I’ve been drafting a post about what our current board members said about redistricting when they were running for the board, and I came across this moment, on a different issue, from the 2011 school board campaign (transcript after the jump):
All five of those candidates, after they were elected, supported the plan to close Hoover Elementary and build 500-student schools in cornfields on the edge of town. (Four of them voted “yes” on the closure. Swesey, after explaining why she was going to vote “yes,” voted “no” when it became clear that there were enough votes to pass it without her support. In any event, she later opposed reconsidering the closure.)
It’s enough to make you wonder whether there’s any point in going to candidate forums.
Sure, board members can change their minds about an issue. But if you run for office on one platform, and then suddenly realize, after you’re elected, that you support a very different one, shouldn’t you get the community on board for your new opinion before imposing it?
Here’s the transcript of the video. (I’ve edited the original down to just the candidates who were elected.)
Question: What is your opinion of replacing or refurbishing older, centrally located schools, versus closing older schools and moving outward with newer schools?
Patti Fields: I think we first have to look at each situation individually, in the sense that the schools are at the hub of their own communities within neighborhoods and within their attendance areas, and we actually don’t have a lot of schools that are pure neighborhood schools, we have a great mix of those. But I also think that it depends on the building, and what condition it’s in, and its current use. Right now we have many buildings in our district that are multiple ages, and some have greater needs than others, but we aren’t at a point where that’s a concern immediately, but over time, as a long-range plan, it may be. However, I’m not necessarily in favor of building on the outside of the area, and large schools in that sense, because that just really kind of creates a disconnect with communities and neighborhoods.
Sally Hoelscher: I’m a proponent of utilizing the resources that we have to their fullest capacity whenever possible, and so whenever possible, I would like to see us use our existing buildings before we build new. Now in order to be able to do that, that means that we need to maintain those buildings, which requires some planning. So we need to have a long-term plan and plan for how we are taking care of our buildings, so that we can continue to use them for as long as possible. And then the second part of that question, as far as moving the schools out, I am not in favor of that. Schools are a community, and I think the kids in the school and the parents and the teachers all benefit from that community, and I think that’s an important part of it and is best achieved if the school is centrally located.
Jeff McGinness: One of the main reasons my wife and I decided to return back to Iowa City from Chicago and Naperville was my experience in this education system, and that included growing up in Wood. There’s been a lot of talk about neighborhood schools, and a lot of different definitions thrown out about that, and for me, my experience at Wood was, it was a school that not only did the teachers know most of the kids’ names in the school, whether they were in their class or not, but most of the parents did as well, and they cared about them, and they looked out for their educational well-being as well. And so I see a lot of value in that, and I think that’s something that’s often overlooked when we talk about why we have such great schools. We talk about great teachers, obviously we have those. We have great parents. The two biggest factors in a kid’s education, obviously, are the teachers and the level of parental involvement. Something that also is overlooked is that sort of small school culture that we have, and we have a number of those in our district, and I think if we continue to, you know, get bigger and newer, we’re going to lose that, it’s going to lose that sort of at-home culture, community, whatever-you-want-to-call-it feel that a lot of them have.
Marla Swesey: I started my teaching career in the Iowa City Community School District at Roosevelt Elementary School, and so I had a fondness for that school and its school community. I went to the eightieth birthday celebration not long ago, and I looked at the building and I could tell that it had not been kept up, and I talked to the teachers, and they knew that that was happening all along. When I was there and I was teaching, I couldn’t tell that there was anything wrong with the building at all. It was very comfortable. Things were working well. So I really do believe that if we are going to maintain some of these fine unique buildings that we have, which I think is a good plan, we need to keep them out of that unfixable disrepair mode and maintain our buildings. They need to be kept updated for accessibility, and also technology, and I think that as long as they are safe and supportive for our students, then they should be kept in their neighborhood center.
Karla Cook: I am a fan of using existing facilities that we do have. I do love the older buildings and their architecture. I do know that there are concerns, there’s electrical, air-conditioning concerns, there’s handicap-accessibility concerns, there’s safety concerns, for example, asbestos or lead paint, those types of things, but keeping that in mind, I’d rather fix something than replace it. I looked at some numbers today in the district and found out that all of the new schools, or the last ones that have been built, are 506-student capacity. I’m not sure why it’s 506, but if you go and find it, those all are. That’s a little big for my taste. I would prefer to have schools that are smaller than that, as Jeff said where students know each other, where the teachers know almost every student in the school. I just think the neighborhoods cycle, and when you have small schools, students have grown up and left and their parents are still living there, and they come back and there will be young families again.