How one small school got a big bond vote
July 25, 2022
Anderson Valley Unified School District, a K-12 school system with 440 students and 1,650 registered voters, passed a $13 million general obligation bond measure with 72 percent approval on the June 7 ballot.
Superintendent Louise Simson, who arrived just 10 months ago and followed the board directive to place a bond on the ballot, related the key was creating understanding of how very impacted the 70-year-old, two-site system was for the students currently attending the deteriorating school environment.
“We told the story. This community was incredibly receptive and embraced the message that ‘OK was not OK,’” Simson said. “As I related during the campaign, my grandmother lived to be 102. She was in great shape for 102, but she was flat out, worn out. That’s where we were with the school system. Because of the unbelievable capacity for our retirees and community members that didn’t have students currently in the system, but were able to recognize that students deserve better, we were able to pass this ballot with unbelievable support of almost 72 percent.”
Integral to the campaign, which was conducted for less than $2,000, was ongoing information about the school sites and their needs. There are classrooms with no running water, issues with septic overflow and a well malfunction that caused the school to close for the day.
While the district has made some improvements with a previous bond measure back in 2012, the assessed valuation has not kept current with the ongoing needs and the remaining bond issuances could not occur.
“One of my frustrations as a superintendent is that the state would appropriately come right alongside me if I had a catastrophic fire and had to replace my school facilities. Why do school facilities that are more than 70 years old not receive the same consideration?” Simson said. “Modernization and hardship funds are not enough. I should not have a school system where children have to walk through septic effluent on the playground. I am working all the angles with the Office of Public School Construction and modernization funding, but it is simply not enough. At some point the state is going to have to realize that small rural school districts are not the same as an LA or SF Unified and we need to have support for our decades-old infrastructure in order to continue to serve our rural student populations, who are often poor and challenged.”
“Just tell the story.”
— Louise Simson, Superintendent/Principal, Anderson Valley USD
Most important in creating the bond measure was identifying well-known leadership with local community members stepping up for the bond committee. There was outreach with the local newspaper, phone banking on the voter roll with reminder calls prior to election for those voters identified as “yes” votes, Facebook posts, personal letter writing, and tours of the school facilities.
“Factual information is power,” Simson said. “Just tell the story. Don’t try to spin it, just tell the truth and people who value education will step up and work next to you to ensure that the next generation of students have the education they deserve. We are grateful to the Anderson Valley community that they recognize that.”
Simson continued, “My hope is that the state will recognize that rural school systems need unique support. Students shouldn’t have their learning environment defined by their ZIP code.”
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