After seeing four big bonds defeated in eight years, three friends figured they could help Central Valley do better.
“If they really want that school bond to succeed, they should ask us to run it,” the trio said over one of their regular lunches last fall.
A week later, Superintendent Wally Stanley popped the question - would they? Chuck Hafner, Bob Jayne and John Frucci said they would.
That was in October, and the three went to work as though they were saving souls. With 95 years’ experience in education among them, they may have felt they were.
The challenge was clear. Fear of rising taxes squelched at least one of the past bonds.
Squabbles between parents of the district’s two high schools sabotaged others. Neither the school board nor former Superintendent Dick Sovde could pull the district together.
But Hafner, 64; Jayne, 57, and Frucci, 61, thought they could convince the community to come up with the money to help the schools. Each had been teacher, principal and administrator. Hafner had headed both University and Central Valley high schools as principal.
“We never had a levy fail when we were in the schools and we’re not going to have this one fail,” Hafner said, with a grin and the hand-on-your-shoulder touch of a politician.
The three tagged veteran volunteer Gus Schmauch as their secretary and sounding board. Working without an official chairman, they teased, reminisced and organized their way through the next 90 days.
When they say offhandedly they know everybody in the community, it’s more truth than hyperbole.
They know legions of former parents and students. They have worked on everything from the Boy Scouts and immunization campaigns to the Hearts of Gold Parade that until the 1970s ran down Sprague Avenue each year.
“Remember the time the Hells Angels wanted to be in the parade?” asked Frucci, a former parade organizer. “I told them NO - because I knew you guys were behind me.”
To cover all fronts on the bond and levy campaign, the men set up 29 committees: day care, finances, evening users of school facilities, absentee voters.
Name it, they formed a committee. Each had a four-person team in charge - a parent, teacher, administrator and someone from the district support staff.
“If we could find someone with criticisms of the bond or levy, we’d draw them into the group, too,” Hafner said. But those voices were hard to find this year.
“We talked to people who organized against past bonds who said, ‘We don’t agree with everything on this bond, but we’re going to support it anyway,”’ Frucci said. “That was really gratifying.”
The three moderated a meeting with several Valley pastors. Discussion of the bond grew into a resolve that the different denominations need to work for the good of the Spokane Valley.
The three men tapped the business community for almost $30,000. In-kind contributions ranged from office space - nearly 15,000 square feet for $1 a month - to the use of a folding machine, computer, fax machine and telephones, paper and plywood for yard signs.
The in-kind donations for Kids First, the bond and levy campaign, were more substantial than in past campaigns, Frucci said.
The calendar filled with speaking engagements, meeting reports and mailing dates for letters to business people.
As many as 90 volunteers showed up at a time to stuff envelopes. A thousand yard signs sprang from snow banks across the district.
Finally, it was election day.
At 4 p.m., the three men had too much adrenaline and nothing to do but wait.
“This is terrible,” Hafner said.
The campaign party was planned for that evening at the Kids First office.
A cake, stacked cases of pop and a cardboard box for a $5-a-shot pool on the outcome of votes were ready. Sue Walton, a mom at Bowdish Junior High School, had baked 1,000 cookies.
“You got those toilets clean yet?” Frucci asked Hafner.
“I will, I will. What time does the party start - seven o’clock? Eight?” Hafner said. “Aw, I’ve got four hours.”
Schmauch left for Australia that morning. She left behind a letter that read in part, “The opportunity to experience the zoo, the circus and the funny farm and say it was fun said a lot about working with you.”
The first results came in just after 8 p.m. They were the absentee votes, showing an amazing 57 percent approval. Historically, absentee votes for CV bonds show about 41 approval.
By 11 p.m., enough votes were counted to make it clear that both measures would pass.
The three buddies pulled the community together. They pulled it off.
“We didn’t come out of retirement to have this be a failure,” Hafner said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)
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