People who worked to pass referendum look at schools with pride
JANESVILLE It was the most expensive school referendum in state history.
And a group of taxpayers worked for three exhausting months to get it passed.
Today, the results of all that work will come to fruition when Janesville's Craig and Parker high schools open their doors to students.
In 2006, voters passed a $70.8 million referendum, which at the time was the largest in state history. The referendum included significant improvements to both high schools. Gyms and classrooms were added, cafeterias were expanded, science labs were updated and air-handling systems were improved.
It's a big moment for the people who worked to get it passed.
Larry and Cindy Squire headed up a group called TLC—"Tomorrow Lives Through Our Children."
Larry is the president of Johnson Bank, and Cindy has been active in PTA and has worked with the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, a group that's working for school funding reform. She's also served on the school district's legislative committee.
"My wife and I agreed together that the schools needed to have some updates and changes for kids to have a quality education," Larry Squire said. "Hopefully, we make a pretty good team."
TLC did something unprecedented: Working with a private economic development organization, it hired a consultant.
That consultant helped TLC create a survey to help them understand the community's concerns about the referendum. Using those comments—and other research—TLC was able to create an effective campaign.
"We wanted somebody to come from the outside, somebody that didn't have any preconceived notions about the referendum," Larry Squire said.
Then came the real work.
More than 60 people volunteered to call voters, send out information, buy advertising and generally get the word out.
"I think we spoke to every service group in town," Cindy Squire said.
In the end, TLC convinced the voters.
What's it like now to see all that work come to fruition?
"I can't wait to go through them," Larry Squire said. "I've been through about two-thirds of Craig High School."
The Squires have a daughter entering Craig this year.
"We weren't doing it for my children, we were doing it for the future," Cindy Squire said.
She went with her daughter to registration and is pleased to see how the renovations have eased crowding.
Don Dyke, a retiree, also worked on TLC.
"I thought at the time that the science department at Parker High School was important—it was close to nonexistent," Dyke said. "When I took a tour of the schools, it was clear that they badly needed a lot of things."
Dyke hasn't had a full tour of the schools yet, but he saw the science rooms before they were complete.
"I'm pleased," Dyke said about the schools.
Marlene Bysted is active in PTA and spent time making phone calls about the referendum.
Two of her children have graduated from Parker High School, and she has a third daughter who is a junior.
Her favorite improvements include the science labs and gym space. Her kids were actively involved in sports, and her daughter is on the swim team.
"I had a son who was practicing until 10 p.m. at night," Bysted said.
The locker rooms now have lockers able to store all of the students' gear, and the walking track and weight rooms are very nice, she said.
She also likes the changes in the front office area.
"It's very nice, very welcoming," Bysted said.