Citizens rally to help pass Battle Ground schools levy

District will go to voters for second time on April 23

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



April 23 levy

Battle Ground Citizens for Better Schools meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, in the Battle Ground High School cafeteria to work on campaigning for the April 23 vote.

Information: 360-281-5033 or Battle Ground Citizens for Better Schools

BATTLE GROUND — An estimated 100 school supporters met Tuesday night to strategize ways to pass the April 23 schools levy.

Stephanie Etulain remembered in 2006 when a levy failed. She used her professional marketing skills to create a slogan for that year's levy: "I believe in Battle Ground Schools." She made hundreds of buttons for levy supporters to wear.

"I thought that positive attitude would drive voters to the polls," Etulain said.

The levy failed a second time, but she kept making buttons. The levy finally passed on the third try.

Etulain spent so much time in schools seeing the dedication of teachers and staff that she went back to school and now teaches at Tukes Valley Middle School. And she's still making "I believe in Battle Ground Schools" buttons.

Michelle Ferguson, an oncology nurse, grew up in Battle Ground, graduating from Battle Ground High School in 1999. As an adult, she moved away, but she and her husband moved back to Clark County and bought a house in Battle Ground. Her second-grader attends Daybreak Elementary.

"I was really surprised it didn't pass now that only simple majority is required instead of supermajority," Ferguson said of the recent levy failure, where 53.5 percent voted no. The school board on Monday night decided to offer the levy again.

In January, Ferguson volunteered for a walk and knock with other Daybreak parents. This time, she said she's determined to do more.

"I've been through many post-mortem levy failure discussions," Vicki Sparks said. She is president of Battle Ground Citizens for Better Schools and is leading the charge as the community group reaches out to talk to voters about why they should approve the levy on its second try on April 23.

The political action committee spent about $14,000 on the Feb. 12 levy campaign, and had a balance of $4,400. The Principals Association made a commitment to donate $4,000 plus a half-page newspaper ad.

"It's not like we're rolling in dough," Sparks said.

Sparks asked the group to help determine the top reasons people told them they voted against the levy. The reasons were written on a big pad of paper: Too much money, confusion about the levy, against big government, apathy, too many non-teaching days and half-days, unhappy about not being heard, and a large number of older voters who don't have kids in school.

Then the group listed ways they would reach the community with their message: talking points, newspaper ads, letters to editor, sign waving, email blasts, Facebook, Twitter, website messages, phone banks, outreach to seniors, and even making a video.

Immediately, from around the room, people stood up to volunteer to lead a particular effort. People broke into groups and started making plans to blanket the district with messages about why voters should approve the levy. They're meeting again next Tuesday night.

"We'll do every single thing there is manpower and money for," Sparks said.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;