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Monroe school district plans to get info out on referendum
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MONROE - School district employees are gathering information and organizing community outreach in preparation for the fall election, but they will have to remain neutral on the issue of the referendum while communicating with the public, said Business Manager Ron Olson.

There will be two school funding questions on the ballot in November for voters in the Monroe school district: one for a three-year $1.5 million operating referendum and another for a three-year $460,000 maintenance and safety referendum.

Joe Monroe, director of pupil services, is heading the district's referendum committee, which consists of four subcommittees. He is the leader of the information distribution subcommittee that is tasked with developing information about the district, its budget and the referendum to be shared with the community by mail and online.

"I have to be very careful, particularly in my role as the chair of this committee, to make sure that I'm about distributing information, making sure that it's factual, that it's objective, and then if there's a group in the community that utilizes some of this information to support the referendum work, certainly we would appreciate that," Monroe told the school board Monday.

Olson said school employees can't take sides on the issue because they are employed by residents of the district. School board members, however, can be more vocal about where they stand, he said.

Monroe said the committee wants to share information with the public about the district as a whole, not just the referendum. It plans to start an online campaign called "101 Things that Make the School District of Monroe Great," featuring pictures, videos and data that will be posted on social media. One example, he said, might be a picture with a caption about the district's partnerships with Jacob's S.W.A.G. and Tyler's T.E.A.M. foundations, local suicide prevention groups. Every post will be accompanied with the hashtag #CheesemakerPride.

The other three subcommittees cover community presentations, staff presentations and the youth vote. Objectives include scheduling speakers to present to various community groups, identifying former students who may be able to vote with absentee ballots and meeting with 18-year-old students to discuss the voting process - but not which way to vote, board president Bob Erb noted.

James Cassidy, co-president of the teachers union, told the board the teachers and support staff unions are "more than willing" to help in the effort to get information out about the referendum. Cassidy attended the meeting Monday to fill in for board liaison Deb Thompson.

Voters last approved a referendum for the Monroe school district in 2007, when they gave the district the authority to exceed its revenue limit by $8.3 million. The four-year, non-recurring referendum ended in 2011, and the district chose to levy about half of the allowed amount.