Federal File

Salesmanship 101

The Education Department Seeks Marketing Help. Or Does It?

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The Department of Education thinks it has an image problem.

Worried that the No Child Left Behind Act is getting a bad rap, officials had planned this summer to hire an independent marketing specialist to tackle the situation. In early August, the department’s office of intergovernmental and interagency affairs issued a notice in the Federal Register stating its intent to hire a Florida marketer who has worked for the Pepsi-Cola Co. and the Procter & Gamble Co.

In a description of the sole-source contract the department planned to give to John Pace, Education Department officials sketched out the problem they sought to combat.

"There is strong institutional resistance to the implementation of NCLB due to a tremendous lack of understanding of the law and its actual impact on states," the notice said. It added: "Time is also critical, as the announcements of AYP (adequate yearly progress) … prior to the new school year will create confusion that can only be mitigated by information."

The plan was to hire Mr. Pace for two months at $16,000, but time ran out for him to accomplish his tasks before school kicked off, department spokeswoman Susan Aspey said. She said Mr. Pace was never formally hired, though he did do some preliminary work for which he’ll be paid.

Mr. Pace, however, said he was hired for a month by the department, then abruptly had his contract canceled after two weeks.

According to the Federal Register document, department officials had hoped that Mr. Pace could "hit the ground running and not have to ramp up his base of knowledge before providing solid and valuable input."

Mr. Pace, the director of corporate partnerships and marketing at the Florida Consortium of Charter Schools, based in Fort Lauderdale, has also served as vice president of marketing for Chancellor Beacon Academies, a large charter-school-management company based in Coconut Grove, Fla.

Mr. Pace described marketing "as a discipline of understanding the customers wants and needs." In this case, the customers are the parents and students, he said.

"Parents have a lot of power, but they have not yet exercised their voice because they’re educational neophytes," he said. "Eventually, they’ll become savvy consumers."

Vol. 24, Issue 1, Page 32

Published in Print: September 1, 2004, as Salesmanship 101

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