The Citizens for Great Schools campaign committee, which is promoting passage of the Washington School District’s Prop I ballot initiative, held another meeting Thursday night, 26, in the lower level of the Bank of Washington. The campaign chairs are local businessmen Brad Mitchell and John Freitag. Here, committee members discuss strategy on how to best communicate and educate patrons on the $65 million bond issue and 46-cent property tax increase that will be on the April ballot. Standing left is Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer and at right is Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brendan Mahon.

Washington School District officials and members of a committee promoting passage of the district's bond issue will be busy this week talking about the ballot initiative.

The $65 million bond issue with a 46-cent property tax increase will be decided by voters in the April 3, 2012, election.

If approved, the district will build new facilities, make renovations and improve technology districtwide.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said Prop I - Invest in Kids, Build Their Future, which the bond issue has been named, will be a topic at several events, including an orientation/curriculum program Tuesday night for families of parochial students who plan to attend Washington High School in the fall.

"We'll be there to give out materials and answer questions," VanLeer said.

On Wednesday, members of the Citizens for Great Schools Committee will give a presentation on the bond issue to the Washington Optimist Club and then on Thursday to the Washington Rotary Club.

The 14-minute campaign video will be shown at both of those meetings and committee representatives will field questions and provide additional information.

Already the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce and 353 Redevelopment Corporation have endorsed the ballot proposal.

VanLeer hopes many more endorsements will come after special presentations to various civic and community groups.

On Friday of this week, school officials and committee members will be on hand at the Marthasville Elementary chili supper.

"Any time we have these kinds of events we hope to have people available to provide information and answer questions," VanLeer said. "We will try to take advantage of any special events at all of the schools to help get the word out. This is all part of the awareness and education outreach - to make sure people know what we're doing, the issues and the solutions."

Public Response

The superintendent told The Missourian that she doesn't have a good pulse on what patrons think about the ballot proposal.

"I'm not hearing a lot; however the ones I am hearing from it's been positive," VanLeer said. "We still have many more contacts to make with our parents so they are informed on our plans."

Campaign co-chair Brad Mitchell said he has not heard much positive or negative either.

"I am not sure if that is good or bad," Mitchell said. "The biggest task for the committee remains voter registration and voter education."

The voter registration deadline is March 7.

"We have to convince the voter that our kids deserve and need what Prop I is going to provide," Mitchell added. "Prop I is an investment in our children, it is an investment in education and the Washington School District, and it is an investment in our community."

Mitchell said this investment will not be measured by the Dow, but rather by test scores, graduation rates, attendance in college, community growth and seeing the children of today becoming the future leaders of Washington and beyond.

Public Forums

In March, at least one and possibly two public forums are being planned. These events will be open to the general public.

"Again, we'll share the video, go over the question-and-answer segment we've developed and maybe do some roundtable discussions," VanLeer said. "And depending on what the attendance is at the first forum, we'll hold another if necessary."

VanLeer said the first forum is tentatively set for Monday, March 12, but the date has not been confirmed.

"When we get the date set we will spread the word. We want people to come and hear what our plans are and ask questions," she added.

The Plan

If approved, the district will build a new middle school, serving sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and a new elementary school, for kindergarten through fifth grade, on property it owns off Highway 100, near St. John's Road.

The district also plans to construct a new early childhood center which would house Parents as Teachers, all in-town preschools and early childhood special education on the Washington West Elementary campus. Improvement to the Washington West parking lot also is part of the plan.

Additionally, the district will renovate its existing Technology and Learning Center off Highway 47 for an alternative education center.

Other improvements are planned districtwide, including upgrading technology and adding computer labs.

The district plans to phase-in the 46-cent property tax increase over three years - 2013, 2014 and 2015, so patrons will not feel the full impact immediately.

A comprehensive website on the ballot initiative can be accessed at Information also is featured on the school district's newly redesigned website.