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  • Thank you for having Grassroots St Vrain here today. When Great Ed approached us about speaking at the conference, the question occurred to us – why us?Was it because in 2008, we were able to help pass the first ever MLO / Bond in our district? Was it because we have built a database of 1,300 emails of people who have been interested in our work at one time or another? Was it because we have a small group of dedicated parents engaging at the state level? – Jack Pommer exampleI would argue – no – these are things that have caused people to notice us, but they are not our successes, they are outcomes.Our success is that we are connecting the right people, talking about the right topics in a meaningful way.
  • My name is Laura McDonald and I am a parent of a 4th grader and a 6th grader in the St Vrain Valley School District. I became president of the parent group and my children’s school when my oldest was in second grade. That was the year our district was trying to decide if there was enough support in the community to go for an MLO. When the school board president at the time was speaking at one of our parent meetings, the question about funding for the district came up. We were told that the school board would have to see significant support from the community to place an MLO / Bond on the ballot. Her suggestion, start with a resolution. Being new to the process, we had to rely on our good friend Google to guide us through writing a resolution, but we did it and proceeded to our first every school board meeting to present it. That was the beginning of our journey.  I give you this background, because it is important to understand that none of us had ever been involved in education outside of our school before, none of us had been to a school board meeting, none of us had been involved in politics and we did not have the first idea about what we were getting ourselves in to. What we did have was a strong sense of what was right and wrong and a passion to do what was right for ALL kids, not just our own.
  • The fact that our school district was cutting 85 teaching positions in 2008 served as a crisis point in our community that opened people’s ears. Because of this, we were were able to create a level of interest and action within our community. Person to person conversations were happening and Grassroots St. Vrain was born. 
  • This is a model of how community organizing has worked for our organization. There is a lot more here than we can hope to talk about today and it has taken four years of building to get to this point, but the graphic should give you an idea for a roadmap in your district.When we were first challenged with the opportunity to show community support for a MLO / Bond in our school district, we started with a fact finding mission. We invited the school board president back to ask more questions, we attended several informational meetings held by the superintendent, we started talking to people from other schools. Within a few short months, we went from being the gatherers of information to being the disseminators of information.Since the time of the 2008 campaign, the fact finding process in our district has been formalized and that is what we would like to talk about today. All of the other pieces play a role in the success of our organization, but understanding the facts is a key starting point.
  •  It is challenging to get people to take that first step into the world of public engagement. Some reasons stated here…
  • It is common after a campaign for groups to disband – nothing holding them together – get back to daily life – priorities change – either think everything is fine because the money is there now or are struggling to make due without the money.We realized that everything we had done in the year of the MLO / Bond could be made inconsequential by decisions made outside of our control. That realization is what led us to understand that one successful campaign is not a finish line. We needed to expand our resources and influence by networking with organizations like the Great Futures Coalition and partnering with Great Education ColoradoWe needed to organize and formalize ourcoalition of support at a grassroots level by building infrastructure so it wasn’t just a campaign machine, but rather a tool for pubic engagement and did so by forming a 501(c)3.We needed to build a more informed base and expand our level of understanding and dialog between stakeholders and decision makers and did so by encouraging public engagement among our members.John Poynton is the Communications Director of the St Vrain Valley School District and he is here today to talk about what traditional decision making looks like from a district perspective and how that changes with a public participation model.  
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  • Stakeholders confident in their ability to talk about complicated issues because of the knowledge they have gainedLearning the power of “Know how, know who” by building relationships with other stakeholders and decision makersWillingness to participate at a higher level - LSV graduate and GSV Leader was recently appointed to the SVVSD School BoardGaining a voice in important discussions such as City Council Retreats and School District Task ForcesBuilding a level of credibility in the communityAble to take action when it is appropriate by using the network we have built
  • Better Conversations get Better DecisionsUnderstanding the facts will inspire people to be involvedMeaningful dialogue between stakeholders and decision makers will build strong schools and strong communities
  • I would challenge you as you go back to your districts to start the fact finding mission. You may be inspired to get a group like Leadership St Vrain going in your district, and we would be happy to talk to you about doing that if you want to contact us. If you are not ready to formalize in this way then start by holding house meetings and invite leaders from your district to speak such as a school board member or the superintendent.Anytime you have a gathering, collect names and email addresses. The “Year of the Student” petition is a great way to do this. Once people start to get the facts, they want to take some sort of action right away. Signing the petition can facilitate that engagement.Capture your volunteers in a contact management system. One option would be to work through an agreement with Great Education or you can look at your own system such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp.There are several of us here from Grassroots St Vrain and we are all graduates or current members of Leadership St Vrain. We would be happy to discuss any of the other pieces of the Community Organizing model documented here
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  • 1. 2012 Great Futures Coalition State Education Action Conference Community Organizing: Strategy to Rally Support forEducation in your Community Laura McDonald and John Poynton
  • 2. Why Grassroots St. Vrain?•Passed MLO / Bond•Built Network Database•Initiated Legislative Engagement Why are we really here?Successfully building the “know how andthe know who”
  • 3. Who is Grassroots St. Vrain?A group of community members committed to raising awareness about Education, encouraging St. Vrain communities to make informed decisionsand inspiring community members to create a cumulative impact on the future of our schools.
  • 4. When a Crisis Becomes PersonalIt often takes a crisis point to get people to open their ears and pay attention.In many Districts we have reached thatcrisis point. It is harder to get people to pay attention to state level issues.
  • 5. Community Organizing: From Crisis Point to Informed Coalition “KNOW HOW, KNOW WHO”  Leadership St Vrain Education TOOLS COMMUNITY Direct Personal Database Communication Connection  Informed Volunteers Email CRISIS  Students TO Events  Businesses COALITION Tables  Parents Social Media Expand  Teachers Resources + Organize + News Agencies Formalize  General Public Influence NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE  In District  Leaders  Across Districts  Roles  State Level  By-laws  Incorporation
  • 6. Traditional Community Involvement •Don’t get involved until it’s personal •Day to day life takes priority •Over committed •Someone else will take care of it (Or maybe I just don’t know how it works and who to call.)
  • 7. The Choice is OursShort Term Positions vsLong Term Interests
  • 8. Traditional decision making• District sees a need• Experts identify solution/s• Leaders choose best solution• PR team initiates communication plan• Staff learns the most effective talking pointsFormula: decide, announce, defend
  • 9. Repercussions• Lowers buy-in• Raises distrust• Alienates staff & public• Gives extraordinary power to experts• Gives media voice to “populist indignation”• AND,THE MOST SIGNIFICANT REPERCUSSION? (you’re probably not reaching the best solution)
  • 10. Public Participation DefinedAny process that involves the public inproblem solving & decision making and uses public input to make decisions. International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)
  • 11. Why bother?• Eats up time• Derails plans• Invites conflict• Gets bad press• Fuels opposition• Creates controversy• Embarrasses the district
  • 12. IAP2 Spectrum of EngagementEach process is different.• Inform• Consult• Involve• Partner• EmpowerWhat level is right?
  • 13. ResearchPositive correlation with student achievement (Rice et al., 2000)Linked to better solutionsto shared problems (Fung, 2004)Higher levels of buy in and trust in ed. leaders (Langsdorf, 2003)Decreased polarization & reactionary decisions (Yankelovitch, 1991)
  • 14. P2 Capacity BuildingLeadership St. Vrain (LSV) Cohorts 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012
  • 15. LSV Curriculum• Organizational structure• Governance• Finance• Administration• Schools & curriculum• Student services• Public deliberation training
  • 16. Outcomes to Date• Knowledge• Relationships• Willingness• Capacity• Credibility• Action We are creating alignment across stakeholder groups to build an informed coalition
  • 17. Use public participation as a means to rally supportfor education in your community starting from the grassroots Know How + Know Who = Confidence Confidence = Action Action = Change
  • 18. Community Organizing: From Crisis Point to Informed Coalition “KNOW HOW, KNOW WHO”  Leadership St Vrain Education TOOLS COMMUNITY Direct Personal Database Communication Connection  Informed Volunteers Email CRISIS  Students TO Events  Businesses COALITION Tables  Parents Social Media Expand  Teachers Resources + Organize + News Agencies Formalize  General Public Influence NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE  In District  Leaders  Across Districts  Roles  State Level  By-laws  Incorporation
  • 19. Q&A
  • 20. Thanks• Dr. Martin Carcasson, CSU• Dr. Carole Makela, CSU• Dr. Don Haddad, SVVSD• Leadership Team, GSV• Great Futures Coalition• Great Education Colorado
  • 21. Laura McDonald President Grassroots St. Vrain 303-652-1496info@grassrootsstvrain.orggrassrootsstvrain.wordpress.com/ John Poynton Executive Director of Organizational Development/Communications St. Vrain Valley School District 303-682-7404poynton_john@svvsd.org
  • 22. Resources• International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)• National Issues Forum (NIF)• Kettering Foundation• The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD)• The Center for Public Deliberation (CPD)