School District Aims Marketing Strategy at Voters

by | Sep 21, 2023

Above: The proposal for Frenchtown Elementary would include a new school building behind the current school building.

Officials want voters to approve a $150M school construction bond referendum

Main St. Media, a Providence-based marketing firm, briefed the East Greenwich School Building Committee Tuesday about a public relations strategy ahead of the Nov. 7 bond referendum. 

Last month, the East Greenwich Town Council approved a $150 million school construction bond referendum on 3-2 margin. The project is spurred by both space pressures on all four  elementary schools and a limited-time state Department of Education initiative that would guarantee EG a 35 percent reimbursement for the project and up to an additional 20 percent in 5 percent “bonuses” – potentially allowing the town to spend $150 million but ultimately only having to provide 45 percent of that cost.

The firm is a “sub-consultant” that will operate within the contract the school district has with Colliers, the consulting firm working with the district. The estimated cost to engage Main St. Media is $25,000, according to Derek Osterman of Colliers.

John Houle, head of Main St. Media, told members of the committee they were operating on a “tight timeframe” to create content and he wanted to get information out to the public “right away.” This would include short videos, op-eds, and digital content. He later couched the urgency by saying, “Most people in elections make up their decisions in the last three to four weeks, so even though you may think you’re behind, you’re really not.”

A document provided to the committee by Houle Tuesday laid out a $10,000 budget that would include advertising in local media, physical mailers, social media ads, and additional digital advertising. Houle specified the need to create a dedicated website for the project that all information would point to.

Osterman told the committee this is “really meant to be objective, not subjective information.” He later explained that informing the public should be viewed as an “information push rather than a campaign.”

The tight timeframe surfaced Tuesday when Supt. Brian Ricca asked if the firm could assist in creating a fact-sheet-type flyer about the school construction bond that could be disseminated the next day at Hanaford’s open house and the following day at the open house at EGHS. Flyers were produced.

Beyond the marketing push, School Building Committee and School Committee member Tim Munoz called on those involved with the plan to attend community events and speak to residents about the project on a grassroots level. 

“We can go out and just do outreach,” Munoz said at a School Committee meeting Tuesday night. He mentioned engaging groups like the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Association of East Greenwich, and the Hill & Harbour Neighborhood Association. He encouraged members of the committee to assist in ways “outside of these communications.”

When discussing the need to inform the public, Houle said the election would likely not have a “huge turnout” and that the school building committee would need to get the word out to be successful.

You can read more about the EGSD school construction plans HERE.

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Peter Carney
Peter Carney
September 22, 2023 7:09 am

It certainly is a tight timeline to communicate effectively. Did the School Committee discuss, or EG News ask, why a marketing firm that was engaged in Fall 2022 abruptly backed out after less than a month of working with the Building Subcommittee?

September 22, 2023 7:27 am

Is the School Committee allowed to use marketing to influence an election?

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
September 22, 2023 7:32 am

The tight timeframe is partly the result of a lack of communication on this topic from September through January of 2022 when the Building Subcommittee didn’t meet. And when they did meet, it was during weekday mornings when many people, including teachers and students, could not attend. Also, before any decisions were made, why didn’t the district send a survey to all voters to ask for their opinion about school realignment, how much they were willing to spend, and which schools should be prioritized? I agree that we should take advantage of the $30M temporary bonus incentive from the state, but this is not the way to engage your constituents.

September 22, 2023 7:34 am

Will this company also support the Hanaford new construction? When will we hear more about this?

Elizabeth McNamara
September 22, 2023 9:16 pm
Reply to  Kelly

Hi Kelly.
Any changes at Hanaford are part of this. You can find more information about it at our landing page for school construction here:

Kim Edge Ambler
Kim Edge Ambler
September 22, 2023 3:13 pm

10 K to spin the agenda and fool the people.


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