High School Success Story Transformed by Branding
Down in the southeast corner of Iowa, sits the little city of Eldon, population 915. Once a bustling railroad town, today the tiny town is sleepy and quiet. About 65 percent of Eldon’s residents live below the poverty line.
As you leave town and drive towards the cornfields, you’ll see Cardinal Community School District. Six years ago, Cardinal was listed as a persistent low-achieving school. Parents began taking their students out of the district and enrolling them in other schools. This exodus took an emotional and financial toll on the community and school leaders.
The School Board faced some tough choices regarding budgeting and personnel. The Board hired a new superintendent named Joel Pedersen. They believed in his vision to transform the district.
When Pedersen arrived, he found he had some tough work ahead of him. He quickly enlisted the support of community leaders and families. And he never wavered in his belief that — rich or poor — education can change lives.
The first few years were challenging. But Pedersen and Board members focused on small incremental changes. They knew Eldon residents and business owners wanted to have a strong school in their community. And Pedersen believed that Cardinal had to be a place of hope, a place where students wanted to come and learn and grow.
Slowly, surely, and then swiftly, things began to change. The culture began to change. And the physical environment — thanks in large part to a partnership with SportsGraphics — was completely transformed. Students and families were once again proud of their district. And open enrollment into Cardinal skyrocketed.
Today when you walk into Cardinal, you’re greeted by smiling students and teachers. The wall graphics contain inspiring messages. The technology you see is cutting edge. The gym looks brand spanking new. The science lab is modern and high tech. And Cardinal students are learning in new and innovative ways.
As with many rural Iowa school districts, money is often in short supply. That’s why the changes at Cardinal are all the more remarkable. Whenever administrators ask Pedersen how he could afford to provide all the physical improvements and upgrades and new technology, his response is simple: How can you afford not to?