Does the Ely school district need new branding?

Keith Vandervort

ELY – ISD 696 officials were recently presented with a logo and branding design proposal by a local business owner. The idea behind the effort is to bring more consistency to the district’s presentation for signage, marketing, school uniforms and anything else that identifies the Ely school district.
Ely graphic designer Kara Polyner presented the idea to school board members last week with a timeline of launching the rebranding to coincide with the grand opening of the school building and renovation project this fall.
“The timing of this is what we are trying to bank on,” Polyner said, “to kind of relaunch a new identity for the school. There really isn’t much current, cohesive, consistent branding going on right now.”
In her business, Polyner said she focuses on brand identity and creating a consistent image, “So that for anybody who comes across the school or organization it is easily identifiable, whether it is a sporting event, driving by the school, the school’s website, or0 social media,” she said. “All that is creating a consistent image and they immediately recognize it as the Ely school district,” she said.
In material presented to board members, Polyner continued, “Just like for a business, first impressions matter, and your identity is as important as the work that you do on the inside. It can give the feeling of a professional organization that cares about how it is perceived and wants to make sure it is putting its best foot forward.”
She offered a brand identity package including multiple and varied logos to use in a variety of contexts.
“A color palate is crucial. You can use many colors, as long as it is consistent,” Polyner said. “Consistent type fonts or style of letters and patterns are also important to create a consistent image.”
She proposed that the school form a committee to work on the branding project. Potential members could include a school board member, school principals, athletic director, a couple of students and a couple of coaches.
“These stakeholders should have a say in how the school is branded. Six to eight people meeting several times in the coming months could get the project ready to launch by July 1 to coincide with the school building project completion and the opening day of the new school year,” Polyner said.
A list of the logo designs and variations for the new branding includes stationery, handbook covers, social media headers, vehicle graphic designs, hallway, commons area décor designs, school pride programs, extracurricular programs and rosters, a unique and custom paw print, wayfinding signs for interior and exterior areas and main school signs.
Polyner offered a discounted cost of $3,500 from the normal $5,000 package. “I am discounting this because of the pure investment in the community that I have, and I have two daughters in the school system,” she said.
ISD 696 temporary board chair Rochelle Sjoberg stressed that the school district did not approach Polyner on the proposal. “I’m not going to speak for the board, as this is just informational. If the board should decide, we will look at doing something at a later date,” she said. No other school board member commented.
Teaching staff trimmed
For the second time in two meeting, school board members continued making budget cuts. Teaching staff, equaling nearly the equivalent of two full-time positions, were cut by the board at their March 28 meeting.
Earlier last month, in another budget reduction move, school board members rescinded the seven-period school day for the 2022-23 school year in favor of a six-period school day.
The teacher cuts include:
• One German II teaching position, 0.171 FTE.
• One Grade 8-10 social studies teacher, 1.0 FTE.
• One Grade 6 math and social studies teacher, 0.686 FTE.
Board members unanimously approved the teaching cuts on a 4-0 vote with no discussion. Newly-appointed board member Chad Davis will take his seat at the table at the April 11 meeting, replacing Darren Visser who moved out of the district. Board chair Ray Marsnik was absent from the meeting as he recovers from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident.
Budget cuts could continue as board members look to solve an estimated $600,000 shortfall this year. Enrollment declines in recent years, from nearly 600 students in 2017 to about 530 students when school started last September, have contributed to the budget challenges.
Other business
In other business, the board:
• Approved spending $2,000 from the FY 2022-23 budget to help fund the Ely Community Education’s $4,600 expenditure to resurface and paint the pickleball courts.
• Accepted the resignations of elementary teacher Megan Devine and band teacher Sarah Mason. In her resignation letter, Devine, who has taught at Washington School for 19 years and is currently on a leave of absence, said she is seeking to take her education career “in a different direction.” Mason said she has accepted a graduate assistantship at James Madison University as she pursues a Master of Music degree with a concentration on conducting.
• Granted science teacher Todd Hohenstein a leave of absence of at least three years from his position at ISD 696 starting with the 2022-23 school year.
• Accepted the resignation of paraprofessional Asia Norman, effective March 24.
• Hired Tracy Anderson as American Indian Education Liaison, effective March 15.
• Hired Carl Moger as full-time custodian, effective March 21.
• Received notice of intent to negotiate from bargaining units representing the district principals and confidential/supervisory employees.
• Heard an update from school board member Tony Colarich who said Marsnik “is doing well and hopes to be back soon.”,18857