The following is a story by the Foothills Sentry newspaper, a Voice of OC media partner covering Orange, Villa Park, Orange Park Acres, Anaheim Hills, North Tustin, Silverado Canyon, and Modjeska Canyon.

This story was published in the Sentry’s January 2016 edition.

Consultants hired to assess the viability of a school bond measure for 2016, and provide marketing ideas to help get it passed, presented their preliminary recommendations to the OUSD board at its Nov. 5 meeting.

CliffordMoss spent the last several months on a “listening tour,” talking to district teachers, parents, school supporters, and community leaders. They collected opinions on the current state of high school facilities, technology and safety needs, impressions of the 2014 bond measure, and the feasibility of a similar ballot measure next year.

Consultants Bonnie Moss and Lynn Davis reported that the community widely recognizes the needs of district high schools, and understands why they were targeted for bond proceeds over middle and elementary facilities. Stakeholders attributed the 2014 Measure K loss to lack of information, distrust of the board, public apathy and Villa Park’s rejection of the bond.

In the event the board opts to float a bond next year, Moss and Davis recommended that the district tell the story more effectively, with a simple, factual, unified message. The message should clarify how bond funding works, and specifically, how the money would be spent. They suggested the district expand and accelerate its outreach information, engage stakeholders in two-way conversations, and commit to being data driven. That is, let the data on bond financials, voter opinion, and separate facility improvement districts “tell you where to go.”

And finally, the board must be strategic, work together, look for common ground and earn community trust. CliffordMoss is currently polling district voters to determine support levels for separate facility improvement districts, that is, dividing up precincts surrounding the four high schools. If voters in a given high school area pass the bond, that school benefits; if they don’t, it doesn’t. Moss told the board she would report on that polling in January.

Despite the consultants’ optimism, 2016 may not be the best year for OUSD to attempt another ballot measure. It is likely that a statewide school bond measure will be on the November ballot. However, local voters remain dissatisfied with the current OUSD board majority; three seats will be open for the fall vote, and the electorate will likely be focused on finding and supporting alternative candidates.

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