State College utilizes election, community forums to distribute high school project information

mmorgan@centredaily.comNovember 6, 2013 

The district used the opportunity for exit polling to see what kind of information people needed with a May 2014 referendum on the horizon.

Board member Jim Leous said that from his observations, many people knew about the high school projects and some specifics but were less familiar with the referendum.

Tuesday was the first step in a more proactive approach to the community education and high school project discussions, he said.

“It’s really just to educate people where we are with the process,” Leous said.

Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said it was a positive experience for the volunteers, including some students, to interact with community members and get feedback on the school project.

The district organized several community forums in recent months with varying degrees of attendance, but as the project development continues and more information comes out, board members will be taking the show on the road.

They have set up six community outreach seminars at varying times and locations in the coming weeks to help people more fully understand the project and process.

They include noon on Thursday at the State College Municipal Building, 10 a.m. on Saturday at Way Fruit Farm Cafe, 10 a.m. on Saturday at Meyer Dairy, 8 a.m. on Nov. 13 at Callao Cafe, 1 p.m. on Nov. 21 at Schlow Library Community Room and 2 p.m. on Nov. 24 at Panera Bread on North Atherton Street.

Leous said the varying times and locations for the forums will give more people a chance to attend, and that he hopes the informal discussion format will allow for more feedback from the community.

Board President Penni Fishbaine agreed, saying the format should be more conducive to constructive questions and conversation.

“We’re just trying to make options so people feel comfortable to come out and not have to stand up to a microphone,” she said.

These forums will be designed to get some feedback at a critical point in the project with a design option choice on the way, O’Donnell said.

As more building models and visual elements come out, O’Donnell said, people will be able to see the project more clearly and know exactly what they are getting when voting on the referendum.

He anticipates more smaller, intimate sessions as the referendum date draws nearer.

“One-way communication does not inspire people to come out to learn about the project,” he said.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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