Case Study

Strengthening Public School Districts


The Challenge

Public schools play a critical role in creating equitable futures for young people, families and communities. But biased narratives can threaten their ability to change the lives of young people. Declining enrollment creates a loss of vital resources, and our students lose out.

Fenton works with public school districts across the country to navigate reputational challenges, enhance trust among families and increase enrollment.

Michigan’s Battle Creek Public Schools has historically served a largely Black student population, and due to declining enrollment, was experiencing resources being diverted to the area’s whiter and wealthier school districts. To support their turnaround and ensure greater educational equity for students of color, they needed support rebuilding their reputation, spreading the word about their progress and navigating crises as they arose.

Los Angeles Unified School District needed help fighting low enrollment by raising awareness of their new, unified enrollment portal and motivating LA families to use it during the enrollment period.

San Francisco Unified School District needed to shift the reputations of four Bayview elementary schools in the wake of biased media coverage, draw attention to their high levels of family satisfaction and academic growth and increase enrollment, particularly at the kindergarten level.

Our Approach

We combine comprehensive strategy, messaging and creative with targeted media outreach and innovative digital tactics to create surround-sound campaigns that reach key audiences and spur them to take action. Our support has ranged from designing and implementing paid advertising efforts to designing print and digital materials to engage parents to providing messaging to recruit teachers and build vital partnerships with community leaders.

In Battle Creek, Fenton operates as the district’s ongoing communications partner, using digital outreach and earned media to target families and tell the district’s story. We also help the district mitigate damage when issues arise using responsive and proactive crisis communications.

In Los Angeles, we used a multilingual digital campaign and Spanish-language media partnerships to target families in zip codes with declining enrollment and help them to apply.

In San Francisco, Fenton used video, family outreach and a multilingual, multiplatform advertising campaign to counter negative perceptions and biased media coverage of four Bayview elementary schools while helping the schools to create sustainable reputation change over time.


All three districts saw rising enrollment, grew their communities’ trust and developed their communications capacity so they can continue this successful work in the future.

In Battle Creek, Fenton launched a new district website that increased visits by 35% and launched multi-platform digital ad campaigns that garnered millions of impressions and drove up enrollment. Strategic, transparent communications with staff helped reduce turnover, and we helped the district respond to major crises like the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that built trust with parents, students and the community-at-large.

Our LAUSD ads were seen more than 4,500,000 times, and we drove more than 80,000 hits to their website. Our Google AdWords clickthrough rate averaged over 13%, more than twice the industry average, and we significantly increased applications and enrollment over the previous year.

The videos we made SFUSD received nearly 226,000 views and 794,727 impressions across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google Search. The new Bayview schools landing page led to a 45% increase of visits to their “Enroll” page. In a year in which kindergarten applications in the district fell overall, two out of four schools actually saw increases.

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