UPDATE: How to pass a school referendum - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: How to pass a school referendum

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By Jamie Hersch - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

STOUGHTON (WKOW) -- Most of the school referenda in the Madison area failed Tuesday, but the Stoughton Area School District passed both of its two referenda.

What's more, Stoughton is a town with a particularly large senior citizen population, many of whom do not have children or grandchildren in the school district. 

So what was it that tipped the vote in favor of the referenda?

Kim McNulty is one of the founders of a group called K.I.D.S., which stands for Keep Improving and Developing our Schools. The group is made up of parents who got together in advance of the election to raise support for the referenda.

McNulty says getting the word out to other parents was critical in getting these two measures to pass.

K.I.D.S. tried all the old advertising tricks -- door hangers, inserts in the paper, buttons, etc. -- but the group also used new ways to spread the word.

The group created a referenda website and a Facebook fan page. The group then sent out emails to all its fans, reminding them to get to the polls on April 6.

"It was not that difficult to convince them because once you knew the facts, you understood Stoughton deserved this money," said McNulty.

Superintendent Mary Gavigan says this year's referenda support groups learned a lot from the failed referendum of 2005.

"People said they wanted a clearer picture of what was at stake. Really what we were doing was educating the community all along the way," said Gavigan.

Educating the community about the possible consequences, like closing another school, cutting teachers, and eliminating 9th grade sports.

"It really does take all of us and this was the Stoughton community speaking for what they want of their school district," said Gavigan.

According to McNulty, the real key behind this year's success was parent involvement.

"We need parent support for a successful referendum, and parents listen to us because we are parents," she said.

The passage of the referenda doesn't solve all Stoughton's problems, or protect against other referenda once these two expire, but for now, supporters are enjoying the moment of victory.

"It really was a whole community effort. It's a bright day in Stoughton today," said Gavigan.

"It just feels really good. I'm really proud of the community," said McNulty.

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