Serious business: First-year Skaneateles teacher leads students to success in marketing competition

Skaneateles High School business teacher Dan Mulroy stands with the 18 Distribution Education Clubs of America students from Skaneateles, eight of whom won first- or second-place awards, at the regional competition Jan. 6.

SKANEATELES | A hit television show from the 1980s and '90s is poised to make a comeback as the brainchild of two marketing representatives seeking to help their network boost its ratings and target a new audience.

Not quite — but that is the scenario that Skaneateles High School seniors Bennett Morse and Jacob Patalino came up with to help them take first place in the Sports & Entertainment Marketing Team Decision Making event of the Distribution Education Clubs of America regional competition two weeks ago.

The seniors were among eight of their peers, out of 18 students on the Skaneateles team, to place either first or second in the Jan. 6 competition, both numbers of which business teacher Dan Mulroy said are impressive since this is the first time Skaneateles ever had a DECA club and went to the competition.

Of those eight students, five earned first-place awards and three earned second-place awards, but all eight qualified to move on to compete in their respective categories at the state contest in Rochester sometime in March.

Mulroy, who is in his first year teaching at Skaneateles, said he participated in DECA when he was in high school and then took part in the program again when he student taught at East Syracuse-Minoa Central High School.

"That's where I was really able to see how well it does for students," he said of his time at ES-M. "I knew that I wanted to bring it here. When I interviewed here, I said that I wanted to bring this club because I knew that these students would do well. They test well here. They have experience in speaking with other adults, so they already have an advantage over a lot of other schools."

Mulroy said there are two components of how students are judged at the competition. First, students take a 100-question test in the content area of their respective event — for Morse and Patalino, that was sports and entertainment market, but for the rest of the team, that was hospitality and tourism, marketing, finance, business management and financial services.

At the actual competition, the teacher said, the students received a situation related to their event and sat down with a judge who works in that field to come up with a solution to the problem.

"They're professionals in the field," Mulroy said. "You take control of the situation. ... They get in their own role, and they have to go in and assume their role. They basically imagine that they are meeting with the head of the business."

For their situation, Morse said he and Patalino acted as the marketing leader and vice president of a television network presenting an idea to the company president. Morse said the network's ratings were down because it was targeting millennials, but that wasn't working so they wanted to go in a new direction.

The two decided they would bring back a hit show from the '80s and '90s in order to target 5 to 18 year olds instead.

"We basically had to say how we would market toward them and how we would hopefully bring the network's ratings back to what it used to be," Morse said. "We chose our primary market, and then we listed off the main ways to advertise to them."

He said the duo also came up with a secondary market — an older age group, in this case — and list ways to reach that demographic as well. They also devised a mission statement in the form of notes listing everything they had to touch on as part of the situation.

To prepare for the competition, Mulroy said he gave the students practice tests and scenarios in their respective fields provided through the DECA website. He said the organization offers sample tests as well as actual scenarios used in past contests.

"These guys were able to see a test prior to them taking the actual test," he said. "We sat down the day before, and I was the judge and I gave them basically a similar type situation that they would be in at the actual competition."

Morse said the front of the problem lays out key points that each team must touch on in their situation, while the back contains the main problem and the specifics of it. That helped them focus and choose one thing over another in their solution, he said.

He said he enjoyed "the experience of sitting face-to-face with them and presenting it to them," despite being nervous heading into the competition.

"I think it helped having a partner there, especially since we're such good friends," Morse said. "It helped calm nerves, so we could bounce back off each other."

That, he noted, translated into experience conducting a job interview, a lesson students might not necessarily get in the classroom.

"As much as you learn in the classroom, that kind of experience you don't get. so I enjoyed that a lot and I had a good time with it," Morse said.

Patalino agreed with his partner, noting that students often wonder when they would use what they learn in the classroom during their careers or lives after school.

"This was something you're able to use, that you're going to have to use in the future and you can apply to the real world," he said.

The two seniors said they already considered studying business in college and going into the career field, and the competition served to fuel that desire in them even more.

"I was already considering business as either a potential major or minor, but it definitely strengthened wanting to do it," Morse said. "It made me want to do it more."

Patalino said he already knew he wanted to become a business major, so he took two classes with Mulroy this year to sharpen his skills.

"I wanted to do this program to see the experience and hopefully what the future holds for me," he said.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Skaneateles Journal Editor Jonathan Monfiletto can be reached at or (315) 283-1615. Follow him on Twitter @Skan_Monfiletto.