By Justin Aglio and Dr. Michael Ghilani

“Just Do It.”

“Think Different.”

“I’m Lovin’ it.”

You probably guessed at least one if not all three of those companies (Nike, Apple and McDonald’s respectively in case you’re grading yourself.) Most successful companies have a memorable tagline. A tagline is simply a catchphrase or slogan. According to marketing consultant Laura Lake, “a tagline should help the audience understand the bigger picture and leave them enticed and wanting more.”

How does this definition of a tagline relate to school districts? Not all school districts have taglines of course, but those who have created a tagline know that it can be used to inform and entice their target audience. And, what exactly do school districts want their audience to know and be enticed by? The easiest answer to these questions can be traced back the school district’s core values.

Test Drive

In the summer of 2015, the Montour School District reimagined the district by developing three Core Values:

  1. Putting Children First
  2. Developing a Growth Mindset, and
  3. Promoting a Learning Culture.

Now for the 2016-2017 school year, Montour has developed a new Tagline: Student-Centered…Future-Focused.

The process used to design Montour’s new tagline is not unusual for the district. Montour’s entire administrative staff, every principal and a group of teachers all participated in Human-Centered Design Thinking workshops at the LUMA Institute. The LUMA Institute believes that innovation is a growing social and economic imperative. It calls for more people to be more innovative, more often.

Student-Centered is our statement of purpose of what we do, and Future-Focused is our desired future state and where we are going. The Student-Centered…Future-Focused tagline conveys the message of a movement that has a significant impact on the students, and fosters curiosity and a sense of optimism. This coupled with zero fear of the future and the will and drive to keep moving forward is what sets us apart as a quality school district.

The Rubber Hits the Road

b5292cff-9739-430d-b6a6-796ce2c687ac_pasted20image200What is Montour currently doing to model its tagline?

  • Marketing students developed a business plan and presented it to administration to create and manage the district’s social media.
  • Science classes are fully immersed in the districts virtual reality lab through a wide variety of activities using zSpace technology. Students and teachers will continue to use virtual reality in chemistry in collaboration with Schell Games using virtual reality lenses and a new augmented reality educational tool called Happy Atoms.
  • Carnegie Mellon University Learn Lab at Montour, (opened in the fall 2015) is now a national model for educational research producing K-12 ground-breaking research. Located within the district’s high school, this is a lab where students and teachers constantly work side-by-side with researchers on various studies including the MARi Career App (Career App Challenge White House Finalist), Geometry studies, writing tutors, and more. The goal of the Learn Lab is to expand its studies at Montour and share research findings and best practices with other districts.
  • During the 2015-2016 school year, Montour was the first school in America to become a Common Sense Education Certified School District. “The Montour SD is a great example of a district who started with a vision for digital citizenship. They viewed it as an important foundation in connecting students in the classroom and beyond,” stated Jennifer Ehehalt, Common Sense Regional Manager.
  • Montour students and staff participated in The Global Moonshot campaign. Inspired by Esther Wojcicki’s Moonshots in Education,he purpose of the Moonshot campaign is to impact a generation of students so they feel inspired, empowered and globally connected every time they look at the moon.
  • In order to support a learning culture, Montour has hosted multiple professional development conferences in 2015-2016 including Western PA PTLW Summit, EdTechTeam Google Summit, EdCampPGH, Design-Thinking in Action Workshop, and opened transformED West, the region’s first AIU satellite digital playground through the generosity of the Grable and Benedum foundations. Montour will host Pittsburgh’s EdTech conference, TRETC, on November 8, 2016.

The Road Ahead

What are the future plans at Montour for modeling its tagline?

  • 7535df73-0d1e-4407-bdc1-e35a38bdfc66_pasted20image200Students and staff are working closely with a local television production studio, Steeltown Entertainment Project, to design and build a multimedia production studio. Graduating senior Georgia Fowke has worked with Steeltown for the past four years and is currently directing, producing, and starring in our own television show through Steeltown called The Reel Teens on Fox Network.
  • Spartan Express students and staff are currently working with The Saturday Light Brigade (SLB) Radio Youth Express to develop plans for a 24/7 radio station managed 100% by students. SLB radio is housed at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and is a radio program featuring acoustic music and family fun broadcast since 1978.
  • Construction is underway for a new, versatile, state-of-the-art elementary school scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. It is located on Montour’s high school campus and will serve K-4 students throughout the district.

Although we cannot predict the future for Montour, we will strive for continual improvement and  believe our new tagline will help us develop the needed growth mindset culture to optimize learning and preparation for the future. In addition to the initiatives and opportunities mentioned earlier, this growth mindset will continue to be strengthened by our participation in RemakeLearning – a perfect match for Student-Centered…Future-Focused.

For more, see:

Justin Aglio is Director of Innovation at Montour School District in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter: @JustinAglio.

Dr. Michael Ghilani is Superintendent at Montour School District. Follow him on Twitter:@GhilaniMike.


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