A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the sham referendum process in Cedarburg. Part of that process was the survey sent out by School Perceptions that was designed as propaganda – not an honest query of the community. MacIver took a closer look and has revealed just how shady that survey was.
Staff and parents of CSD students were emailed links to an online version of the survey, and then emailed multiple reminders to complete it.
Meanwhile, most local residents got a paper version via the U.S. Postal Service. The district mailed out 8,400 of the surveys—which many discarded as junk mail, according to the local newspaper.
While staff and parents got multiple emails linking directly to the survey and were encouraged to give their paper copy to another adult, everyone else had to go out of their way to request copies using snail mail.
To some, the heads-up to stakeholders more likely to support the ballot question feels more like a statistics trick than an unbiased effort to gauge public opinion. A MacIver News Service investigation in August raised concerns about bias in the district’s information-gathering effort.
“If there is a strategy behind the survey, then it isn’t really a survey and we shouldn’t call it one,” Cedarburg School Board member David Krier wrote in an April 22 email to Superintendent Todd Bugnacki.
Despite Krier’s protest, in two email blasts in the closing weeks of the survey, CSD officials urged parents and staff to fill out the survey online.
The May 22 and 29 emails signed by Bugnacki and the Cedarburg School Board encouraged staff to complete the survey electronically—and give their paper copies to another adult and have them complete that.
“If you reside in the District, you will receive a mailed survey as well and should encourage another adult (eligible to vote) in your home to take the Mail survey,” the email states.
“The involvement of our staff is critical in this process.”
Krier was concerned staff and parents, more likely to green light the referendum, would be able to skew the survey’s findings. Sending them links to the survey would boost their response rate compared with others in the community, like senior citizens.
But that was always the plan, Bugnacki said in a reply to Krier.
“The plan all along was to email the survey to parents, teachers, and staff. All residents within our school district boundaries have or will receive the survey via the mail. Additional surveys are available for families if needed,” Bugnacki wrote in a May 9 email.
Remember that the West Bend School District also used School Perceptions for their propaganda survey.