REALTORS® are good at promoting communities. Some might say it’s in their DNA. After all, almost every successful home sale includes touting the qualities of the neighborhood, as well as the house.
The 920-member Quad Cities Area REALTOR® Association (QCARA), which covers Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, as well as Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, decided to put those marketing skills to work to promote their schools. They began the process by hosting a conference and inviting major employers, mayors and school superintendents in the 23-community-area.
They called it “The Diversity, Inclusion and Steering Conference,” and they used a REALTOR® Party Diversity Initiative Grant to pull it together.
REALTORS® Were Getting Blamed for Steering
“What drove us to do this was the fact that our schools were getting a bad rap, and our members were often getting blamed for steering buyers to specific neighborhoods based on the schools,” explains Dave Bert, QCARA’s REALTOR® Community Marketing Executive.
This became especially true as our members worked with employers to help new hires find housing in the area. “Sometimes the employer and corresponding relocation company would tell REALTORS® to only show homes in certain school districts,” Bert says. “That’s against the law, and our members were finding it increasingly difficult to do their jobs.”
“We just felt it was time for all of us to sit down at the table together and have a conversation about why directing buyers to certain areas was not only counterproductive, but actually discriminatory. Plus, we wanted to come up with a plan to help promote our schools in a way that would be useful to everyone,” he adds.
They called on Fred Underwood, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Director of Diversity and Community Outreach, to facilitate their conference. In the end, they were able to come to an understanding about the need to promote the qualities of their schools on a fair and equal basis.
While no employers accepted the invitation to attend, Bert says they hope to meet with them in the near future to share their recommendations.
A School Information Web Site
The highest priority will be to build a web site that features “solid information” about each school, so homebuyers and others have one place to go for the facts, Bert says.
It’s a “totally legitimate point” for home buyers to consider school quality in their purchase decision, Underwood notes. “But REALTORS® have to be very careful not to steer buyers to one area or another, because of the so-called quality of the schools.”
Oftentimes, school quality is a code word for racial differences, he says. School ratings maps often mirror racial dot maps showing patterns of segregation and diversity. That, in turn, can raise complicated questions about how test scores and school ratings are used to influence home buying decisions.
“The reality is that school choice, just like housing choice, is a very personal matter, and every homebuyer or renter, should have the information he or she needs to make the decision that’s right for him or her,” Underwood says.
The website QCARA hopes to build will facilitate that kind of decision-making for people moving to the area.
Bert explains that it will allow all the schools in the area to post information about themselves. “Our vision is for this to be the best online place to go for fair, accurate, comprehensive details about the schools—not just test scores,” he says.
Right now, many buyers are looking at test scores to tell them about the schools their children will attend. “That’s only a slice of the total picture,” Bert explains. Good schools offer a variety of instruction techniques, foster a collaborative spirit among the teachers and provide individualized attention for students, he says.
“We are blessed with great schools,” Bert adds. “We want people to know about them.”
He says they hope to produce a “Top 10 List” with the top ten things people should know about each.
More to Come
Bert calls this meeting a “great first step in coming up with a practical solution to a delicate problem. It got everyone away from the blame game, and into the arena to address the problem.”
The Quad City REALTORS® were able to demonstrate that they are leaders in advocating for their communities and their schools, Underwood adds. “REALTORS® are great marketers and negotiators—the Quad City REALTORS® showed that loud and clear.”
Bert says his association is applying for a second Diversity Initiative Grant to assist in setting up the school information web site, which they hope to showcase this coming spring.
For more information about the QCARA Diversity, Inclusion and Steering Conference, as well as their progress on the school information site, contact Dave Bert, REALTOR® Community Marketing Executive at 563-355-6655.