A Gilbert governing board member may become the new director of marketing and communications for the Mesa Unified School District.
Helen Hollands, 51, hopes to take her recent years of marketing experience and combine it with nearly 11 years of governing board experience to help move Mesa “to the next level when it comes to communicating with their community, their constituency and their stakeholders.”
The Mesa board is expected to vote Tuesday night on Hollands’ hiring as director of communication and marketing. The governing board has asked district leaders to look at improving marketing for the district for a few years.
Mesa Superintendent Mike Cowan said that, once approved, one of the first jobs for the marketing and communications director will be to create a marketing plan — something the district does not have.
“We have brochures and communications for our schools,” Cowan said, but he envisions the new hire to ramp up services available on the district’s website, increase the district’s presence on social media, and give new direction to the district’s print and television departments.
Arizona’s public schools receive funding from the state based on enrollment. So whenever a student leaves a campus, that funding dwindles. The Mesa school district has lost nearly 9,000 students in the last few years. The district believes some of that loss has come from the economy and changes to immigration policies in the state.
Mesa charter schools have seen an increase of students in the last few years, according to a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, but those students may come from across the East Valley, or even Phoenix. Mesa leaders estimate about 15 percent of Mesa students attend charter schools.
Mesa school leaders hope to capture some of those students back, as well as market specialized programs and services to all the community.
Students in Arizona can also open-enroll in another district’s schools, and many do.
Cowan said that he does not see an issue with Hollands remaining on the Gilbert Unified School District governing board. She is in the last year of her third term.
“We don’t see a conflict,” Cowan said. “We have a gentleman’s agreement with other districts. We don’t advertise in neighboring districts.”
Hollands said she discussed the matter with both Cowan and Gilbert Superintendent Dave Allison.
“What I do is very different at Gilbert than what I would do for Mesa,” she said. “At Gilbert, I am truly at the policy level and working on the policies for the district. Where with Mesa, I will be executing and in operations of policies. Though I do not see a direct conflict of doing that, I certainly will be knowledgeable of both of those districts, which will be unique to my position.”
Gilbert Unified School District governing board president Lily Tram said she is confident Hollands can serve on the board as well as perform duties for the Mesa district.
“Knowing Helen, she is so ethical. If there is any conflict that would arise, she would recuse herself from any discussion or direction,” Tram said. “She’s good at knowing the fine line between what her job is on the board and what her new role would be.”
Hollands’ most recent job was as director of advancement for the College of Technology & Innovation at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Her contract there ended in August. She has also worked in marketing for Catholic Healthcare West. She is a chemical engineer by training.
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Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune