Open Government at the Local Level: Durham Public Schools Bond Referendum

 

Long Range Facilities Plan Website
One of the last projects I was tasked with as a web analyst at Durham Public Schools was what I think of as "open government". In 2012, Durham Public Schools wanted the public to approve a 9 million dollar IT initiative to upgrade the student computer labs in select DPS schools to reach parity with newer labs in some of the recent construction.

The DPS Board of Education and most of the executive leadership team was in a debate about how to approach Durham County to ask for this re-appropriation. One of the ideas was to showcase the nicer labs to show how efficiently the district was spending money within the IT department. My colleague, Charlotte Claypoole, and I thought we should do the opposite.

Charlotte and I wanted to show exactly what the problems were within the older schools. Some of these buildings were quite old and the wiring and infrastructure were not capable of handling the computing needs of the students.

I built the website and stood up the DPS Long Range Facilities Plan along with data about student demographic trends within the district. Charlotte made a brilliant video discussing the issue and focusing the video content on the infrastructure issues. The website and the video were targeted to citizens of Durham County and not to the parents of DPS students.

We decided on this approach because the money was being re-purposed from the Durham County 2007 School Bond Referendum. This is a county issue and involved county dollars.

The website was a success. DPS is now upgrading the student computing centers to give every student equal access to technology and connectivity to data. This was a collaborative effort between a local municipal entity and the citizens affected by that entity.

We did not have machine readable data available to meet the criteria of open data. We did however, manager to make the information usable and understandable to the public. This created a positive outcome and shows that "open" can lead to real change.

The LRFP Website

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