Garrison Forest School (GFS), an all-girls day/international boarding school (K-12th) and a coed preschool in Owings Mills, Md., welcomed a new head of school to campus three years ago. The new head faced a declining enrollment and other challenges following the change in leadership. The new head and board were determined to make data-driven decisions and needed to better understand the root causes of the enrollment decline. Additionally, the school’s positioning needed to be refocused.
GFS wanted to measure brand awareness, competitive factors and its image in the highly competitive Baltimore independent school market. The study focused primarily on the day student population with a small sampling of the boarding market.
Kalix was engaged to design and run the study, drawing upon its close relationship with the GFS community. Two of Kalix’s leadership team members, including president Jonathan Oleisky, who has been a faculty spouse since the early 1990s and is a GFS past parent, have deep ties to the school.
Our market research team worked in partnership with the GFS board’s Marketing Committee and head of school to identify key goals, objectives and strategies for both the internal and external audiences to be surveyed.
Kalix organized the market research study into six phases:
GFS was a highly collaborative partner with the board’s Marketing Committee, working closely to ensure that all perspectives were understood. Qualitative investigations included deep-dive, one-on-one telephone interviews (45-60 minutes) with six different internal and external GFS constituencies. The quantitative investigations (focused only on the day school population) was instrumental in validating the findings of the qualitative research.
Through its market research with current and prospective audiences, Kalix uncovered a key finding from the study that identified a serious strategic weakness concerning the market’s perception of a specific area of programming, which was a surprise to the school’s new leadership.
Speaking “truth to power” – one of Kalix’s core values – and using a strong dose of “tough love,” Kalix delivered its findings and recommendations in a collegial, forward-focused presentation. GFS recognized the value of having the strategic insight.
The market research study provided Garrison Forest’s new head and board with a rich depth of data that allowed the school’s leadership to address several key issues that needed to be course corrected. The detailed analysis was critical to help the board and enrollment management and communications team have a better defined understanding of several issues that were impacting enrollment.