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Administrators Credit Social Media For School Levy Success

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Doug Nadvornick/SPR
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School administrators in Spokane County can begin moving ahead with their planning now that the initial wave of ballots has been counted in yesterday’s special election. More votes are still to be counted during the next week or so, but all of the issues for the 12 school districts appear to be winning by comfortable margins.

Some administrators are crediting social media for helping with their successful campaigns.
       
The citizens committee for the Central Valley School District did some campaigning for the district’s levy and bond issue in the traditional way. This ad appeared on at least one local TV station.

“In Central Valley, we have a history of completing our school bond construction work ahead of schedule and under budget. Now it’s time for the next phase," says a young woman's voice.

The ad also appeared on the CV Citizens for Education Facebook page.

School districts are limited by law to giving out information about a particular ballot measure. They can’t use taxpayer money to advocate. But groups run by parents, businesses and other boosters have more latitude. They can create traditional media campaigns or interesting websites and make use of social media to raise awareness.

“I think it has changed elections and it has become a bigger part of a campaign, especially on the citizens’ campaign side of it,” said Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small.

On the other side of town, Mead Superintendent Tom Rockefeller agrees.

He saw the changing face of school campaigns firsthand a few weeks ago. One night the district held a levy open house in one of its elementary schools. Only one person showed up. Rockefeller attributed that not to a lack of interest among voters, but to the fact that people could already get the information they needed at the district’s website and didn’t want to go out on a cold weeknight.

“I believe that it’s going to make a campaign easier in the future because people are becoming more and more accustomed to getting online and getting actual information instead of waiting for it to come to them in print form,” Rockefeller said.

In the Spokane School District, Superintendent Shelley Redinger attributes much of her district’s levy passage to social media. But it’s a supplement, not a replacement of the traditional campaigns.

“What we’ve found is we still need to do the other methods of communicating as well because there are still families, 60% of our voting population doesn’t have children in the schools, so we have to use other methods. They still really like those face-to-face interactions and meetings and those are really important," Redinger said. "And then many of our families still like the mailings, the hard copy, the newsletters that highlight all of the different things that are going on.”

The common denominator here is that districts understand communication, at as many levels as possible, is the way to keep voters engaged and supportive.

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