Donations supporting ,campaign ‘For’ a new high school
Volunteers involved in a campaign supporting a property tax to build a new high school and two Woodford County Public Schools administrators, Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith and Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm, talked about how dollars are being raised and spent on the “For” campaign last Friday afternoon.
The Woodford County Board of Education allocated $5,000 for its campaign supporting a facilities tax to cover the costs of building a new high school and renovating the current high school – if residents vote “For” the proposed 5.5 cent property tax hike during a special election on Tuesday, June 26.
With $4,692 of the board’s allocation spent on 750 yard signs and Woodford Sun advertisements, its balance was $308 as of last Friday, according to Smith. She said $3,492 was spent on signs (250 were purchased after an initial order of 500 signs had been placed in yards).
When asked why the board voted to spend public education dollars on the “For” campaign, Brehm said a series of public forums made it pretty clear to board members that residents of the community want a new high school. He acknowledged there were some who did question the need for a facilities tax, but most voiced support for a new high school.
“So when they voted 5-0 to move forward with a new high school (and enact a 5.5 cent tax on real and personal property), they were doing so because they felt very strongly that that’s what this community wanted, that’s what this community needed and that’s what they supported,” said Brehm.
He pointed out that 10,000 brochures (explaining why a tax was needed to build a high school) were purchased with dollars from the district’s communications budget – about $1,100 out of the general fund – prior to the board’s vote to enact a facilities tax on Jan. 18.
“Now the community exercised the right to recall that (action with 1,454 signatures on a petition opposing the tax) and put it on the ballot,” said Brehm. He said board members wanted to support a campaign explaining to Woodford Countians why they voted to enact a property tax increase to pay for a new high school.
“Because of the overwhelming support that we have received from our community (in terms of donations to the ‘For’ campaign),” Smith said she does not anticipate the Board of Education allocating any more dollars to the campaign.
A special revenue fund has been established to track donations to “Friends for a New High School,” which reached $5,800 as of last Friday, with $1,499 still available for the campaign, according to Smith. She said donations started coming in March 8, with the volume increasing after a May 20 campaign kickoff rally.
“When we identify a need,” said Dani Bradley, an active member of a community group supporting a tax increase for a new high school, “then we reach out to the donor list, and to our volunteer list – and have just had overwhelming feedback of people wanting to help.”
One family, with three children, donated $1,000 for a billboard (cost $950), according to Bradley. And she pointed out that the “I Support Our Schools” Facebook page has 921 followers.
“We have 142 active volunteers,” said parent Amy Marshall.
“Speaking for ‘I Support Our Schools,’” she added, “we passionately fall on the side of ‘For,’ and we’re going to do everything we can – within our little humble abilities – to help.” She said, “I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of supporters who have reached out to us to help.”
“I Support Our Schools” volunteer Tiffany Morgan said more than one person a week will ask how they can donate or how they can help so future generations of students are not taking classes in a high school, which opened its doors in 1964.
Alli Johnson, who recently completed her junior year at Woodford County High School, said “a supreme lack of collaborative space where we can meet with multiple teachers in a specific subject area” makes it difficult for them to work together.
Also, she said “very crowded” halls during class changes make for an unpleasant situation. “And quite honestly,” she added, “moving from the middle school to the high school feels like a huge downgrade…”
Because the current high school would be repurposed for other uses, Smith said its aging HVAC system will eventually need to be replaced – even if a new high school has not been constructed in three years (as “For” supporters hope) and voters do not support a 5.5 cent tax per $100 of assessed value on real and personal property during the June 26 special election.
If a new high school is built, a repurposed Woodford County High School would provide needed space for career and technical education opportunities to prepare students for manufacturing jobs, said Brehm. He said classroom and student needs are different from the 1960s when WCHS opened its doors.
“I Support Our Schools” volunteer Amanda Glass said school safety was a primary reason why she has gotten behind this effort supporting a 5.5 cent facilities tax. “I feel like it’s our responsibility to give our children the safest school that they can go to,” she explained.