From time to time, we work with school districts and independent schools that must raise significant revenues for major capital projects with safety implications. Often, improvements in safety, security, climate, culture, and emergency preparedness are key issues and occasionally, primary issues for these projects. We recently worked with a school district that wanted us to review their plans to upgrade every school in their district from a school safety, security, and emergency preparedness standpoint. They also wanted our assistance in communicating the rationale behind the proposed upgrades.
I had worked with the district on multiple previous occasions and knew they had incorporated many of the upgrades after we had advised them of the opportunities for improvement. Just as importantly, I knew that local law enforcement, fire service, and emergency management officials had been intensively involved with shaping the approaches being used to plan the renovations. We planned an intensive 14-hour day which included meetings to review the proposed renovations and upgrades, no-cost and low-cost improvements that have and could be made to complement improvements that are proposed in the bond referendum, and videotaped interviews between me and a variety of district and public safety officials to explain specific critical concepts to the public.
We had a truly productive day and I was extremely impressed with the work of the superintendent, public information officer, facilities and business personnel, and public safety personnel. The district will be producing a series of online video spots and working in a variety of other ways to clearly and openly communicate why the project is so critical and why so much of the overall project is focused on improving school safety, security, climate, culture, and emergency preparedness.
Having been involved with many efforts to try to acquire funding to address school safety issues, I have always felt that even in tough economic times, the average citizen is more likely to vote yes when a clear, honest and demonstrably well-thought out approach has been effectively communicated to them. In my experience, most people do care about school safety and are more likely to put their “money where their mouth is” if we take the time to properly educate them and to prove that money is being spent logically and effectively. Though challenging to achieve, the opportunities to improve funding are often there if we evaluate, document, and communicate the need to prevent tragedies in our schools.
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