Marketing Consulting Company Presents Proposition to Skeptical EC School Board

The Ellwood City Area School Board listened to a business proposition by Image Consultants, an Ellwood-based company, during their agenda meeting on Feb. 8.

Earla Marshall offered her professional services via Image Consultants to organize a fundraising campaign for two STEAM labs in Hartman Intermediate and Lincoln Jr/Sr High School.

Marshall had previously visited the board representing the Kitchen Cabinet, a volunteer community activist organization. Marshall had said that Cabinet members would volunteer their services to raise money for the STEAM labs.

In January, the board passed a motion to give the administration $150,000, which was the minimum estimated cost for constructing two functional labs. However, board president Renee Pitrelli expressed a desire to raise at least some of this money through community fundraising.

Overall, the board appeared confused and skeptical as to why Marshall was no longer willing to raise money as a volunteer.

At the meeting, Marshall told the board that since there was no organized capital campaign in place, that void would need to be filled before volunteers could be gathered. Marshall said that neither the board nor administration had the combination of time and skills necessary to raise money. *She also said that a paid professional was a more assured way to raise money, as volunteers “may have their hearts in the right place but have other priorities.”

“If you want a professional, you need to pay for those services,” Marshall said. “I am one of those. Right now, there is no one steering the ship. Good intentions are steering the ship, but good intentions only go so far.”

Marshall pointed out that she has participated in numerous successful fundraising programs for the Ellwood City community. According to Marshall, these include raising money for downtown Christmas decorations and seasonal promotions, the 2014 Fallfest and Drag Derby, and helping Lincoln High School assistant principal John Sovich contact the Hoyt Foundation in New Castle for funds.

However, board member LeRoy Cortez pointed out these previous projects were performed by Marshall as volunteer work, not as professional services under Image Consultants.

“You volunteered for others, but you want to charge the school?” board member Erica Gray said. “Even if we hire you, there’s no guarantee you’ll raise money.”

“I will give 110% of effort,” Marshall responded.

“That sounds like steering with good intentions,” board member Mike Nuepauer countered.

Superintendent Joe Mancini asked Marshall if she intended to have the donations under a nonprofit category, so businesses can use donations as a tax write off, which Marshall confirmed.

Ultimately, Vice President Matt Morella volunteered to discuss the proposal with Marshall, citing that a previous motion passed by the board gives any board member the authority to raise money for the STEAM labs.

*Image Consultants’ initial quote was for $50 per hour for 32 hours, totaling $1,600. Specified services included consultation with school representatives, development of sponsorship funding levels, creation of handout materials and solicitation of potential sponsors. These rates didn’t include gas mileage, which would be charged at 57.5 cents per miles. The proposal recommended an initial 90 or 120-day contract.

The quote was preliminary and open to revision. Specifically, Marshall mentioned that the rate could be dropped to $40.

More information on Image Consultants can be found on their website.

*Correction: Marshall’s statement had been paraphrased as “flaky” which carries too heavy of a negative connotation.

*Correction: the previous description of the proposal omitted the 32 hours of specified services, giving the impression that $1,600 total was an upfront in addition to the $50 per hour rate.

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