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Where's The Beef

Where's The Beef - The man who got Wendy's to ask "Where's the beef?" in its legendary 1980s marketing campaign has a new challenge: Helping Alexandria's public schools better sell themselves to potential donors and volunteers.

Alan Hilburg, the communications consultant whose work for Wendy's was followed by efforts to polish the reputations of Leona Helmsley and Don Imus during periods of controversy, is seeking to improve the image of a school district that is Northern Virginia's most diverse and, by some measures, its least successful. The federal government labeled the system's only high school, T.C. Williams, among the nation's "persistently lowest achieving" in March.

Where's The Beef

Developing marketing strategies are common for companies and colleges but rarely a priority for school districts. Superintendent Mort Sherman, who prefers the term "community outreach strategy," says he hopes the effort helps the district attract more private donations and other support at a time when fiscal strain makes it hard to pay for new initiatives.

Hilburg will make $48,000 - an amount district officials hope will be repaid several times over in new corporate support. The school district also is working to establish a local education foundation that would make it easier for companies to donate money to Alexandria schools.

"It's about building a more effective bridge between the classroom and the community," Hilburg said. "It's about creating a sense of social responsibility in Alexandria."

Hilburg is one of several external consultants Sherman has tapped since he was hired in 2008. In the last two years, the district's expenditures on consultants have increased threefold, to more than $900,000. Much of that money, Sherman said, has been spent on specialists charged with overhauling nine Alexandria schools that didn't meet federal standards last year.

Where's The Beef

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