The Woodland Hills and Penn Hills school districts have taken to the airwaves in an attempt to lure students back from charter schools and improve the way the public perceives the districts.
Both districts are running a series of television commercials designed to draw students to public schools. The big difference between the districts' approach is the cost: Woodland Hills spent $14,000 on a series of commercials, ranging from a 30-second ad to a five-minute infomercial. Penn Hills spent $80,000 on two ads that will run on WTAE, its digital channel and its website.
Richard Liberto, Penn Hills' business manager, said the district funded the ads through a federal School Improvement Grant.
WTAE filmed and produced the commercials, which showcase the district's newly built schools and will air over the course of the next two years, Mr. Liberto said.
"Our thought behind that was not only to bring people into Penn Hills to move here but to bring the kids back from the charter schools," he said.
Mr. Liberto said $80,000 might seem like a lot of money, but if the ads help keep students out of charter schools, they will pay for themselves.
"If we brought eight kids back, it would pay for the two years' worth of commercials," he said.
Woodland Hills acting superintendent Alan Johnson said the goal of the commercials was to broadcast "good news" about the district as professionally and inexpensively as possible.
He said the ads aim to change the perception that Woodland Hills is struggling academically and behaviorally as well as emphasize that the district is full of good students and teachers.
Joe Lafferty, a Woodland Hills graduate and longtime football coach in the district, was hired to create the campaign.
Mr. Lafferty worked with Josh Ohrman, a Point Park film student, to create the commercials: a 30-second spot that could be used on broadcast channels, a two-minute ad, two 60-second "alumni spotlights" and a five-minute infomercial.
Mr. Lafferty said he hopes the ads dispel some of the "myths" about the district and focus on opportunities that Woodland Hills can provide that charter schools can't.
"I believe people think that charter schools are a much better environment for children in the areas of safety and innovation, and I don't believe that to be true at all," he said.
The Woodland Hills ads are running on the district's cable channels -- Comcast Channel 13 in Churchill, Braddock Hills, East Pittsburgh, Turtle Creek and Wilkins; Comcast Channel 98 in Braddock, Chalfant, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Rankin and Swissvale; and Channel 37 for Verizon FiOS customers. Mr. Johnson said the ads will soon be posted on the district's website, www.whsd.k12.pa.us.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.