Preston citizens form committee to promote school levy

KINGWOOD — Committees were formed Monday to start promoting Preston’s school levy, and this time the campaign will focus on the positive, organizers said.

About 40 people attended the meeting at the Preston Board of Education (BOE) meeting room. Some also  served on a committee formed in May, when voters failed to pass a levy by less than 100 votes.

The officers from that campaign — President Tarrell Ries, Secretary Robin White and Treasurer Jamie Bolyard — were re-elected. Chad Shade was added as a second signatory for checks. So far $1,722.47 has been donated to the effort.

Superintendent Steve Wotring noted that, when declining enrollment and finances prompted the board to consider closing Fellowsville and Rowlesburg schools, people repeatedly asked the BOE to consider another levy election. Last month the board voted to hold an election Feb. 2 for a five-year, $4.5 million per year levy.

“The first thing about this whole thing that we’ve got to debunk is this is not a levy for Rowlesburg and Fellowsville,” Wotring said. “This is not for two schools … It’s for the entire county.”

If someone asks a committee member a question he or she can’t answer, Assistant Superintendent Brad Martin said, please call him or Wotring so they can get an answer.

Board Member Mac McCrum said the committee needs to get to Community Education Outreach (CEO) meetings, volunteer fire departments, ambulance services and senior centers. Wotring said they learned in May that general community meetings are poorly attended, so this would be different.

Shade suggested adding churches to the list, and Larry Williams said it’s important to get the agriculture community onboard.

Trellis Smith suggested using Facebook and social media tools to promote the levy and respond to questions. Wotring said he plans to use his Facebook page to present information, beginning in January.

Smith said he sees the community suffering from “need fatigue.” People will support success, he said, so  student successes need to be highlighted.

Information on how much the levy will cost individual taxpayers, including calculators, and on what’s on the levy are now online at prestoncountyschools.com and the schools’ Facebook page.

Craig Jennings said the Facebook exchanges need to not be adversarial. Instead, concentrate on how the things provided by the levy can make Preston County students more competitive, he said.

“We need to make clear that this isn’t the school board’s levy, it’s not Steve Wotring’s, it’s not Brad Martin’s, it’s not Craig Jennings’, it’s the people’s levy,” Jennings said.

Lucas Tatham suggested signs should say, “vote for winners,” rather than presenting a negative image.

Jennings suggested getting people within each community to answer questions and lobby for the levy. Those people can be more effective within their own communities than outsiders, he said.

“There’s only two types of people that come out for this election,” Ries said. “Those who are strongly opposed and those who are strongly for it. We just need to make sure we talk to those people who are strongly for it and make sure they come out.”

The deadline to register to vote in the Feb. 2 election is Jan. 14.

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