Fort Wayne Community Schools wants you to see what they do.

East Allen County Schools wants students to know they can dream it, do it.

And Canterbury School wants the community to know that, at the private school, each person matters.

If these slogans sound familiar, then the local schools are getting their message across.

Promoting schools has become increasingly important – especially for public institutions – as families' K-12 educational options have increased, particularly with the advent of vouchers in Indiana.

“Schools are finally realizing that they just can't do it the way they've always done it,” said Donna Petraits, executive director of the Indiana School Public Relations Association.

Indiana's voucher program, known as Choice Scholarship, began in the 2011-12 academic year. It's grown from 3,911 participating students to 36,290 in 2018-19.

Of the most recent number, 4,642 students live within FWCS boundaries; 1,032 live within EACS; 258 live within Southwest Allen County Schools; and 236 live within Northwest Allen County Schools.

“There's all this movement now,” Petraits said, noting it puts pressure on public schools. “In order to survive, they have to market themselves. They have to market themselves like private schools have always had to market themselves.”

Telling own stories to set selves apart

Petraits recommends districts consider what they want to be known for and what they represent.

“That branding process needs to take place so they create this personality, this image, this place that people want to be,” she said.

With so much information available, Petraits added, schools must be part of the conversation and be consistent about their identity. If they don't tell their stories, she said, somebody else will and possibly spread inaccuracies or misperceptions.

Officials at Canterbury School, which doesn't accept vouchers, know some perceive the independent institution is for elite or wealthy students.

“That's really not the case,” spokeswoman Taylor Feighner said, noting Canterbury offers financial aid and has a diverse student body.

“We want the community to see that,” added colleague Jessica Morales.

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