Learn More

Identifying Internal and External Best Practices Aligns with Model

Dr. Paul Kaiser, Superintendent
Beech Grove City Schools

Introduction

Having a successful operating/general fund referendum was a rewarding experience. The referendum was badly needed by the school corporation. Many things were done correctly, since the administration and school board adopted the Best Practices found at other school corporations and suggested by the staff and community. The administrators also learned a lot of additional strategies for future referenda.

Developing goals, committing to a culture of no excuses, and identifying Best Practices are part of the culture of BGCS and are required of all employees and learners. In addition, part of the school corporation's model is to celebrate and recognize efforts and improvements. The recognition efforts following the referendum were directed to the community, since the citizens demonstrated that they understood the importance of the referendum to the school system's continuation of important services, including transportation services.

Best Practices

  1. It is important to have a written plan (see attachment). The BGCS plan will be expanded as we attend additional referendum workshops and learn from other school systems and consultants.
  2. Early voting was encouraged during this referendum. Each night we learned who voted early.
  3. The administration had a list of every registered voter. This list was cross reference with every parent.
  4. It is important to get all parents registered to vote (and get them to the polls!).
  5. The administrators and bus drivers took the lead.
  6. Exceptionally active parents are often encouraged to provide leadership for referenda. We learned that many of these parents are just too busy to take on another significant task. Consider parents who have the passion but are not always overextended.
  7. It sounds simplistic, but distributing lapel pins with the schools' hornet logo was significant. It was something to give to someone as you initiated a discussion with them about the need for the referendum. The one-on-one opportunities are important for a successful referendum.
  8. The hornet lapel pens were distributed at home ballgames to those who came to a booth/table to learn more about the referendum. Some of the staff manned a "bean bag toss" game at a booth and gave lapel pens for those who were successful with the toss.
  9. Staff members, mostly administrators and bus drivers, were at every voting site.
  10. With advanced preparation, PAC members can be poll watchers and observe who is showing up to vote.
  11. Thirty computers were placed in one room during the end of the campaign to contact voters. With special software and Excel spread sheets, it was a simple task to remind people to vote.
  12. Banners were placed in key locations ("Support Our Kids"). The day following the election these banners were replaced with a "Thank You for Supporting the Referendum" banner. These banners were not printed until the election was over.
  13. Approximately 2,000 yard signs were distributed. It is important to distribute a note with the yard signs as to where the yard signs may not be placed. It is also important not to place the sings in the community too early. No signs from the opposition appeared in the community.
  14. An effort was made to contact every individual who had a negative comment on the social media or who was heard to have some concerns about the referendum.
  15. An effort was made to meet with everyone involved in local government.
  16. A consultant was used to assess the impact on the homeowners' taxes.
  17. Only one question was on the ballot, which is what we would recommend.
  18. Presentations were made to the senior class. In the future, presentations will be to smaller groups, like the government classes. The smaller the group, the better.
  19. Several presentations were made to senior citizen groups.
  20. A good strategy is to make a brief introductory comment at the beginning of an event at school, such as an open house or musical, and to invite those interested to remain in the auditiorium or meet in another room following the program.
  21. It is important to begin planning for the referendum at least two years in advance.
  22. In Beech Grove, the referendum will result in about $10 per month for each homeowner. The referendum, however, was tax neutral since the rate had gone down due to the tax cap.
  23. Lots and Lots of planning will need to occur in advance and throughout the campaign. At the conclusion of the BGCS referendum, a notebook of memos, emails and samples was developed that contains over 250 pages.
  24. It is very important to provide clear, concise and accurate information to your community on an ongoing basis. You also need a compelling message regarding the needs that have been identified.
  25. It is important to be prudent, prudent, prudent with school corporations resources. This information will be part of the superintendent's State Of the School Address presentations. These presentations will be made three times a year. The presentations will be made to any groups in the community who make the request.

Future Best Practices

  1. The board and administrators need to learn more about what the community wants for its schools. Beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, a 21st. Century Strategic Planning Committee will be established for this purpose. Tentatively, the plans are to have a committee of approximately 50 members. All of the active members of the local Chamber of Commerce will be invited.
  2. The Planning for the proposed referendum in seven years began the day after the current referendum was approved in the voting booth by our community.
  3. In the future, central office administrators will all be more visible at school events. This is one way that networking efforts will be assigned a higher priority. A schedule is being developed. It is very important that the superintendent be visibile at school and community events.
  4. During a future referendum, efforts will be made to increase the involvement of our teachers.
  5. Since the referendum was successful, the superintendent will attend every open house this year and thank the parents for supporting the referendum. A comment will also be made about the intent to be good stewards of the school corporation's funds.
  6. With or without a referendum, it is a good practice to occasionally get the town government officials and school board members together.

Summary

A superintendent should be involved in networking in the community and marketing the schools at least 30% of his or her time. This is especially important with the referendum requirements and with all the negative press about public education. It is important that the citizens be aware of the tremendous asset a quality school corporation is to the community, including property values and attracting new families who value a quality education. The next referendum will likely go smoother as we learn more about what our community wants and as we continue to learn from the Best Practices used successfully by other superintendents and school boards.

Download Beech Grove 's To-Do List for a Successful Referendum

[MS Excel File | Requires Microsoft Excel to open and view]