Fort Mill school bond veterans: Meet the people

joverman@fortmilltimes.comDecember 5, 2012 

— As the Fort Mill School District lays the groundwork for a bond referendum, one of the next key steps will be the formation of a volunteer committee to steer the campaign.

In January, the school board expects to vote on a resolution that will set the referendum process in motion. After that, the volunteer committee takes on the responsibilities of educating the public about the referendum and campaigning for voter approval.

Fort Mill resident Ted Matthews was on the leadership committee for a bond referendum in 2004 and, along with Wayne Bouldin – now a School Board member – and Lori Hillman, chaired the most recent bond referendum in 2008.

The 2008 referendum asked voters to approve borrowing $95.9 million to build Banks Trail Middle School, Nation Ford High School’s stadium, auxiliary gyms at both high schools and two elementary schools. The referendum was split into two questions: The first asked voters to approve the middle school and elementary schools; the second question concerned the stadium and gymnasiums. Both questions passed with “record support,” Matthews said.

“Clearly the voters saw the need,” he said.

More than 80 percent of voters approved the first referendum question. Seventy five percent of voters approved the second one.

Matthews credits the success of the referendum in part to the committee’s commitment to communicating with the community.

“We looked at the history of bond referendums in Fort Mill and when the communication has gotten out and the need has been made to the voters, the voters in this district have almost always been there for the schools,” he said.

Spokespeople for the campaign spoke at community groups all over town about the need for approving the bond referendum, he said. Communication will again be key for the committee that leads the upcoming bond referendum campaign, Matthews said.

“That was one of the keys. If there are more than three people getting together for a meeting, even at the Hardees coffee group, you go and meet with them. Homeowner’s association groups, any group. You have an organized group getting together on a regular basis, you make sure you’re there,” he said.

Typical marketing tools like yard signs will be as important as ever, but Matthews noted that social media will be a new tool in the committee’s arsenal. He noted that “Keep Our Schools Strong,” the marketing slogan for previous referendum campaigns, has a website that is available for the committee’s use, but it didn’t have a Facebook page.

“So somebody better start that up right away,” he said.

“They’re going to need to do what they always need to do. Get the message out, make sure it’s clear and do it in a forthright fashion. Be as transparent as possible. It’s got to be clear and concise,” Matthews said.

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