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After a Failed Referendum for a New State of the Art High School, a Second Referendum Passes Overwhelming by using our marketing and public relations strategic campaign.


With a pause in the high school project due to the Covid-19 pandemic and losing the 2017 referendum, the building committee evaluated the best way to move forward. This involved re-engaging Farmington residents to support and approve the high school project in 2021. The goal of the community outreach plan was for the residents to trust the judgement of elected and appointed officials to make the right decision for educating it children. This reminded the community what a great environment for "our kids to enjoy learning” for them to have a successful career in a field they want to pursue. Tall Timbers Marketing job was to create and implement a marketing and public relations plan that engaged community members and groups to support the project. Top Communication and Community Relations Award for Creating a Successful Capital High School Project from the Public Relations Society of America.


The following sequential steps formed the basis of creating a focused community relations and communication strategy for Farmington Public Schools based upon these objectives:

  • Communicate the advantages of a new high school that will provide your children with a future focused learning environment education and future success as adults

  • Identify and involve targeted groups, parents, educators, community members, and elected and appointed town officials in developing and supporting the building of a high school

  • Identify and prioritize audiences who should receive information in the process of supporting the plan as it evolves. Then use the effective communication vehicles (direct and indirect) to these audiences to sustain support of the high school plan over a period of the project.



Reviewed internal and external perspectives, perceptions, and competition by analyzing existing materials (surveys, interviews, media coverage, community and parent involvement, and other relationships). A comprehensive overview finding report that includes a “roadmap” and proactive messaging agenda for a community relations and communication plan. Tall Timbers Marketing was retained to conduct a survey for the Farmington High School Building Committee (FHSBC). The survey was part of a communication planning process and was based upon the FHSBC proposed recommendation to build a new high school facility on the current municipal complex. The objective was to find out what information Farmington residents wanted to have to make an informed decision at referendum time. The survey was sent in January 2021 to every household in Farmington. Households had four weeks to respond.


  • The newsletter/survey was sent to 11,600 households (25,422 population in 2020)

  • There were 1111 responses postmarked by the due date, a 9.8% response rate, which is much higher than average (3% to 5%).

  • There is confidence level of 97% of the responses. This means that even if every household responded, the responses would have been the same level of confidence.

  • Respondents 65+ years old self-identified as retired and living in town over 20 years make up 17% of the town population but were 45% of respondents.

  • Over 50% of the respondents are working full or part time.

  • 85% of the respondents were aware or have read the Statement of Needs or something about the high school project, which was the basis for taking action to build a new high school



  1. Schematic design concept for building committee to review & approve

  2. Present to the Town Council to review

  3. Community presentation and on-going communication to the residents prior to referendum

  4. Approval by the Town Council for a referendum date

  5. Town Meeting/Referendum

  6. Review of activities prior to closing of schools in the Spring 2020, the current status, and future plans

  7. Create and send a newsletter/survey to every household. This will provide a baseline of current attitudes and perceptions about the H.S. project. Use analysis of the results along with recommendations for future communication planning.


  • The new building will incorporate the latest safety, security, health, and technology elements

  • Spaces and educational devices will be flexible for curriculum needs in STEM, liberal and creative arts.


  1. 6-page newsletter/community survey 

    1. Update on project (include schematics and new highlights)

    2. Q&A about aspects of the plan

    3. Survey, e.g., focus on understanding the project.

    4. Message from the board (Covid-19 overview and H.S. project)

    5. Short blurbs, goings on in each school

    6. Calendar, school and H.S. project if possible

  2. 6-page follow up that feature survey highlights, schematics, timeline/plans going forward

  3. 6-page final plans and information about high school project timeline sent to all households

  4. Slide deck/Prezi video (Library, Senior Citizen Center, public buildings website)

  5. Social Media Information, e.g., Facebook, etc.

  6. One page handout (talking points for board, presenters, part of display)

  7. School district and FHSBC Website: website updates.


Day of the Referendum Vote — From the Hartford Courant, June 3, 2021

“Reversing their decision from four years ago, voters in Farmington on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a $135.6 million replacement for the town’s high school. The project passed by more than a 2-1 ratio. That was a complete reversal from 2017, when voters shot down a $136 million proposal in a landslide defeat.


“This is a transformative moment in Farmington’s history,” town council Chairman C.J. Thomas said late Thursday night as educators and town officials from both parties celebrated what they called a bipartisan victory. The town reported the vote total was 4,500 to 2,196 with a turnout of about 33% of the 20,045 eligible voters.


The decision shows Farmington is heavily committed to education but will still leave the town with a tax rate below its Farmington Valley neighbors so long as future councils practice fiscal restraint, said Thomas, a prominent support of the high school replacement. He credited two advocacy groups — United Farmington and Comprehensive FHS — for the outcome, along with the volunteer building committee that worked more than a year to fine tune its plan.”


Even though the referendum passed, it was our recommendation that the Town continue communicating the process, activities, and milestones over the life of the 3-year project. The following plan was approved, and Tall Timbers Marketing will be retained until the new high school is opened.

Contact us for a free consultation to learn how we can help your organization.

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