ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.
The Wayland Union school district’s bond proposal narrowly was approved Tuesday, a proposal that was scaled down from the ambitious over-reaching two plans that were rejected last May, both by two-to-one margins.
Though the improvement in public attitude at the polls was laudable, more than just a few observers indicated they were surprised by how close the vote was. Many said they believed the proposal would be a landslide victory because it dramatically scaled back the cost. Furthermore, voters were told approval would not raise the millage rate, but would only lengthen the duration of the bond.
Paring down the requests made a huge impact, asking only for what really is necessary — the sixth grade addition at the middle school, renovations and repairs at Pine Street Elementary and replacing 14 dysfunctional tennis courts with 12 new ones and opening up space for more parking. This, instead of the suggested horror of abandoning the oldest, but most beloved and still usable building, Pine Street.
My take on why the victory was not a cakewalk is prompted by analysis of voting in the different components of the school district. The City of Wayland carried the day by approving the proposal nearly two to one, 400 to 223. However, the story was different in outlying areas.
The bond was approved by very small margins in Wayland Township and Leighton Township. And it was defeated in Dorr Township, in the small turnout in Hopkins Township and in Yankee Springs and Orangeville Townships.
By the way, please note that Townbroadcast’s final vote tally report was more accurate than all other news outlets, which reported only precincts in Allegan County, overlooking returns from Yankee Springs and Orangeville Townships. The final vote was 1,387 voters in support and 1,250 opposed.
So the more rural areas surrounding the district didn’t buy into the notion this was a good idea. It is more likely that continued anti-tax fever ruled the day in the townships, particularly in Dorr, where a three-mill tax levy for roads had just passed only 15 months previous.
But I submit another factor in favor of the positive vote was a last-minute flurry of positive news generated by females.
It would be difficult to argue against the observation that public school districts are very sensitive to public relations and the public’s perceptions. And people often are heavily influenced by news of sporting events.
In the few weeks leading up to the election, three girls’ athletic teams provided a public relations boost. The girls’ golf team captured third place in the Division 2 regional meet, thereby qualifying for a berth in the state tournament, where the Lady Wildcats finished 18th.
Then on Saturday, Nov. 4, the girls’ cross-country team qualified for only their third trip to the state championship meet at Michigan International Speedway and claimed 20th place, despite finishing only fourth in the astonishingly tough O-K Gold Conference.
Dessert was served with the volleyball team capturing the district championship.
Don’t underestimate the news that Pat Velie, finance director, was lauded for the quality of presenting district audit information, earning the highest possible honor.
Some might dismiss these late-coming events, but consider that the voting public, only 20 percent of the numbers eligible, was feeling pretty good about the local school system when they went to the polls Nov. 7. As suggested earlier, good public relations can go a long way in helping to pass a bond.
If you are a huge supporter of the local school system and are grateful in the wake of the election votes, you might want to thank these many women for stepping up late in the game to contribute to the cause.