Marketing, branding and student recruitment were the major themes at the board’s monthly meeting, Feb. 6.

Edgar P. Harney Elementary’s chief executive officer, Eileen Williams, put it this way: It’s imperative to do “all we can do to sell our school,” – a view embraced by board members as well as by the school’s chief administrative officer Missy Forcier.

The enrollment goal for next year is to reach the building’s capacity, 400 students. Williams said Harney “positively will have” 380 students in the fall of 2012 and that she will continue working with other administrators and with the board to create a brand for the school that attracts and retains students.

One of the biggest developments to that end is a partnership with the city’s pro-basketball and football franchises.

Williams said, and hopes to leverage the celebrity of Hornets team members as part of the recruitment drive.

Meanwhile, the Saints have agreed to bring in two players for literacy events. On two occasions in coming weeks, they’ll be on campus to read with students and promote a literate lifestyle. Williams couldn’t say which players would be visiting the campus; Harney will gladly welcome “anyone that wears a black and gold jersey,” she said.

Board member Ashton Ryan Jr. suggested that his colleagues look into offering a Head Start program at Harney as a “strategy towards getting kids in earlier.” That might help funnel kids into the school’s kindergarten. Most importantly, the youngsters would be better prepared to succeed in school.

“The key is letting the market know that there’s something going on inside Harney,” Ryan said, “and that Harney is a tremendous positive alternative for kids in Central City.”

In addition to focusing on future enrollment and recruitment, the board is working with Williams and Forcier on different measures to improve test performance. LEAP testing will begin in four weeks and Williams said the school is doing everything it can as a “push to make sure the fourth- through eighth-grade students are ready.”

The school has been administering the state-released practice test that students take in a “Leap-like fashion,” according to Forcier.  This “gives children a taste of what’s coming” and helps temper the panic and anxiety associated with high-stakes testing. And under Act 54, which maintains that that the state needs to collect performance data on younger students, a pilot standardized test will be administrated to second graders.

In addition, Forcier and Williams met with Harney staff to make sure they had the resources needed to ensure success. Students identified as needing extra help have been sorted into three tiers so the staff can effectively target intervention efforts. They also held two mandatory meetings for parents to advise them on strategies to support their children through the testing period.

“It’s so important to build their confidence because that’s a big deal for kids,” Forcier said.

With eight community members in attendance, the meeting ended at 7p.m., In addition to Ryan, board members present included Norma Dixon Monroe, Charles Southall III, Arthur Williams Jr. and Jessie Hills Jr.