Wednesday, September 5

The School Board Election

Next Tuesday (9/11), Johnson County residents in the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty areas will have the opportunity to vote to choose two members of the school board. Based on what I saw in the debate yesterday and read in the news, progressive voters will have a limited choice. Respectfully, I will say that the three candidates for the board are offering their commitment and should all be applauded for their willingness to serve.

The ICCSD schools operate on a $70 million budget which is far larger than Iowa City's annual budget of $47.4 million for 2007. This makes choosing a board of directors an important matter, particularly because the job is a volunteer position and a three year commitment.

How to handle the district’s rapid growth has become a hot-button issue. It is appropriate for the school board to be proactive and concerned about how SILO dollars are spent, as well as the "per pupil" dollars that come from the state.

Some of the older school buildings are more like "edifice wrecks" when compared to the newly built (and apparently, overfilled) schools like Van Allen elementary. These older schools need to be retrofitted to meet existing and future needs.

In addition, the needs of some lower achieving schools for more educational enrichment programming to raise performance requires going beyond conventional thinking.

As of last week, 11,370 students were enrolled in the district — a 3.4 percent increase from the fourth day of school last year, when 11,000 attended. Of those students, there will be star students of course, but more likely, there will be students who have learning deficiencies because of prior educational opportunities. We need to adequately resource those needs.

Additionally, with the national need for more science and math ability, we need to consider "academies" to promote more creative and practical ways to instill a love of STEM fields.

Lastly, we need to look at the facilities of schools with a single question in mind, "how will this project enrich the educational opportunities for students?" A snack bar/ticket stand may be nice to have, but a state-of-the-art classroom to improve reading ability is necessary.

In the mean time, incumbent Gayle Klouda, deborah Thornton and Michael Cooper are on the ballot. Check out the story in the Gazette or watch the replay of the forum from last night and learn who you feel will best serve you.

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