Understanding the barriers to change in school district boundaries
Industry: County government, public school districts, public funding
Client: Williams County, North Dakota
Public school districts were established in Williams County in the early 1950s. Since then, population has fluctuated in the County due to oil production and the price of crude oil. School district boundaries had not kept up with the shifting patterns of population growth, leading to inequities within the County for funding of facilities, educators’ salaries and student program support. School funding referendums failed, and several districts were in operational crisis without a long-term solution. The County hired a consulting firm to address the situation by conducting facility audits, school district cohort comparisons and initiating a public opinion assessment.
Prime46 partnered with the County and fellow consulting specialists to measure the attitude and opinions of County residents.
Prime46 recommended and conducted a telephone-based study among County residents. Researchers designed a framework representative of voters within the County. This framework included a range of demographic and socioeconomic diversity similar to each of six school districts.
The objective was to understand the differences and similarity of responses, to inform both the communications and strategic planning process. In other words, to find common ground to establish a foundation of trust and open conversation among all parties.
With public opinion data in hand, Williams County leadership was inspired to move forward with the recommendations of the consultants to reapportion the school districts. Two school districts and school boards merged, and strategic planning can move forward. Work continues to prioritize initiatives and to organize for another school funding referendum.
Through this study process the client was able to:
- Validate the importance of “quality schools and student opportunity” as important to quality of life
- Confirm that a vast majority of residents agreed that “students should have the same quality of K-12 school experience, regardless of where they lived [within the County]”
Prime46 was able to assist the client by establishing a process and framework for collecting opinions of a representative sample of County voters. The results were both representative and statistically accurate and provided an unbiased assessment that the client could use for decision making.