Keep the conversation alive this summer and get ready for Fall

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As we are beginning to dive into Summer we want thank people for their commitment and support, and we are sharing the following info to kick off our efforts for November. It is apparent on social media that many are concerned about “what happens next,” and that concern has generated more positive energy around this effort than any previous levy I’ve been associated with, we want to ensure we capture and maintain that interest through the Summer.

We will pass this levy in November, but only if we work together to continue our effort to change attitudes and teach others the facts. While we lost by 70 votes, we had a massive swing in support of nearly 572 votes with roughly the same voter turnout. We made a strong positive impact and need to continue those efforts for November’s election.

People want to know how they can help and there has been no shortage of ideas of what we should be doing. Many of those ideas will require resources this Fall, but here are some summer thoughts you can take with you and put to use this Summer.

In short, we need to keep the conversation alive. We also need people to understand the critical urgency our district is facing. When you’re at youth sporting events, golfing with friends, picnics, fire pit gatherings, it’s important to talk about Woodridge. Remind people, about the great things that happen in this district. Without being overbearing, reiterate how much you value the relationships your kids have with others in the district. Recall how incredible our various programs involving academics, arts, athletics, music, and community involvement are.

We’re all pretty busy and consumed with our own family activities and I suspect most people don’t know or forget just how successful Woodridge is, so here’s a little run down you’re welcome to share. These are just a taste of what is at risk if we do not rally together.

Athletics

  • Girls Golf- Sectional tournament runner-up, First time qualifying for the OHSAA District tournament as a team.  They also set a school record for lowest team score.
  • Cross Country-  Boys and Girls League Champions.  Both teams qualified to the OHSAA State meet for the 14th consecutive year, breaking their own State Record.
  • Football- Won the PTC Metro Division for the 3rd consecutive season and qualified for the OHSAA Playoffs for the 5th consecutive season.
  • Girls Soccer- Sectional Champions and best school record for most wins (13) in team history, and personal bias here… they’re looking awesome for next year.
  • Boys Soccer- 4th consecutive Metro Division title.
  • Boys Basketball- 2nd consecutive league championship and 2017 sectional champions.  Senior Mason Lydic set the school record for points in a career.
  • Wrestling- League Champions for the 3rd consecutive season.  David Massey Individual State Champion, first in school history as division II.
  • Boys Bowling- Undefeated regular season at 18-0 and District qualifiers.
  • Boys and Girls Track and Field- 12th and 13th consecutive League Champions respectively, and we currently have numerous regional qualifiers competing tomorrow night.
  • Baseball- League Champions and District runner-up
  • Softball- District Champions playing in the regional tournament tonight. I suspect that’s why some aren’t here but I’m confident they’ll want to see this levy pass so they can continue their success next year and beyond.
  • Boys Tennis- 2nd Consecutive league title, first ever District qualifiers (Devin O’Laughlin and Tanner Laughorn) and 1st ever Player of the Year (Devin O’Laughlin).
  • We had 10 PTC Athletes of the year and 11 PTC Coaches of the Year as well as many district and all Ohio awards.
  • And Woodridge will win its 2nd straight PTC Metro All Sports Trophy as we’ve taken home 10 league championships out of the 18 possible.

Arts – While there isn’t as much competition, there is plenty to celebrate.

  • How many have attended any of the various performances this year, incredibly talented kids.Showtime earlier this month? School of Rock? In some respects Mr. Schneebly, represents the awesomeness of every teacher.
  • Women’s Ensemble and Rhapsody both competed at the State level. I can’t recall which but believe Women’s Ensemble received a superior rating.
  • The Annual Art show at the Peninsula Library is always amazing to see.
  • Destination Imagination continues to send teams to the regional, state, and international competition every year with great guidance from our librarian, Chrissy Sterling. As a coach I can tell you this is no small feat.

Academics – as school is finishing up I don’t have enough current data but…

  • We awarded just over $43,000 in local scholarships last week and it is typical for our students to collectively receive millions in scholarships each year. For the Class of 2018, over $3,000,000 in scholarships.
  • 40% of our senior class is graduating with honors and 22% are in the National Honor Society. If you link these numbers with the arts and athletics accomplishments, these are some incredibly active students.
  • Jon Touma wins top 10 International DECA Finalist for Franchise Business Plan as part of our 6th District Compact program with Kent Roosevelt
  • Woodridge FCCLA had another year of success at State competition.

Community

  • Many of our teams and groups dedicate numerous hours, and this year alone some of our seniors racked up 200 to nearly 300 hours of community volunteer time under the leadership of Leah Norris and our FCCLA program. The desire to give continues to grow.
  • I just heard this morning some of our athletic programs are already giving back to the community on their first day of optional conditioning.

This is extraordinary and something I feel our community doesn’t fully appreciate, yet it’s one of the many reasons we love this district. Society seems to cast negativity at young adults, yet Woodridge continues to help produce caring, giving, intelligent, creative, successful young people. These are the things our community ought to be asking “how can we help get more of this?” as opposed to “taxes are too high.” There is a cost to building great societies and Woodridge is producing a great product.

When I think about all of the success I also think about the amount of diversity in our district and yet how chill it is. Often as we look at the greater world around us we see conflict when we see various cultures and people mixing, but here, we see kids being kids, bonding with one another while achieving all of those amazing accomplishments noted above. When’s the last time you heard of any sort of major fight or absurd drama within our schools – as in with the kids, not us parents? The only recollection that really stands out to me this year was a war over parking spaces between the senior class and underclassmen, it actually seemed pretty comical. The tweets were… as the kids say, lit.

There are amazing families in this community raising amazing kids who are in turn amazing to each other. Perfect? No, but always striving to get it right and do great things. It’s why you’ll often hear people talk about how much they love Woodridge.

But here’s the concern I have, and it’s the heart of what needs to be understood within our community. It’s two words: Apathy and Opportunity.

Apathy is what got me started in all of this. I felt the reason why we struggled to pass levies back in 2011 and 2012 was because our community was rather apathetic to the efforts. We loved Woodridge, we loved the opportunities it afforded our kids, but we were pretty bogged down with day-to-day life, work, and parenting, that few of us actively expressed that love with any effort. We assumed the problems would just be solved by someone else. The fact is, we only win these levies when our parents rally and drive the support that’s needed. It’s typically why it takes 3 tries to get a levy passed. It takes that long to stir enough concern of what’s at stake to move us out of our apathetic state just to go fill in a little black circle, and of course absorb the added cost. I hope we’ve reached that critical point by this November. I hope even more that there is an increased awareness of this apathy and it motivates more of us to change.

The data isn’t posted yet but I do plan to gather a list of people that didn’t vote. The aim is not to shame anyone but rather to understand and reach out personally, or find someone that personally knows them. Every election I hear stories of “such and such forgot to vote.” I also hear people state how they feel their vote doesn’t matter. I want to find 71 voters that skipped the election this past May to show them just how much their vote matters in November. This includes our recent graduates, especially those with siblings still here. There are likely 600 recent graduates that might still be registered to vote here, if you know them, you can help with the absentee ballot process.

Opportunity. I already summarized the amazing things that happen in our district, and in most cases these are year over year events and not one-offs. These opportunities exist because of the amazing organizations, coaches, and staff,  that offer up incredible support with somewhat minimal resources. Without them, OUR students, and OUR school district would not be what it is today. These organizations need your help and / or your financial support to continue offering the desired opportunities. How involved are you?

It is the opportunities afforded to our students by Woodridge that draws us to this community. It’s why my family is here and the people we call friends are here. When looking to buy the home we’d raise our family in we were told… “go look at Woodridge.” While there are ample private schools around us, and I have theories as to why people choose them, I’m confident they’re missing an incredible opportunity for their kids – and the least of which is a significant financial savings.

Equally, and in case you weren’t aware, 41% of our district receives some sort of food assistance.  For those students, Woodridge is a significant opportunity and they are a vital part of our community. Woodridge is real world. Our graduation rates speak volumes. In fact it’s the core reason I am so committed to this effort. I believe public education is the key to a greater society. When we support our local schools we support these efforts for the greater good.

So now that we have a fresh new understanding of why we think of “love” when we think of Woodridge, let’s talk about this levy. It is true we want to head into the Summer months with some talking points, and this Fall we plan to go big. While you’re keeping the conversation alive this Summer, here are some very strategic points we need to focus on:

Private school advocates – Many of our private school parents are on our side, but there are some that are not. We need to connect with those advocates, if you are friends with private school families that see value in Woodridge, we would like to connect with them and expand that group. We need their voice.

Our wealthiest neighborhoods – there is no denying the fact that based on precinct results, we have the least amount support from them. We need to find allies in those neighborhoods and then we need to find a way to engage the residents and increase support for our efforts.

We need to connect with any established groups, book clubs, adult leagues card clubs, senior citizen gatherings – if you or your local family members know of these groups or have connections with them, we would like to share the Woodridge story with them to encourage their support.

Business owners – We need your vocal support. Host our signs, write a letter, tell the public that local education matters to you. Any business that wants great people joining their team… well, Woodridge kids understand what it means to be a successful teammate and their ongoing growth needs your support. Plus you’re going to eventually need them as future employees. Help advocate for them now.

Homeowners – Evidence shows time and again that property values suffer, sometimes as much as 19%, when schools are not supported by their community. This makes a large portion of our voters stakeholders in this effort. They may feel they are insulated but the reality is, when homes fail to sell, values drop, ALL property in the community suffers. Those concerned about an increase in their taxes ought to run the numbers on what a 19% drop in value would cost. Ask them this question.

Ultimately, a community responds not just to a few voices, certainly not mine, but many voices sharing a common message. Mindsets shift when many are speaking about the value of Woodridge, that’s what we need to achieve this summer, through Fall and right up to election day. We can’t do it alone. The sooner more of us understand the urgency we face the sooner we can ensure our district gets the support it needs.

We also need to be more proactive at shutting down the negative attacks against our district. I am often dumbfounded by the falsehoods shared around our community. Equally concerning, however, are the number of people who love this district, want to see the levy pass, but fail to recognize many of their own incredibly public questions or statements, again many of which are factless, actually cause great harm to our efforts. When we claim to play devil’s advocate under the guise of ensuring our district is being run properly, we immediately give any independent voter reason to doubt their need to support Woodridge, while simultaneously emboldening any hardcore no voter. We have to stop self sabotaging our own efforts.

This is not to say our district is perfect and we all ought to wear the rosy red glasses. What I am saying is that issues you have with the district ought to be taken up with the right channels, it is the only way problems actually get resolved. If you see people venting publicly and you know there is more to the story than they recognize, politely point this out to those individuals and suggest they seek their answers directly with school board, administration, or they can talk to me as a last resort.

And this of course brings me to Social media. As much as people want to blame social media for being a key source of the problems we face today, I honestly believe it’s the actual users. Social media is simply a tool, the manner in which we use it, the manner in which we teach our kids how to use it, that’s really on us as to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In terms of helping our levy efforts, we need to be using social media to promote a positive image of the district. If you’re not following and sharing (sharing is better than a like), the stories posted by our different school related social media accounts, that’s just free marketing material we’re not utilizing. The levy committee is on Facebook and Twitter as WoodridgeSOS along with nearly every sports team, our arts programs, the individual buildings, libraries, etc. They tell the story of the wonderful daily achievements of our students. Spread that positive word.

Equally important with social media is limiting our criticisms. Again, we have that right, but we ought to think more before we tweet and ensure we have our facts straight. When people question the management of our district I find the real source of angst is a personal issue against the individual, not a true reflection of successful management. They will criticize the financial management and our need for more money while ignoring the fact that we stretched 5 years worth of funding to 8, and then in 2012 we stretched 5 years to 7. During this time the district faced the reduction of the Tangible Personal Property Tax (25% of our budget) as well as a shift in funds from Woodridge to charter schools (hundreds of thousands of dollars). I do not know how anyone can factually state that Woodridge is mismanaged. Worth noting we’ve consistently received annual awards as part of our required State audits.

Our school board is often criticized. This too leaves a negative connotation and is also often driven by personal viewpoints. Anyone can have these views but they have to understand what happens when they take them public. Like the students in our district, our school board gets along, and has very little drama. These fine people sacrifice an amazing amount of time to ensure they govern our district while abiding by the State laws and creating every possible opportunity for the students they serve. They aren’t perfect, but they will listen and their goal is to serve. Do keep in mind their level of expertise and knowledge when addressing issues, they’ve read the laws, been to Columbus and if you can’t claim the same, treat them with the respect their experience deserves.

If you hear people complaining about the district, our administration, the school board, our teachers or staff, ask them to skip the social media post and public outcries and come to a school board meeting. Encourage them to have a personal conversation with these fine people. I have needed help from this district and I’ve found great support when I use a respectful give-give approach, and I am not alone in that regard.

Finally, as we approach the coming school year there will be plans in place to plug people in and make great things happen as we push to pass this levy. You can commit to being a part of those various events by contacting us here. We are open to other ideas as well but do know that some of those involved have been working on levies for decades and we’ve consulted various experts across the state. More ideas won’t help us if the resources to implement don’t also follow. If we can get the people, we will certainly organize voter registration events, phone banks, promotional videos/storytelling, and since people won’t come to our information meetings, we plan to take these meetings to every neighborhood. We’ll need your help.

As school approaches, keep an eye out for more details on our efforts – again, follow us on social media for updates. For now, let’s focus on celebrating the greatness of Woodridge, impressing upon our community that critical urgency we face in preserving that greatness, and let’s carry these efforts throughout summer with family, friends, and neighbors as we begin to shift attitudes and drum up the last bit of support we are going to need.

Thank you for reading this and have a great summer. Rest and relax because we have work to do this Fall and like our kids, we will be successful.

-Scott Karlo
Levy Chairperson