The Mead School
A lot can happen when you get the right help — just ask The Mead School, a Pre-K to grade 8 day school that prioritizes immersive learning and a deeper understanding through its approach to education.
With about 100 students, The Mead School in Stamford, CT is a school of small numbers in many ways — just a little over fifty years old, a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and zero days without expressive arts classes. Small in size, but with so much to offer and a lot to do — especially for the four-person administrative staff that includes Jeannette Baxendale, Mead’s Director of Marketing and Assistant Director of Admissions.
Included in the long list of responsibilities and strategic initiatives are regular parent communications, ongoing website management, marketing initiatives to support enrollment goals, and building relationships with current and prospective families.
With so much to do, an increasingly overloaded website and jam-packed schedule had contributed toward mixed messaging about the school, and enrollment had started to dip.
Looking back on the last few years, Baxendale recalled, “We were so short-handed, and there never seemed enough hours in the day to get all the things done. We all wore so many hats and we didn't have a clear strategy. Over time, our online presence had become jumbled, and we were a bit of a mess.”
Some of the enrollment numbers pointed toward unclear messaging about the school remembered Baxendale. “It was concerning, and we really needed some guidance on how to pull out the best of Mead and put it out into the world.”
But a lot can happen when you get the right help.
At a Glance
The Mead School is an independent day school for infant thru Grade 8. For over 50 years, Mead's Progressive Education model has supported our students' academic passions along with providing social-emotional guidance that is critical for a student to be present and open for learning.
To help turn the tide, back in 2018 The Mead School reached out to Finalsite Advantage for a strategic partner for school marketing and support. The Mead School was seeking to gain a better understanding of what was needed for a successful website redesign, as well as guidance and consulting for a streamlined approach to school marketing communications and messaging, which would help meet admission and retention goals.
Flash-forward to today, and there’s been a long-standing partnership between The Mead School and Finalsite to establish a clear strategy to tackle multiple goals for the school.
During regular meetings with Tracy Tigchelaar, Finalsite Advantage’s senior marketing consultant, to strategize, learn best practices, and develop a communications marketing plan, Baxendale began to develop the bandwidth and support needed to create a comms plan that identified where and how Mead could improve and regain control over its brand.
“Thanks to the partnership and all the tools Finalsite provides us, it’s helped us be more efficient. All the tools that we have at our disposal now make our job much easier.”
DIR. OF MARKETING & ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS
“Tracy really helped us get on the right path and became part of the team right away, which was really invaluable for us,” Baxendale said. “She's such a wealth of knowledge, and she's able to tap into different strategies because she's worked with other like-minded schools. She can actually point to real cases that have been successful, and with her hands-on support we've been able to implement similar strategies on our side.”
Over the course of a now four-year partnership, the team has tackled multiple long-term projects including a website redesign, new marketing materials (like their new viewbook), admissions and enrollment initiatives, rebranding — including both visual identity and messaging, marketing and advertising strategy, and the development of a new approach to internal communications. And according to Mead, the decision to position Finalsite Advantage as a long-term, integrated part of their approach to marketing and communications is one they’ll never regret.
A website redesign
With Finalsite as a partner, Mead’s website redesign put the user experience at the forefront of a modern, mobile-friendly design. Adding new photography and videos, restructuring the navigation, and focusing on an intuitive layout was just the start.
“Being such a small school, Mead was understandably not in the position to invest in some of the larger design packages that Finalsite offers,” Tigchelaar explained, “so we selected our Theme carefully and got creative by adding a few key elements to develop a stunning “Theme Plus” site.
“We're just thrilled with how it came out,“ Baxendale said. “The way the site is organized, the way we present our messaging — it’s light years from where we were.”
Those efforts have caught the attention of the Mead community, as well.
“Our new families absolutely loved the videos on the website, as well as the testimonials from alumni, and even some of the students.”
Baxendale remembers the comments from one mother who was particularly impressed by Mead’s new admissions viewbook. “‘That was the thing that got me,’” Baxendale recalls the mother saying. ‘“I had been in to visit twice, and I took the viewbook from the lobby and it just really spoke to me.’”
“Those moments are really impactful,” Baxendale said, “I think we've been able to put a voice to who we are, and help pull the messaging together in a concrete way.” And with the viewbook available as a downloadable on the website, the school is able to share this valuable marketing asset with even more prospective families.
While Baxendale’s priorities within the website haven’t changed dramatically, her approach to regular website maintenance and daily updates is made easier with a deeper understanding of the Finalsite CMS and its modules.
“I probably spend half of my day working behind the website, whether it's on communication, enhancing pages, or setting up Workflows,” said Baxendale. “Thanks to the partnership and all the tools Finalsite provides us, it’s helped us be more efficient. All the tools that we have at our disposal now make our job much easier, but I honestly couldn't do all of it without the support of Advantage.”
Improved school communications
Another focus of Mead’s relationship with Advantage has been on improving its communications with constituents. “Working with a school that has an open mind to analyzing what’s working and what’s not really makes a difference,” added Tigchelaar. “We approached the project from the viewpoint of the parents and audited their experience to better understand what kind of changes we needed to make.”
Together the team evaluated their school-to-home communications looking at what was being sent via email from the school, as opposed to postings on a parent resource center or through a school liaison at a specific grade level.
“Part of it was really better communication among all of us and an understanding of how streamlining communication is really the best way to go for the families,” Baxendale recalled, adding that creating a clear schedule for weekly newsletters and setting expectations with families was just as important.
With Finalsite’s Post module, Baxendale is able to “create once, publish everywhere” and bring dynamic content into their email messages and newsletters, saving the team time and allowing their web content to reach more families.
“Since we’re able to use Posts, our newsletters are so much more streamlined and organized, and that helps us overall on the website in terms of being able to weave that content in,” Baxendale said. “It's been really helpful to the families, and it’s helped with retention.”
Strengthening admission efforts
Mead’s strategic marketing and communication initiatives all worked toward supporting enrollment goals — a major focus of the support from Advantage.
“During our website relaunch project last year, Advantage was absolutely critical and I'd like to think that the boost in enrollment was due in part to the new website and the integrated approach we took with our marketing initiatives, such as pushing out new advertising that mirrored the look and feel of the site,” Baxendale said.
More recently the team has started another new project, introducing Finalsite’s enrollment management system, SchoolAdmin. “We are beyond excited to see this amazing new system streamline our processes. Advantage has come on this journey with us too — we recently mapped out all of our admissions events and evaluated what was going to be the most effective for our site visitors and for our prospective families now we have Admissions software that integrates with our website.”
Receiving the ongoing support and guidance of Advantage, Baxendale can now strategize and plan in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming. Projects no longer fall by the wayside when schedules get busy and priorities need to shift.
For special web projects, Advantage is able to guide Baxendale through the best practices in ways that work for Mead, adding that the Finalsite team is quick to jump on a call and start brainstorming solutions.
“We have managed to grow this past year, and our enrollment numbers have gone up. We're heading in the right direction,” shared Baxendale.
“Advantage has helped tremendously from a strategic standpoint because when I think back to the way we used to approach our marketing efforts and communicate with families compared to how streamlined it is today, I don't know that we would have survived as a school if we had kept operating like that.”
Heading into a new admissions cycle, the perfectly-sized Mead School is looking forward to some bigger numbers.
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