School District Bond Elections — Reflections From a Successful Campaign in a Difficult Year for Bonds

  • Gather data and be transparent with the information: In 2020, we engaged with highly-reputable third parties to conduct an assessment of our existing facilities and study our demographics and make growth projections. Both reports were presented to our Board of Trustees during public meetings and placed in a visible area of our district website titled “transparency”. Don’t shy away from sharing and communicating “brutal facts” that lead to difficult community conversations, like infrastructure needs identified in a facilities assessment and the potential need to rezone due to school overcrowding. Starting these conversations early will “condition” the environment to begin socializing any need for a bond.
  • Prioritize Community Involvement: Based on the direction you are heading under your district goals and strategic plan and after reviewing data, if you have determined a bond needs to be considered, under the direction of your Board, form a task force committee representative of your entire community to study the needs and make a recommendation on a bond proposal. Don’t just invite the folks you know will say, “Bond? You had me at hello.” Invite a diverse group of backgrounds and opinions, and bring them all to the table. Establishing the right dynamic will not push your thinking as a district as it relates to what should be included in the bond, but also, if a bond is ultimately recommended, will convey to your community that differing opinions were brought forward during these discussions.
  • Put your bond task force to work: Establish a rigorous schedule of meetings and put all of the information on the table for your task force to explore. Offer tours of district facilities and provide them with all of the information they need to make informed decisions. In our work, our task force met six times, each at a different location. Each meeting consisted of a different format and covered different topics presented by school district leaders over curriculum, CTE, operations, facilities, athletics and more.
  • Develop a District Communications Strategy: Once your task force has recommended a bond, and an election is called by your board, proactively educate your community on what’s included in the bond. Issue a news release informing your community that a bond election has been called, and include in the release the projects included. Remember to follow Texas election law as it relates to advocacy. You can educate, not advocate.
  • A social media campaign that included informational graphics and a weekly video series.
  • An effort to encourage students, parents and staff to register to vote.
  • Strategically timed and targeted district email and text messages with information on the bond, how to register to vote, and when are where to vote.
  • Bond literature, posters and other informational pieces placed at every campus and targeted mailers to voters,
  • Weekly updates provided to principals to include in campus newsletters.
  • Targeted outreach to local media outlets and advertising in the local newspaper
  • Public town hall meetings
  • Approximately 150 meetings, including every campus and department and with various community and district organizations, including parent/teacher organizations, athletic and fine arts booster clubs, church and civic organizations, realtor groups, homeowner associations, chambers of commerce, and political organizations.

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