How to pass the CH-UH facilities bond issue

To the Editor:

“What will change?” This is the question the education leaders of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District have to clearly and concisely answer if the facilities bond issue has any possibility of approval by the voters. The need to rehabilitate, refurbish and restructure the district’s buildings and infrastructure is apparent. This effort should have been initiated years ago. The leadership of the district has failed to connect the fulfillment of the facilities plan with a clearly articulated and creditable plan to improve the education program of the district. I believe that this failure puts the passage of the bond issue out of reach.

The challenge for the bond issue campaign is that the determining segment of the eligible voters is made up of those who are either opposed or ambivalent. The opposed are locked in place and most likely will not or cannot be moved to change. To be successful, it is necessary to move the currently ambivalent voters into the supporter category and get them to vote. The bond issue passage hinges on these potential supporters and voters.

It is imperative to make a compelling case for why passage of this bond issue is necessary. The campaign has to change the perception that this is just a tax and the only result will be an increase in my taxes. This perception has to be converted into recognition that this is an investment in the district’s capital assets with positive benefits and returns for all stakeholders. I want to feel good about my vote and hold the belief that my vote will engender a good result.

Successful campaigns find support by combining visceral elements and imagery with the intrinsic needs and beliefs of the voter. The 2008 Obama Hope poster is an excellent example of how this connection is made. It is my desire to have good, safe and efficient school buildings. I also hope that each student has the opportunity to receive a good education and do well in Heights schools, and ultimately become a productive citizen.

This campaign must connect the need for decent buildings and classroom environments with the concurrent need for innovative education programming throughout the district, and show that, when combined, improved student performance will result.

I have met with Superintendent McDaniel and the chairs of the bond issue campaign. I have yet to be moved. Reading the recommendation report from the facilities committee and the bond issue campaign literature does not offer much reassurance that the question “what will change” is being addressed, let alone answered.

The Final Report & Recommendations June 2013 from the Lay Facilities Committee (LFC) made eight recommendations. None of these directly and explicitly addresses the connection between buildings and education inside the buildings and improved district education performance. A Google search on “innovation in education” yields 649 million search results. The term “innovation” is not used one time in the LFC report, nor does it appear in the presentation the chairs of the bond issue campaign gave to the board of FutureHeights.

Unless the district connects the proposed investment in its buildings with an innovative education plan that will substantially and demonstrably change the trajectory of the district’s results, this needed and necessary bond issue will not succeed and nothing will change.

Michael Knoblauch

Michael Knoblauch
Cleveland Heights
[Knoblauch, a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors, speaks for himself in this letter; not on behalf of any organization.]

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 11:13 AM, 09.24.2013