This is your friendly reminder to make sure your interior is looking good.
We've talked about utilizing your school's lobby walls and sprucing up your school's exterior, but you can't forget the condition of your school's interior, particularly the school office and waiting area. The condition of the lobby can set the tone for how families feel about your school.
I once went to a meeting at a nearby private school and had to wait in the lobby for a couple minutes first. The lobby was quite swanky. They had huge vaulted ceilings, a grand crystal chandelier, tartan plaid wallpaper and buttery leather couches with dark wood furniture. The lobby spoke to me immediately. It exuded class, sophistication and exclusivity.
You don't need swanky. We are not directly competing with a high-end private school. But you do need your lobby area to be clean, neat and portray the image of a well-run, respected school. This will speak to families, telling them that your school is important to its community and therefore it must be doing good work. Aim to examine your school's interior at least once a year.
1. Know the scope. Be mindful of consulting with your principal before (even thinking of!) changing anything. A lot of maintenance and improvement issues are within the District's sole discretion. You may only be able to provide a list to the principal who, if she agrees, can pass it on to District maintenance staff. Also, consulting with your principal may lead to learning about forthcoming building changes or other reasons some repairs may not be allowable.
2. Focus on discreet, doable items. Don't get caught up in the shape of the entire school's carpet. There's no way you can change that. But perhaps you can pay for a nice rug for the school office and then alert your school board members to the frayed carpet at your school. If the office countertop is chipped, you probably can't replace it but maybe your could fill-in the chips or paint them. Some items you will triage and that's okay.
3. Prioritize and don't be overly critical. This is a public school, after all! Unless it was just built, it's going to have some chinks in the armor. That's to be expected. Focusing on the bits you can change should help you feel better. Make a list of them and put them in order of importance.
4. Collaborate with your school's maintenance team. You don't want to overstep and ruffle feathers. Your school maintenance staff provides invaluable help to your parent group as well as the school and you need to maintain a stellar working relationship. If you decide on a doable, allowable task and the principal suggests maintenance staff should do it, consider a small-ish thank-you gift if it's a task that goes above and beyond regular duties.
5. Keep your brand in mind. While you are making any modifications (however big or small), keep in mind your school's brand. Make sure what you're doing continues to intentionally tell the story of your school.
6. Focus on obvious items like paint, surfaces and bulletin boards. Walls, trim and other surfaces are areas that can look noticeably neglected with time. Painting is something District maintenance should be on top of, but if not, and the walls look bad, see if the principal can ask for a paint job. If the District can't provide, and if it's permissible, maybe the PTO or Dads' club can help with painting. Bulletin boards are easy to replace and/or fill with content.
7. Evaluate lobby furniture. In my experience there is a lot more wiggle room with lobby furniture than in the rest of the school. You don't want fancy but you don't want gross, either. If chairs are torn or stained see about getting new ones. The District may have extras and if not, perhaps the PTO can help defray the cost.
8. Extra credit: Provide a decorative touch. After you've fixed what you can, consider adding a homey touch or two, such as a plant or lamp, if: they would look nice, you have the budget, the principal approves and they could be placed out of reach from curious little hands.
I hope you can make fixing-up the lobby and office area an annual item on your marketing check-list. It's important and satisfying work. The lobby's appearance can make an impact on families who are trying to decide about your school. When you're finished, please send me pictures of your new crystal chandeliers and leather couches!