Centering Mission and Values: Lessons from Phoenix International School of the Arts

By: Jeremy Divinity

As the second recap from our attendance at the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition 2024 Annual Convening in Los Angeles, this blog shares insights from a captivating Breakout Session titled, “Core Messaging: Communicating Values in Partnerships and Recruitment.” This session focused on the remarkable journey of Phoenix International School of the Arts (PISOTA) in staying true to its mission and values while forging partnerships and recruiting students.

A Visionary Instituion: Phoenix International School of the Arts

Founded in 2023 as part of the UnifiED School Launch Fellowship, PISOTA stands as a beacon of creativity and international perspective in Charles County, Maryland. Operating in collaboration with Charles County Public Schools, PISOTA offers a unique arts- and international-focused curriculum that empowers students to become leaders in a globalized world.

Mission and Vision: Empowering Through the Arts

At the heart of PISOTA’s mission is a commitment to providing students with daily immersion in the arts, including dance, music, acting, visual arts, and museum studies. This immersive experience is coupled with an international perspective woven into every aspect of learning. PISOTA believes that by exposing students to diverse perspectives, they are better equipped to tackle complex challenges and drive positive change in society.

Lessons in Recruitment and Partnership

During the Breakout Session, attendees explored PISOTA’s innovative approach to teacher recruitment and student enrollment. Central to their strategy was a focus on communicating core values and fostering meaningful partnerships within the community. By involving stakeholders in the mission and vision process, PISOTA ensured alignment with the community’s needs and aspirations.

Teacher Recruitment: PISOTA understood that the success of its mission hinged on the dedication and talent of its teaching staff. To attract top educators aligned with the school’s values, PISOTA employed a rigorous recruitment process that emphasized more than just qualifications. Interview questions were designed to gauge a candidate’s passion for arts education, commitment to cultural diversity, and willingness to engage with the community. By prioritizing these qualities, PISOTA ensured that its faculty members were not only skilled educators but also enthusiastic advocates for the school’s mission.

Student Enrollment: Building a diverse and vibrant student body is another cornerstone of PISOTA’s success. The school recognized that meaningful engagement with prospective families goes beyond traditional marketing tactics. Instead, PISOTA focuses on building authentic connections with the community by inviting parents, students, and local leaders to participate in “dream sessions” where they can share their aspirations for the school. By involving stakeholders in the enrollment marketing process, PISOTA fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the school’s mission, resulting in higher retention rates, a long waiting list, and a more cohesive school community.

Tactics for Success: Connecting with Purpose

PISOTA employed various tactics to connect with prospective students and families, from hosting community events to offering enrollment tours, each designed with the school’s mission and values in mind. These initiatives not only highlight the school’s unique offerings but also served as platforms for building lasting relationships with the community. Here are a few tactics employed that might be useful for your charter school:

Events/Bring in the Community: Central to PISOTA’s approach was the belief that education extends beyond the classroom walls and into the community. Hosting events and activities that appealed to both current and prospective families was a cornerstone of PISOTA’s outreach strategy. From art showcases and performances to wellness workshops and open houses, these events provided opportunities for community members to experience the school’s unique offerings firsthand and engage with faculty, staff, and students in a relaxed, informal setting.

“Community Uplift” and “Wellness in the Park”: PISOTA went beyond traditional recruitment methods by actively contributing to the well-being of the community. Initiatives like “Community Uplift” and “Wellness in the Park” not only promoted the school’s commitment to holistic education but also served as platforms for building relationships with local residents. By addressing pressing community needs and providing valuable resources and support, PISOTA demonstrated its dedication to being a positive force for change in the community.

Info Panels and Enrollment Tours: For families considering enrollment, PISOTA offered a variety of information sessions and enrollment tours designed to showcase the school’s curriculum, facilities, and extracurricular offerings. These personalized experiences not only helped families make informed decisions about their children’s education but also provided opportunities for school staff to connect with prospective students and parents on a deeper level, addressing their questions and concerns in real time.

By embracing these tactics and positioning itself as an integral part of the community, PISOTA not only attracted students and families who shared its values but also built a strong, supportive community that is actively engaged in the school’s success.

In Conclusion

Reflecting on the insights shared during this session, it’s evident that Phoenix International School of the Arts exemplifies the transformative power of charter schools when rooted in a clear mission and values. By prioritizing community engagement, fostering partnerships, and staying true to their vision for the future, PISOTA serves as a shining example of educational excellence and innovation.

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