Press enter to see results or esc to cancel.

Thoughts on the “uninformed school bond voter”

On a recent article, one of our favorite commenters made the point that he felt the Park City School District school board is desperate because the next school bond will likely fail, just like the last one. One of the reason’s he stated was due to the number of uninformed voters.

The previous bond post-mortem also concluded that there were many uninformed voters and this impacted the outcome of the vote. There has been an effort this year to educate the voters, and that will likely intensify if the school board moves toward a bond vote.

The problem is that education will only go so far. If passing the bond is the goal, we’re not sure education is the key. What’s probably more important is how the voters feel about the organization offering the bond.

To help prove our point, let’s discuss the 2004, 2010 and 2014 open space bonds (2014’s was part of a recreation bond). There is over $30 million in those three bonds dedicated to open space and trails. Our question is: what has been purchased with that money and what areas are they focusing on with the remainder of the money?

Uh…Uh… Uh… Run-A-Muck??? Actually, we have no clue.

We had to go look it up.

We’d guess at least 75% of the community doesn’t know how the majority of the money is being (was) spent. However, those bonds always easily pass. We’d guess another open space and trails bond would pass with flying colors.

Why? First, people here love open space and trails. Second, they trust groups like Utah Open Lands, Summit Land Conservancy, and Basin Rec.

Perhaps the school district doesn’t have an education problem. Perhaps they have a likability problem coupled with trust issues.

The problem with correcting those is that it takes a constant and consistent effort to change your image. Do 6 months of good things and then screw up once, you’re back to square one. People are looking for reasons to criticize. People are going to demand near-perfection. Every slip-up is magnified.

Unfortunately, our gut tells us the Park City School District is pretty close to square one.

We’re not sure where they start or how they go about it, but being a little more popular may not be a bad thing.





To be clear, in my particular focus group, there were only 2 (of 8 total) who were uninformed. Most of the no voters, instead, in my opinion had unrealistically high expectations of what could be done with the bond (“Why isn’t there anything about teacher pay in this bond” was a particularly vexing complaint) or were hung up on one of several aspects – the most common complaint (paraphrased) was that no money should be spent on athletics.

There wasn’t a common theme to the hangups, though (though no money for athletics was the most common) – everyone had their own little slice of the bond that they just hated and couldn’t set aside to vote for the 90% of it that they liked.

I feel like civic education on this sort of thing is a little lacking. You *never* get exactly what you want. If you vote that way, it’s a recipe for endless bickering and no progress. Will you make mistakes and will money end up spent on things that weren’t needed? Of course! It’s a huge undertaking.

The real world is messing and requires compromise, but I am not sure we can do that here anymore.


Walt, thanks for the clarification from what you saw.

I remember being in a number of meetings and much of the “loss” seemed to be blamed on uninformed and “misinformed” voters. I took a look at the Light House Survey done after failure and it speaks to this.

I’m just not sure how they would do a better job of informing or countering what they deem is misinformation. That’s always in the eye of the beholder.

I also think the Park City public is a pretty picky group (maybe you are right that the country is moving that way in general). I don’t know how they fix that either.

Hence, maybe they just need to be really likable. 🙂

Here is that Light House Survey:$file/Bond%20Awareness%20Focus%20Group%20Report%20-%20February%202016%20(2).pdf


Yes, that’s consistent with what I witnessed as a participant.

I think you are right that the only way around this, really, is to be really likeable. Or, for there to be a real crisis. I’m not sure what I would do if I was on the board. If you wait for a crisis, you are hurting the kids (and I doubt interest rates will stay as low as they are indefinitely). If you don’t, how the heck do you make yourself more likeable in an environment where a lot of people will do anything to undermine you (and already succeeded once)? Paging Molly Miller…


Or maybe they come from an area where an 1800 sf dump (and I do mean dump) costs $600,000 with property taxes of $14,000 of which $9,000 goes to the school district.


My house is roughly that value and my property taxes are $2400 a year. Where are you getting the $14k number?


Wow, I was the most educated and lowest income person there! Neat!

Seriously, the conclusions are exactly the same ones I came to. If I were the district, I’d do an academic-buildings-only bond, then come back with an athletics one later.


The problem is that the voters ARE educated and informed. So much so that they spot a half-cocked plan from a mile away. They also are aware of who they can trust and who they can not. There is little trust in the leadership of the district due to a number of mis-steps from day one. Until that trust is restored, no progress can be made. And the trust will not be restored until the leadership (Superintendent) is removed. The Board needs to take the first step in moving forward. Replace the Superintendent with a well-qualified turn-around specialist who is willing to have true conversations about change.


Speaking of uninformed, has any member of the public had an opportunity to ask questions, share an opinion, or hear the details of the grade realignment plan? This was also a hot topic during the failed bond campaign. The answer is “NO”. The PCSD has been encouraged to open these meetings to the public, but it hasn’t happened. Finally, they have scheduled a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16, 6pm, at Ecker Middle School, theoretically to gather input from the public. Realistically, the decisions have been made. Fifth grade is moving to a new 5/6 school, 7/8 will be housed at Ecker MS. Unfortunately, the PCSD missed another great opportunity to get the public on board.


It’s actually worse than that. On KPCW this a.m., Phil Kaplan and Ember Conley said that the 5/6 school is a done deal and the Ecker mtg next Thursday (when everyone is packing for Feb break) is about facilities and where to put the 5/6 school. At least they decided not to pursue re-alignment in 2017 (w Eihausen dissenting).

Unfortunately the 5/6 “curriculum committee” was charged with figuring out how to make this bizarre model work and was staffed and informed almost solely by middle school advocates. There was no objective look at the k-6 or any other options.

School transitions have repeatedly been shown to reduce academic performance, impair social development and adversely affect mental health. The national trend is to abandon middle schools for K-6 or K-8 models.

Yet, of course, we know better…

Finally this is all driven by the push to publicly provide pre-K for all when there are at least 9 local private providers of that service, who will be put out of business. If we held off on pre-K for all and considered alternatives to help those who can’t afford it, we wouldn’t be pushing the 5th graders out so fast.


The numbers above are referring to a high cost of living area in another state. And at 9,000 for the school it was still considered a poor school.


When PCSD makes a decision, they follow through. Period. The end. Ember Conley comes from a poor functioning, low income district. She is operating PCSD the same.


I’m astounded to learn that Argosy awards PhDs. I thought that was an associate’s degree for-profit scam sort of setup.


What is the appetite for a community led call for action on the dismissal of the Superintendent? Reading these posts, trust needs to be restored to move forward. And our children need us to move forward with productive conversations.


I don’t really think this one is on the Superintendent. Having watched the video discussing grade realignment, there are A LOT of CROSS CURRENTS going on.

During the video Andrew Kaplan says the delay in realigning grades is the school board’s fault. I’d agree with that. I would also put the previous bond failure there too.

The key, in my opinion, will be to see if the school board does anything different this time around.


Yet the recommendation was from the administration. The administration was told last year (publicly) from the Strategy Committee that they were unskilled at change management and needed to put a decision making process in place. This has not been done. So then the administration recommends something that requires immense change without having a defined decision making process. Nor have they demonstrated a change in management style (meaning garnering TRUE input from teachers and principals). The Board was simply reacting to a proposal from the administration for grade realignment.


This comment about the superintendent’s credentials needs to be rescinded. Her credentials haven’t changed upon further research. I apologize for posting this inaccuracy.

Park Rag Note: We have added this information to the original comment, so there is clarification that the original comment is inaccurate.


The school district continues to plan with the desired outcome in mind. Case in point: curriculum committee. The public was denied access to participate because it was an education committee. Assurances were given that the committee would be tasked to look at curriculum design only. The public would be given the opportunity to participate in discussions of grade alignment once the committee presented their recommendations. Well we all saw how that went. Over the next several months, things pretty much went quiet on grade alignment and the 5/6 school. Next thing we know is that the committee comes out with recommendation for a 5/6 school even though we were assured their recommendation would be independent of school structure. Within a few short days there is a flurry of activity, rumors flying and the district driving to implement grade alignment for 2017-18 school year. Sorry, I put this squarely on the shoulders of the district and superintendent. I don’t believe that the school board had much more notice than the public. If the district continues to operate in such an irresponsible, and baffling way I don’t see how we can trust them with some $100M in taxpayers dollars.

Leave a Comment