District modifies, tightens branding guidelines

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Photo courtesy of Rebecca Starkins. This is a photo of a banner for the Class of 2021 that was designed by PTSA. Starkins thinks the banner is, “on point, on brand, perfect [and] phenomenal.”

Emma Newman staff writer 

Candice Anvari staff writer 

To create a more cohesive BHUSD brand, the district decided to create new branding guidelines for the logos, fonts and colors that represent the different schools.

To accomplish this goal, members of the district administration and school board members created focus groups to help with the style guide. Despite the wide scope of these focus groups, which included parents, alumni, teachers and students, certain members of PTSA and ASB see some aspects of the new guidelines as negative.

  District Director of Public Relations Rebecca Starkins, one of the main district members spearheading the recent changes, wanted to adjust the branding guidelines because of the lack of uniformity in the branding of the five schools. While BHHS already rebranded before Starkins arrived in the district, she wanted the other schools to be adjusted accordingly. 

“The work that was being done at the high school was so important and so positive in creating that unified identity for the district, and something that people can feel a part of,” she said. “It helps everybody have a sense of spirit and camaraderie, so we wanted to continue that work.” 

Through the use of the focus groups, Starkins thinks the branding guidelines are thoughtful and potentially long-lasting. 

“[The groups] gave a great cross-selection of the community to ensure that we were maintaining the history and the legacy of the district that was obviously established way before I got here,” Starkins said. “They were invaluable, and the time that they spent in dedicating to this process was incredible.” 

Despite the number of people involved in this process, Starkins feels COVID-19 made collaboration more difficult than it should be. 

“It’s important to me that it was a collaborative process, and I think that COVID threw a wrench in that,” Starkins said. 

Another side effect of the pandemic Starkins noticed in this process is less-than-ideal communication with student and parent groups such as PTSA and ASB. 

“The major focus on the pandemic was meeting the needs of our students and our parents and understanding the extreme pressure that COVID has put on everybody’s lives,” Starkins said. “Worrying about the shade of a color, or if a font’s the right one during COVID, has not been a very high priority for me…[and] I think that that actually resulted in a miscommunication.” 

BHHS PTSA President Jeannine Ramer noticed the impact of COVID-19 of expressing her concerns with the new branding guidelines. She hoped to organize a meeting with all of the PTSA presidents of all five district schools and Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, although this process has been temporarily delayed due to reopening. 

In this meeting, Ramer hopes to discuss how the new branding guidelines are going to impact both the voices of the students and PTAs district-wide. 

“First and foremost…we want to represent the kids, and we want to represent their voices, and we want to understand exactly the difference between what they’re thinking of branding as a district, and then branding at each level,” she said. “We [also] want to understand what it means for the district still supporting the PTAs.” 

Ramer understands the importance of branding, but she believes its implementation stifles freedom of expression. 

“I get the importance of a company with branding guidelines as a corporation [because] it’s important to have one voice for whatever product that is…But, we are a public school, and the product of what we do are our kids.” Ramer said.  “Our kids are the priority of our school. That is what is great about Beverly, and to have their voice be squashed in promoting…to meet one standard…diminishes part of that learning experience for our kids.” 

She believes that the branding guidelines have the ability to change the fundamental spirit of the school. 

“Everything is now to look and feel the same, so it feels like everything that Beverly stands for and the reason why people love Beverly for all of the opportunities that we provide…goes against that,” Ramer said. 

Similarly, ASB president senior Nahal Sarafian believes working with the guidelines in order to create senior apparel made the process much more difficult. 

“These guidelines have made ASB’s job much harder because the apparel that students want to see often don’t fit within our guidelines,” Sarafian said. 

However, even though the guidelines are more restrictive toward ASB, Sarafian believes that they will be beneficial in the long-term. 

“I think that, currently the guidelines are negative, but that they will have a long term positive effect,” Sarafian said “Just imagining all clubs, sports and other groups on campus looking uniform but also unique at the same time is an image that can represent unity and spirit.”

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