Project Description

“With strong momentum and consistent outreach, the school district became a priority for the community.”

OUR ACTION: Based on scientifically statistical survey findings, we worked to establish more formal ways to communicate regularly with the community.

OUR SUCCESS: The district passed the $60 million request by a 60% margin.

Situation

High school building fell into disrepair

Residents of a medium-sized eastern Ohio school district shared a fondness for their old high school building. It was a point of nostalgia for its proud alumni. However, it became clear to most that the building was no longer functional or safe and was ineffective for today’s learning. The district worked diligently to pass a bond levy to rebuild, but with concentrated opposition in a very tax-sensitive community, the issue was voted down several times.

Solution

Understand the opposition and tell your story

After multiple failed attempts, the district partnered with Allerton Hill Consulting (AHC). Together, our first step was to conduct multiple, scientifically statistical surveys to determine why people were voting against the issue. The surveys were designed to determine what information the voters lacked and where they got their information, and the findings served as the foundation for the communications plan.

School leadership gave themselves 18 months to tell their story before going back on the ballot. In that time, based on the survey findings, we worked jointly to establish more formal ways to communicate regularly with the community. Understanding that it had been eight years since a new money request was on the ballot and that a large part of the community was living on a fixed income, our team was careful to hone the message in on the long-term savings to be realized from rebuilding the facility rather than continually repairing it. AHC worked with the school district to form a community committee that made recommendations to the Board of Education on the issue. We advised district leaders on how to more deliberately communicate with the local newspaper, which included developing relationships with key reporters, drafting a regular column, and submitting press releases. We also created direct mail pieces for key stakeholders.

Success

Bond passed by a 60 percent margin

By allotting themselves the adequate amount of time, developing a targeted process, and taking action, the district was able to pass the $60 million request by a 60 percent margin in a community not familiar with levies and where affordability is key. Construction currently is underway on the new high school.