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Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District

Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District

Achievement School District hires public relations firms in Memphis and Nashville

The state-run Achievement School District has hired two public relations firms to bolster its community outreach and communication work in its efforts to turn around Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools, officials confirmed Tuesday.

Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District

Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District

Pique PR in Memphis and Crisp Communications in Nashville began working with the district during the summer. Pique has worked with Memphis city agencies and charter schools. Crisp has counted several state agencies among its clients.

The additional support comes as the district enters its fourth year of school operations and begins a new round of discussions with communities anchored by struggling schools that are eligible for state intervention. (See our list of priority schools in Memphis and Nashville that are eligible, and no longer eligible.)

“Although we are a statewide school district, we have only one communications staff professional, so we are utilizing private grant dollars to help bring a little extra support,” ASD spokeswoman Letita Aaron said in an email. “We want to make sure we’re getting great information to those who need it, especially parents. Both firms provide a range of communications services to help us do so, from communications strategy development to graphics support to event planning.”

Both firms have contracts for up to five months, with the option to extend their work based on the district’s needs.

The ASD isn’t the first district to turn to a public relations firm to assist with communication strategies.  Shelby County Schools, which has an in-house communications department of four people, works with Memphis-based KQ Communications, mostly for projects related to the district’s teacher effectiveness initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

ASD officials have emphasized a desire to improve communication with families whose children attend priority schools eligible for state intervention.

The state district has authority to wrest control of Tennessee’s worst-performing schools from their local districts and assign them to charter operators in an effort to turn them around. The selection and conversion process often has been contentious in the schools and their neighborhoods, and the ASD rolled out a revised strategy in July designed to improve the community engagement and school matching process.

The Achievement School District currently oversees 27 schools in Memphis and two in Nashville.