Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Iowa City School Board Race Shaping Up

Iowa City School Board Race Shaping Up

Cooper to run again; Armstrong, Jordison File, Swisher is in, More May Follow

In the last few days before Thursday's filing deadline, the Iowa City School Board has gone from the job no one wanted to what looks likely to be a multi-candidate contested race.

Incumbents Tim Krumm and Jan Leff are stepping down, and for a while it looked like Mike Cooper was going to join them. But Cooper has now announced he's seeking a second term. He hasn't filed yet but two have: Jean Jordison, who has been on the district's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan Advisory Committee, and Weber PTO leader April Armstrong.

But the big name to local politicos is Sarah Swisher, former Johnson County Democrats chair and co-chair of the 2003 Yes For Kids bond campaign.

Cooper isued this statement:
ICCSD school board member Mike Cooper has announced his candidacy for the 2009 school board race. Elected in 2006, Cooper’s 38 plus years in the education business has been unparalleled on the ICCSD school board.

The ICCSD district is currently faced with serious budget issues. This is Cooper’s number one concern. As a continuing board member he believes it is imperative the board and administration take the necessary actions to get our district back to financial stability.

Cooper is also dedicated to continuing his board work regarding the current Roosevelt Elementary School site. He is totally committed to re-purposing and enhancing the current Roosevelt site so that this historic community asset retains it value as we move forward in the 21st century.

Cooper believes ICCSD enrollment patterns and facility needs have created an imperative for a new north corridor high school. Future growth needs coupled with strong community desire mandate we move toward opening a new comprehensive high school as soon as possible.

Cooper would like the district to move toward a comprehensive redistricting. A significant imbalance of low socioeconomic students has developed across our elementary schools. The ICCSD school board must address this inequity now. The board should develop a process which includes working with a wide range of impacted community members and also incorporate the City Councils who govern over ICCSD communities.

As we move forward on major decisions Cooper sees a strong need for greater community involvement and inclusion at the beginning of the process.

We have the best administration and school district in the state but we need to continue to reach higher.

Cooper won his first term in 2007 but has to run a year early because of the transition to four year terms,

A lengthy Armstrong mail passed on to the We Love Our Neighborhood Schools list addressed "concern over my opinions and behavior as a part of the Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC)."
I was a member of the FAC. We were charged with addressing Roosevelt enrollment and facility decisions as well as the enrollment issues at Weber, Kirkwood, and Horn (RWKH)

I would like to address some of those issues and clarify the sequence of events

  • I am PTA president of Weber school
  • I was added to the FAC as the Weber school representative
  • Prior to being formally on the FAC, I attended both public forums on this issue
  • I took this role very seriously.
  • As committee members we reviewed well over 100 pages of information, attended numerous meetings and listened to community input and comment
  • While Roosevelt was clearly the school facing the biggest changes, it was my desire that that Horn, Weber, and Kirkwood schools would also have their issues seriously addressed.
  • In the course of the FAC meetings, there was an independent survey presented to me, along with a request that I make it available through my office as PTA president at Weber, or through our bi-weekly newsletter.
  • I took this survey to Chris Gibson, principal of Weber Elementary, and asked her how I could distribute it.
  • Chris Gibson placed a call to the ICCSD Central Administration Office (CAO), and was told that we could not publicize any non-ICCSD created surveys through any school publications, including Friday folders.
  • That was district policy
  • It was never my intention to limit distribution of the survey, but it was not within my power to distribute it through Weber School .
  • It has been stated that "Ms. Armstrong (as Weber PTA president) chose NOT to publicize the survey".
  • I did not "choose NOT to distribute it"; I was told that I could not.
  • It was brought forth in committee discussion that the survey was distributed differently at the other elementary schools. I cannot address their rationale for distribution. I was simply following Weber school policy which follows district policy.

    There is also an indication that I was critical of the survey itself, and how the numbers were presented to the FAC . Please allow me to explain:

  • I did have concerns over the unequal numerical representations between the fours schools
  • Weber had ~5% parent response, Kirkwood had ~3%, Horn had ~20%, and Roosevelt had ~15%.
  • Also, survey conclusions state : "over 40% of Weber respondents and the majority of respondents at HKR say 'do not like' to closing Roosevelt."

    I did voice a concern at the FAC meeting that we all needed to bear in mind that "over 40% of Weber respondents" only represented roughly 17 people.

  • As a representative of all the Weber families I thought it was important for me to clarify that this 40% was equivalent in real terms to only 17 people, not the entire Weber community.

    Overall, I think the survey was very well crafted. I believe that garnering accurate public opinion and presenting core community values and opinions was the intention of the survey. I found this information to be helpful and important in our decision making. My primary problem with the data itself was that while I am sure the percentages presented were accurate; it was unfortunate that the sampling was not more comprehensive.

    I would like to add I am a proponent of neighborhood schools. I believe both as a parent and as a member of the Iowa City Community School District that neighborhood schools strengthen families and our community at large. That said, in this instance, at the end of this process I agreed with the district's recommendation to close and repurpose Roosevelt school, and build the Crossings school. I will not take more of your time to elaborate on my reasoning, however if you would like to discuss it with me I would welcome that discussion.

  • I can fill up a lot of space with this much cut and paste.

    At least two more names are in the rumor mill, and if even one of those files that's five people for three seats, and a real contest where just a week ago we were worried about who to write in.

    No comments: