Business as Usual
May 29, 2013
Perhaps it was preordained. When Casas Christian School in Tucson, Ariz., saw its enrollment plummet in wake of the recession, Jennifer Urias felt a sudden urge to step up and do something about it. It’s not like this mother of four wasn’t already involved. She’d always been active in the classroom but this year she took a big leap of faith and assumed the presidency of the Parent Teacher Fellowship. “When you believe in something, you want to make a change and that’s kind of what I felt. I knew things could be better,” she says.
Urias brings a lot to the table. She’s been able to use her knowledge of marketing, budgeting, and customer service—honed by her role as vice president of her family’s construction business—to breathe new life into the school’s many events. That in turn has boosted attendance, increased revenue, and helped prop up the school’s sagging morale. Her underlying mission has been to strengthen the sense of community. “Once parents develop a stronger relationship to the school, they go out and talk about how wonderful it is to their friends, to their extended family, to their acquaintances...and that can only benefit Casas,” she adds.
Like most parent-teacher groups, Casas PTF sets a general budget for the year. But being the self-professed numbers nerd she is, Urias creates her own separate worksheet to track expenses for each event. She minimizes shortfalls by always being in marketing mode, ready to talk up the group to any business owners interested in donating goods and services. It’s proved to be a win-win situation. Businesses gain increased visibility when their logos adorn banners, flyers, and Facebook pages connected with events. Casas gains because donations have allowed the PTF to polish and present each occasion with more flair.
“Parents are amazed at the professional feel of our events now and how organized they are,” Urias says. “It’s been gratifying to see the school turning around and confidence returning.” She’s quick to credit her fellow PTF board members and the solid foundation of volunteers they’ve been able to recruit. Further evidence of her business sense surfaces when she stresses the importance of recognizing others’ efforts. “I’m really big on thank-yous. Just a note or small gesture...something simple showing our appreciation.” Event chairs, sponsors, and volunteers alike all get treated to this spin on good old-fashioned customer service.
Like any good business owner, Urias also knows the key to success is to surround oneself with good people. That’s why, rather than wait for a suitable candidate to sign up and fill an important chairperson position for a recent event, she identified and went after a parent she knew would be perfect for the job. “I went out and personally invited her to participate and asked her if she’d be interested. I complimented and encouraged her and told her I thought she’d be a great chair for this event, and she was more than ecstatic. And she did a great job,” Urias says.
Melding business principles with a deft personal touch—that’s the secret to Urias’ success in a role she initially didn’t think she had time to fulfill. But she readily admits that being a business owner has given her the flexibility to give back to the school she loves. “Sometimes the time required makes me feel as if I’m planning a wedding every month! Still, it makes me feel good to give back to my kids’ school and know I’m able to help,” she says. The revitalized community at Casas Christian School would be the first to say they feel good about it, too.
Writer: June Allan Corrigan