Sto-Rox reaches inward for ads
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About a year ago, Sto-Rox High School chemistry teacher Josh Lucas and a friend created a website that allows small groups and causes to create advertising at low or no cost to get their messages out.
The site also can be used to raise funds to get the ads placed in electronic and print media.
Mr. Lucas saw the site as a way to "refresh democracy" -- by giving a voice to organizations that normally wouldn't be able to afford to advertise their message. It also could serve as a backup source of revenue for himself should his teaching job disappear.
The Sto-Rox School District has had severe financial and academic problems in recent years and faces the loss of a significant number of students if a proposed Propel charter school in McKees Rocks is approved.
Now, it turns out that the Sto-Rox district is one of his first clients, with a short video commercial summarizing the good things going on in the district ready to run on local television as soon as about $2,600 is raised through Mr. Lucas' site, www.redbluevoice.com. So far, about $1,500 has been donated.
The commercial is meant to counter advertising being done by charter and cyber charter schools that have taken a significant number of Sto-Rox students and about $2.7 million in tuition money from the Sto-Rox budget. The district, which is furloughing employees to balance its 2012-13 budget, has no money to spend on advertising.
"Charter schools are coming after us. They are making their own commercials," said Jeff Hackett, a library and video-production teacher at Sto-Rox High School who is part of the district's effort to get the commercial aired. "We are going outside of the box and creating our own message ... that Sto-Rox is a good place to be."
The initial Sto-Rox video was created free of charge by Mr. Lucas' team, which includes about 20 people including marketers, programmers, graphic designers, video and animation professionals and audio engineers.
It is titled "More Than You Know" and shows scenes of Sto-Rox students involved in school activities such as shop class, computer lab and classroom work. Several students provide testimonials. It ends with an invitation to "Come Take a Look."
Superintendent Michael Panza is hoping enough funds will be raised to get the commercial on the air sometime in August, just before school starts.
"Sto-Rox is really a great place with wonderful children, and we've got to let people know that. If we don't tell them, who will?" Mr. Panza said.
Mr. Hackett, who will teach several sections of video production for the first time this fall, is hoping students will be able to contribute their talents to future videos about the district. "Ideally, this isn't something we want to be a one commercial shot, and then done. This is something we hope we lead the way on. The possibilities are almost endless."
Mr. Lucas said even if videos posted to his site don't end up on commercial airwaves, they easily can be shared on social media.
Productions can be completed without small organizations spending money by using crowd sourcing and crowd funding.
Though crowd sourcing, an idea or opinion is put out to the public through a portal on the website. Anyone interested in providing professional services to create the ad or monetary donations can do so through the site. While groups can create their own print and video messages, Mr. Lucas' crew formats it for print or television.
Although initial intent was to encourage public debate on such hot issues facing the country and region, he said he's happy it may help get his district's message out. "It's absolutely fulfilling," he said.
First Published June 25, 2012 12:00 am