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Wisconsin School Referenda Success


Dear Clients and Friends,

Last week I, like so many others, anxiously awaited election results for the many school referendums around the State. I was interested to see how the voters in Wisconsin would respond to their school districts’ requests.  I was encouraged to see taxpayers supporting their schools, voting yes at a time when so many schools are in need.  In a way, this spring’s referenda success is breathing new life into many school districts around the state and bringing hope to many others. Even with a majority of this spring’s referenda passing, there are still those of you that worked so hard on your referenda but did not get the support you need, and furthermore, there are those of you that are just beginning to embark on the referendum journey.  I hope you, too, are encouraged and I offer this bit of experience.

This past year Somerville teamed with Parkview School District, a district that had struggled with referenda, experiencing defeat in the last four out of five referenda since 1999.  Somerville and Parkview worked together to create a common-sense and smart plan that gained community support. The most important item to remember is that referendum planning takes time. Don’t be rushed. Be thoughtful and thorough in your planning.  Get to know your district and seek to understand their concerns and desires.  Often districts think they already know what their community needs and wants or even fears, but giving the community a voice should be at the forefront of your referendum process.  The community wants to know that they have been heard and that you listened.

Once the community has spoken and you’ve summarized the overarching themes, then you begin incorporating them into a response strategy that everyone can support.  With Parkview, we took a good, hard look at all their facilities and discussed all the options.  We had to talk about things that no one wants to talk about…closing schools, razing buildings, and even what happens if we don’t do anything.  Our team understands that when you start referendum planning, you can’t have preconceived notions of the right solution.  We understand every school district and community is unique and it takes unique thinking.  At Parkview, the right solution for the district and supported by the community includes closing a school, converting an existing high school into an elementary school and creating a new high school from an existing elementary school. What is unique about your district that we can apply our creativity to?

Our team has the experience and knowledge to help you find the right solution for your district and your community.  Email or call me today if you’d like to discuss your upcoming referendum or your next project.  I look forward to speaking with you.


Melanie Parma, LEED® Green Associate
Associate / Education Market Leader