Thursday, February 26

This is What Democracy Looks Like-- Messy

Like about 10% of the voters who usually turnout at our local school board elections, I persevered the heat and length of this week's ICCSD board meeting to make my points about the school board's "proposed strategic facilities improvement plan" from Superintendent Lane Plugge for FAIR!, the group for which I am the Chairperson.

In so doing, I heard the concerns of parents of Rossevelt school which were largely desiring that the school receive needed repairs and improvements sooner than later. I also heard larger concerns being raised from parents at other older Iowa city schools that their schools not be under the threat of a wrecking ball.

Most importantly I heard that residents are very keen on weighing in on any district-wide plan to decide what to do about current and future school facilities and more importantly what to do to improve educational opportunity. The We Love Our Neighborhood Schools folks and others want great schools.

I also heard that the school board is working with reduced resources and that has to be factored in whatever decisions are made where growth in the district is concerned. The Catch 22 is that labor costs are the single greatest cost to schools and that the more schools there are, more labor costs follow.

Their frustration comes from the fact that the SILO money is good for buildings, but it does nothing to change the funding formula that will leave the district in a shortfall situation about the same time any new or improved school would be build. Said differently, a new school could be built without the staff to manage and teach in it.

Clearly there are some difficult days ahead as decision makers and the public try to sort through the issues that will solve school overcrowding in one part of town, upset a neighborhood's equilibrium elsewhere, and deal with changing demographics throughout the district.

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