Experiencing the referendum process as a board member is the best way to understand the challenges and the value of surveying our community.
I was a school board member for 13 years. I will never forget the many discussions around guessing the priorities of our community. Our board understood that we couldn’t be representative of the overall priorities of our community. We are board members spending the advertised “one meeting a month” (wow, I wish that would have been true…), so, clearly, we tended to be more supportive of school priorities than the average person in the grocery store. We held a few town hall meetings and quickly realized this process would not reach enough people to understand our community priorities.
Our district made the mistake of letting a couple of years pass between operational referendum periods, resulting in a referendum property tax increase. A much better approach is to set up operational referendums back-to-back to avoid the fluctuation in property taxes.
Like most districts, we needed to share our background and needs and receive prioritized feedback from our community. We contracted with School Perceptions to help us craft our background message, plus questions to understand our community’s priorities. Our School Perceptions survey feedback allowed our board to confidently submit a referendum question for school spending that we knew was supported. I remember the relief of moving past guessing to hard data that we couldn’t dispute, cutting our meetings down to arrive home only 2 hours after supper.
After I served my last school board term, I was again serving our district as a parent on a referendum committee to build a new elementary school. Being involved as a board member for one referendum and a parent for another allowed me to experience the appropriate role for each. We again reached out to School Perceptions to help us craft our message and gather community feedback. We gratefully passed both our referendums, and I was so impressed by the School Perceptions process that I purchased the company.
Okay, well, joined the company at least…
The School Perceptions Blog and Resource Center features the voices of our team members. This post was written by Tim Mikula, Vice President of Technology.