By Robbie Owens

CEDAR HILL (CBSDFW.COM) – Building good relationships — with realtors. It’s how Cedar Hill school officials are working to counter the often negative perception of public schools: with accurate information about the education assets available close to home. And yes, the hot housing market is playing out in the southern suburbs, as well.

“I just listed a home and within 48 hours, we had 8 offers, said Diana Escamilla with RE/MAX Preferred Associates in Cedar Hill. “Above asking price.”

Still, the long-time realtor wants to stay informed to help her clients make good decisions about the communities they’re considering. So how often do realtors get the question “how are the schools?”

“About 80 percent of the time,” said Escamilla. “Especially when they have school-age children.”

So Escamilla quickly said “yes” when asked to join other local realtors meeting with Cedar Hill Supt. Billy Snow. Both realtors and school leaders say it’s important for those who can shape first impressions of a community to know what’s happening in the schools, and what’s ahead.

“We have things like we pay for our students to take the AP tests, and we actually pay them for their high scores. That has increased our students’ participation from 140 students this time last year to 500 students,” said Dr. Snow. “We have the early college high school and we’re also working to create another early college high school for math, science and health on the existing high school campus.”

The district also has plans to add an all-male leadership academy, and school for the visual and performing arts.

“Bad news does spread on its own,” said Dr. Snow. “We want to make sure that the real story, the right story is getting out there.”

Cedar Hill school leaders say they plan to continue the meetings with realtors and others that they consider stakeholders in the community because strong, successful schools are a good news story for all.

“At Cedar Hill we are all about equity,” said Dr. Snow. “And that means that we want to make sure that every parent who resides in this district is proud that we are the leading choice.”