happen in Arkansas.

Just think about what the synergy of Gov. Beebe's Workforce Cabinet (an alliance of all the agencies involved in education and economic development in the state) has accomplished. Bring together all those who work with children -- education, health, hunger relief, child protection, child advocacy, even financial planners -- and the result could be incredible.

And just what Arkansas needs.

(Our thanks to Rich Huddleston at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families for sharing the link to Lesley's article on his Facebook page.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Strategic communication by any other name...please!

We had to laugh yesterday when we read Rosa Brooks' guest piece -- "Confessions of a strategic communicator" --  in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Brooks worked at the Pentagon. Strategic communication was her job.

The Pentagon recently stopped using the term "strategic communication" because, well, no one seemed to get it.

That's what made us laugh. You see,  First Class Communication offers communication strategy as one of our services. For over a year now, we've been trying to come up with a better moniker for the exact same reason. It's confusing and sounds like communicator jargon.

We agree with Brooks that, though we'd love a spiffier term, communication strategy "has nonetheless come to stand for something complex and important, something that has more to do with 'strategy' than with 'communications.' "

Good communication efforts start with a plan. That plan -- or strategy -- has to address such things as identifying the best and most appropriate message, knowing who needs to hear those messages, determining how best to deliver those messages, when to deliver them, and how to test that your plan worked. In other words, communication strategy.

But if you have a better, catchier term for it...please share! We can't copy the Pentagon's new term because it's even worse -- communication synchronization. Yikes!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jasper SD: A Facebook Hit

Some school districts shy away from Facebook and the like. Not Jasper. Its Facebook page, launched yesterday, is truly a virtual sensation.
Online for less than 24 hours, the page already has well over 200 likes. Here's some the praise garnered so far:
  • "I love the page! Great idea! :)"
  • "This is a great addition. Looking forward to keeping up with things 'round the district." 
  •  "Very excited to see Jasper School District's new FB Page! We are blessed with a great school and this will be a great way to highlight all our students' successes as well as post lots of school information!"
Credit goes to Superintendent Kerry Saylors and his progressive staff. Mr. Saylors approached First Class Communication about developing a Facebook page that would give his beautiful but far-flung campuses -- Oark, Kingston and Jasper -- a greater sense of community. He wanted a complete and combined history of the district, a way to highlight good news at each campus and a venue to share successes districtwide.

That's what he got. The page features:
  • A timeline dating back to 1827, dotted with interesting, sometimes quirky, facts and pictures
  • "Tabs" that give each campus a place to shine
  • A welcome video filmed by Oark campus EAST lab students
  • Guidelines for posting
  • A perfect venue for spreading good news, making important announcements and, when necessary, dealing head-on with any issues that may arise
Take a look for yourself! Here's the link:

Friday, January 11, 2013

7 "inclusive" charter schools make petitions

When the Arkansas State Board of Education meets Monday, it will consider petitions for seven conversion charter schools in Arkansas. This is good!

A conversion charter school is one in which a school district converts one of its traditional schools to a charter school, so all of the students already attending it gain the benefits of the innovation and energy that charter schools often bring. We like this model because of its inclusiveness.

Coming before the State Board on Monday with requests are:
  • Blytheville High School -- A New Tech School (Blytheville School District)
  • Rogers New Technology High School (Rogers Public Schools)
  • Murfreesboro High School (South Pike County School District)
  • Brunson New Vision Charter School (grades 4-5, Warren School District)
  • Washington Academy (grades 9-12, Texarkana School District)
  • Miner Academy (grades 6-12, Bauxite School District)
  • The Academies at Jonesboro High School (Jonesboro School District)
We'll report back next week with results and also share the most exciting plans.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

School district gets new virtual look

Manila Public Schools wanted a virtual fresh start. Its website had become dated in appearance and cumbersome in navigation. Superintendent Pam Castor called First Class Communication, LLC, for help because of our company’s experience in working with Arkansas schools and our knowledge of state requirements for school districts’ online reports.

To make sure the new site truly reflected the values and personality of the school district – both in graphic design and in written content – First Class Communication spent time in all three Manila schools and also visited with administrators, school board members, faculty, students and parents.  We gathered input as to what Manila needed on the new site, what they wanted on it, and how people used the site so we could organize it in the most intuitive way.

During our interviews, we heard a sentiment over and over again that helped us create a new tagline for the school district as well: "A Great Place to Be,” which replaced the former tagline of “Striving to Achieve.”

The new site – found at www  -- launched in December 2012, and First Class Communication will continue to maintain the site in 2013.