An Inside Look at Enrollment Growth at Indian Rocks Christian School

Dr. Don Mayes, Superintendent of Indian Rocks Christian School in Largo, FL, met with me about a year ago to discuss the enrollment situation at his school. For the past five years, the enrollment had declined from 930 students in 2006-07 to a low of 693 in 2010-11. Obviously, he and his leadership team wanted to find a way to turn this around.

As a result of this discussion, I suggested that he take several critical steps to grow the school.

First, he needed to take the risk to create a new position at IRCS, the Director of Enrollment and Marketing—a position that had not existed at the school. Their enrollment process had been decentralized and no one person had focused on enrollment and marketing during this period of decline. Don took the risk and presented the need to his school board. As a result, dollars were allocated and, after an extensive search, Pamela Pardi was hired to lead this effort.

Second, we worked together to develop a focused enrollment and marketing plan for the school. This included setting aggressive enrollment goals to grow the school. His goals included an increase in retention by 2%, stabilizing enrollment especially with a large graduating class leaving IRCS, and a significant increase in new students. In an effort to reach these goals, the plan focused on persistent and timely personal contacts and follow-up with inquiries and applicants. My role was to provide ongoing coaching and direction for the implementation of this plan.

Finally, IRCS moved forward in developing a new website, www.IRCS.org, designed by Cherry+Company and hosted through RenWeb’s SchoolSite content management system. Dollars were allocated to improving the primary marketing and communication’s tool that the school has in today’s market. Now, we are focused on implementing search optimization strategies through the ongoing guidance and expertise of North Star Marketing.

What were the results?

  • 3% Growth and Enrollment Goal Exceeded – For the first time in five years, IRCS has experienced enrollment growth. This is a remarkable turnaround, especially since IRCS had experienced dramatic decreases in recent years.
  • 3% Retention Increase – IRCS exceeded their retention goal of 85% by 1% to reach a five-year record at 86%.
  • 50% Growth in New Students – IRCS came within 11 students of reaching our extremely aggressive goal of 163 new students by reaching 152. The total number of new students enrolling at IRCS the past several years has averaged around 100. Therefore, IRCS enrolled 50% more new students this year, which helped to off-set the large graduating class.

What really made the difference at Indian Rocks Christian School?

I believe that the answer is two-fold. First, these results can be attributed to the leadership of Dr. Don Mayes who was willing to take some risks. He invested in a position when he had declining enrollment and limited funds. He had to sell this to the school board and several other groups at his Church. He also invested in an aggressive plan that provided the road-map for the enrollment and marketing strategy.

Secondly, I believe that Pamela Pardi was the right choice for this position. She had the sales and management experience necessary to hit the ground running. She also had the passion and aggressive drive to sell and communicate the school’s mission and to find families that best fit the school’s profile. She was the right hire for the position and she made all the difference their successes this year.

Yesterday, about a year later, Don and I met for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants on Indian Rocks Beach, Guppy’s, to reflect on these results and to look toward the future. Don and Pamela, congratulations on a job well done and for taking the right risks at the right time!

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