News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Behind the scenes at launch of SHS

Thank you for the article “Thirty Years of Sisters High School.” I thought readers might like to hear about one other aspect behind the scenes. Had it not happened, there would not have been a Sisters High School 30 years ago.

As parents, my wife and I had a high interest in wanting a high school in Sisters. Our four sons were involved in athletics and prevented from riding the school bus to Redmond due to late team practices. We had earnest prayers for our kids driving daily to Redmond, especially on icy roads during winter. Tragically, there were fatal accidents that happened among Sisters kids commuting to Redmond for school.

But for a high school to happen in Sisters, there needed to be a bond issue presented for the community to vote on and pass. Many people may not know that our first try at the bond measure failed to pass. There were many voters who felt the increase in property taxes was just too much. In our first try we had yard signs, lots of advertising, and a very vocal and visual outreach to the community. While this raised awareness, it heightened the awareness of all those who were opposed to the bond measure due to tax increases, increasing the turnout of voters who opposed the measure.

So, on the second try, several parents, teachers, and other interested parties got together to discuss a new strategy. What we decided was to begin by canvassing voters to find out who the people were that were in favor of the bond issue needing to be passed. I owned a publishing company at that time with offices located in the Sisters Industrial Park. In our office were several cubicles with phones, which we offered in the evenings to volunteers who agreed to make phone calls to all those eligible to vote yes or no on the new high school bond issue. It was coffee, donuts, and party time as night after night we canvassed voters by phone.

This time around, we made no yard signs, did not use extensive advertising, and were much less vocal about the issue in public. We thought the opposition assumed we had lost interest in campaigning for the bond measure the second time around. What they were unaware of was that we called every potential voter, telling them we were canvassing voters, and asked one simple question: “Hi, we are doing a survey asking voters if they are in favor or against a new bond measure to build a high school in Sisters. Are you in favor or against? Thank you for your response!”

We took careful note and made a list of only those who were in favor. Then, the week before the vote, we again called all of those in favor, reminding them to vote. We called them again the day before, offering rides to the polling place if needed, if they had not yet voted.

The new strategy worked! The bond easily passed the second time around. Without that bond, there would have been no high school at that time in Sisters. Sometimes, being highly visible and vocal about an issue can incite the opposition even more than motivating those in favor.

My wife and I have lived in Sisters Country for over 43 years. Looking back, we have watched how the school system has contributed so much to everyone in this community.


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