Fort Mill school bond backers to kick off campaign tonight

FORT MILL -- A campaign kicks off tonight with a drive to get voters to approve a nearly $96 million bond package for Fort Mill schools and athletic facilities.

The campaign committee will be announced during a 7 p.m. conference at the Baxter YMCA. Wayne Bouldin, Lori Hillman and Ted Matthews will chair the committee jointly. The group is calling the campaign "Keep Our Schools Strong," borrowing the name of the district's successful $62 million 2004 bond campaign.

"Keep Our Schools Strong says exactly what this campaign is all about," Matthews said in a press release. "Besides, keeping the theme saves us time and money that can be better spent elsewhere."

Voters will decide whether to approve the spending on March 4, 2008. The bond package includes $33.1 million for a fourth middle school, $24.25 million and $24.83 million for the district's eighth and ninth elementary schools and $5 million for the purchase of up to 50 acres for a future school site.

All four items are included in the first of two questions voters will be asked to consider. In the second question, the district is asking voters' permission to issue more than $8.7 million in bonds for an additional gym at both high schools and a 5,000-seat stadium at Nation Ford High School.

The trio chairing the bond committee is familiar with issues facing the growing district.

Bouldin, a senior engineer with Charlotte-based Membrana, has been a Fort Mill resident since 1990. He was the vice chair of Fort Mill Elementary's School Improvement Council and is a member of the improvement council at Nation Ford High School. He also is a Boy Scouts of America leader, and helped organize the fundraising effort to have a room at the Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte named in honor of the late Jenna Witherspoon. She was a student at Fort Mill Middle School when she died battling brain cancer.

Hillman, a former sales manager for a Fortune 500 company, has long been involved in local schools. She is president of the Gold Hill Elementary PTA, vice president of Gold Hill Middle's PTA and vice president of the school's athletic booster club. She is the chairwoman of the School Improvement Council for both Gold Hill schools and has been the coach of the local Girls on the Run program the last four years.

Matthews, a former Springs Global spokesman, has been active in previous school bond campaigns. He was the co-chairman of the 2004 referendum campaign's media committee.

At tonight's conference, district officials and school board members will be on hand to discuss the bonds. Refreshments will be served.

Campaign leaders also plan a presentation on the district's need for the new facilities envisioned in the bond package.

The group is still in its organizational phase and is recruiting members, Matthews said on Tuesday. Organizers are creating various subcommittees to drive the campaign including a finance committee to handle fundraising for fliers, brochures and yard signs and a civic committee to arrange pro-bond speakers to discuss the issue with community groups. Matthews said they're also organizing a "get out the vote" committee to focus on identifying likely voters and ensure they make it to the polls.

"We have a lot to do," Matthews said. "That' s why we're making an open call for volunteers."