Sunday, April 25, 2004

Rainy Day Thought: How to Win Voters

On a rainy Sunday, I can usually be found at my dining room table with the stack of newspapers and magazines that have been waiting for my attention.
My Doberman, Max, loves these mornings. Today he lies with his long legs sprawled out on the couch. His eyes closed, snoring, and drooling on the leather cushion. As I stand up and make my way into the kitchen with my coffee cup, he raises his head and smiles in that wide open-mouthed panting way that dogs do. There will be no walk today.
I think I must have the only dog in the history of dogdom that HATES going for walks. He hides from me when I get his leash. Max is a bonafide couch potato.

When I return to my reading, Max joins me, resting his chin on the table. I brought no goodies to share from the kitchen, so he stares at me, with an unwavering intensity, as if he were trying to send me a telepathic message..."Get a cookie".

"Sorry buddy, I'm trying to lose this winter fat. No cookies. Here, I'll read to you."

Chris Sheridan's editorial catches my eye. 'Misbehavior Now will Doom Levy Later'. In it, she discusses the importance of the public's perception of the Cleveland schools in regards to the passage of a levy his fall. She stresses the importance of good press and responsible behavior on the part of the administration and the teachers union. Those are indeed very good points to consider as these groups try to convince the reading public that the Cleveland school district is working hard to improve it's track record.

What a lot of people seem to forget is that not every voter forms an opinion about the Cleveland schools from what is reported in the media. Many Clevelander's opinions are developed by what they observe in the community. If the average Clevelander's main perceptions are formed when they ride the RTA with the school kids, or by watching students swarm onto a sidewalk at the end of a school day, they may not be inclined to spend any more of their hard earned dollars on rowdy kids who are not their own.

If the schools want to get community support, then they need to reach out to the community.

In the past there has been a push to get volunteers from the neighborhoods to come into the schools and help with the kids. Those generous people, were few and far between.

If each school were to find out from their neighbors how they could become a more positive participant in the community, it might go a long way in garnering the support needed. If every school sent delegates to the neighborhood block clubs and business associations, and became proactive in opening communications, rather than waiting for volunteers to come to the school, it would be so much easier for the voting public to get to know all the good things that are going on in the individual buildings.

In my personal experience at Max Hayes, each time I contacted a business or organization in the neighborhood to solicit help with a project, I received enthusiastic responses and new ideas for future collaborations. Several organizations even told me that they had considered working with the schools before, but never pursued the idea since they lacked a contact

A number of the high schools are now requiring seniors to complete service hours as a graduation requirement. If asked, the community might offer opportunities for service. Some of my students even got jobs as a result of our community collaboration. These are all good things...and good things result in better schools and 'yes' votes.

Hmmm...perhaps it's time to shoot this idea along to the Powers-That-Be. It's not often that they take suggestions from the treches, but times are desparate. One never knows.

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