7 Things Your Patrons Want to Know

NSPRA Presentation: “7 Things” to guide school districts toward ballot success

Dr. Marsha Chappelow, superintendent of the Ladue (Mo.) School District, and Ken DeSieghardt of Patron Insight, presented “The 7 Things Your Patrons Want You To Know Before Your Next Bond or Levy Election” at the National School Public Relations Association Conference in Charlotte, NC last week. If you didn’t have the chance to attend, here’s a synopsis that you can put to use on your next ballot initiative:

School districts find ballot issues challenging, because they only hear reactions to the proposal from those who make it a point to let their voices be heard – positive or negative – on any school-related issue.

The result? School districts are left trying to come up with a campaign that will sway that silent “super majority” without really knowing whether it is making an impression. Here’s what patrons have told us (through research) they wish their school districts know about them before they put forth ballot issues:

1.Even though you never hear from me, I have an opinion. To find out what the silent majority is thinking, conduct regular research. Report the results and what you plan to do with the findings, then report when you have done so. They’ll notice.

2.Without trust, visionary plans will go nowhere. Test patron opinion on trust issues (use of tax money, keeping patrons informed, involving patrons in decision-making) and focus your efforts on areas where patrons feel the district falls short.

3.If I want details, I’ll ask for them. Put all the specifics on your Web site, but focus your primary ballot presentation on the key components, the cost to the average homeowner, and what passage would mean to the students and the district.

4.“Increasing property value” may not be the benefit you think it is. In older communities, patrons see this phrase as code for “tax increase.” In such communities, focus on how the proposal will “reinvest in the schools.”

5.My primary source of news isn’t your district newsletter (or other official sources). Patrons get their news from friends, the newspaper and from teachers. Keep teachers informed, and ask them to tell you what they are hearing so that you can respond.

6.Tell me (frequently) that you’ve heard me. Use research to promote your interest in patron opinion. Repeat the phrase “We asked our patrons what they thought, and they told us…” liberally.

7.What part of “no” don’t you understand? Step back after a ballot defeat, and say “We need to better understand what our patrons want us to do next.” If you must repeat the proposal, find out (through research) what benefits patrons missed the first time around.
A copy of the PowerPoint from the presentation is available. Send your request to [email protected]