Grand Prairie ISD Would Like My DISD Student to Enroll There. Everyone Else Also Welcome.

Saw this when I got home last night -- an invite to attend a Grand Prairie Independent School District open house  January 21 at the South Grand Prairie High School Coliseum. The postcard thinks that maybe my Dallas ISD-attending child would want to attend, say, the Garner Fine Arts Academy. Or the John A. Dubinski Career High School. Or Crockett Fifth Grade Center STEM Academy. Or, coming soon, the fine-arts middle and high schools. The options are myriad.

Reminds the postcard: "GPISD is an open enrollment district. You don't have to live in Grand Prairie to choose GPISD!"

Well, this is the first time I've ever been invited to look at a district outside of the DISD. I asked Sam Buchmeyer, director of communications for GPISD, to explain the mailer.

"I don't want to say it's unprecedented, because Washington, D.C., does something similar," he said. "It's called 'schools of choice,' which is public schools creating alternatives within the public school system to effectively complete against what charters and private schools can do. Public schools have shackles -- federal, state guidelines -- but this is a concept we came up with last year. It goes back to one of our elementaries on the verge of closing -- enrollment had gotten too small, and we wanted to come up with some way to draw kids in -- and we came up with a fine-arts curriculum. And when we said we were an open enrollment district, parents said, 'That's awesome,' so we bumped enrollment back up. And we thought, 'Why don't we do this elsewhere?'"

Hence the creation of the other academies and magnets being pitched on the invite.

I asked if there are a lot of kids from outside Grand Prairie attending GPISD schools. He said yes, but he didn't have the hard numbers. "But anecdotally I've heard we have kids traveling from as far as McKinney to take their kids to Garner."

Buchmeyer said this is the first time GPISD's made an effort to lure kids from other districts. But it sure won't be the last.

"The game has changed for public schools," he said. "Before you didn't say words like 'marketing' a district. You'd talk about how wonderful you were and you'd issue press releases about the school district, but no we can offer a variety of specialized programs. We have that ability. And now we have to tell people and the way to do that is marketing GPISD."