Dear Journal Times,
It's time for you to help. I know you're hard at work re-writing police reports and reminding us that Frank Lloyd Wright's roofs leak. It's good to be reminded there's crime in our city and that flat surfaces don't do well in Wisconsin's winters. But now it's time to redirect your efforts.
Mitchell Middle School is hard at work trying to win $500,000 to improve its building. Teachers, principals, students and parents are rallying together to rally the community to simply vote for Mitchell on Facebook. That's it. If enough people in the Racine area simply click their mouse buttons enough time an aging schools gets a half-million dollars. That's $500,000 that doesn't come from taxpayers or the school district's textbook budget. It's purely outside money, a free gift, a windfall for city middle-schoolers. All it takes is a few votes.
Mitchell has a real shot at winning. Monday morning they were in 22nd place in the nation, just behind at least a dozen schools that are giving away free iPads to get people to vote. The top 20 schools each win $500,000. We should also note Racine's Knapp Elementary is also making a run at the Kohl's contest. They got in a little late and have some work to do, but if enough people in Racine rally, they could vote for both Mitchell and Knapp and help both schools along.
But here's the thing. People have to know about the contest to vote in the contest. If they know, of course they'll vote. Who wouldn't? But if they don't know, how can they vote?
That's where you come in, JT (and by JT I'm talking specifically to you Mark Lewis and Steve Lovejoy). You could help Mitchell win $500,000, and probably Knapp, too. All it'd take are some stories, some free house ads and an editorial or two. Here's the plan:
1. Write a kickoff story this week telling everyone about the contest and how to vote. Document the renovations Mitchell and Knapp plan to make with the money, tell people how they can join efforts to rally the city, and update progress on how Mitchell is using the $50,000 it won from Pepsi to rebuild its science classrooms. You've got art, a main story and a sidebar - perfect for your Tuesday or Wednesday front page. (I'd strongly suggest focusing on Mitchell, because they're just a few hundred votes out of the money. Knapp has a shot, but it's a long one.)
2. Every day after that, through the contest's Sept. 3 deadline, run a small box on the front page reminding people to "Vote for Mitchell & Knapp!" This is 2-3 paragraphs, easy to slot in. Maybe even run it in your skyboxes as a permanent badge through Sept. 3.
3. Create a free house ad and run it every day through Sept. 3. Easy enough, you certain run enough of your own house ads.
4. Write editorials calling on the community to vote. Appeal to their civic duty, and their bottomlines. Call for companies to get all of their employees to vote, and parents of students in all schools to support Mitchell and Knapp with the understanding that their school will get its chance. Suggest Unified, the city, RCEDC, RAMAC, YPR, Leadership Racine and other groups study creating a social media/grant director position specifically to find new ways to pay for our schools needs. It sure beats raising everyone's taxes.
So that's it, JT. There's your four-point plan for rallying support and helping our schools win a significant amount of money to improve our students' education. Take a risk, actually care about the community. Use your power for good. You can make a difference here, you can even take all of the credit. Do it well and I bet you could even win a Lee President's Award ('JT helps school wins $500,000' has a nice ring to it.)
And, here's the reality: Mitchell and Knapp can't do it without you. Right now they're outgunned by rival schools around the country and they need a powerful ally to aid their cause. You're that ally. It's time for you to help.
Help us convince the JT to jump in here. Contact Editor Steve Lovejoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Publisher Mark Lewis (email@example.com), or either at 634-3322, and let them know you want the JT to back Mitchell and Knapp.
If you'd like to help more directly, contact Mitchell organizer Kim Wendt at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know you'd like to get involved.