Friday, August 28, 2015

KXIC interview

Jay Capron at KXIC is interviewing all of the school board candidates on his morning show; his interview with me is here. You can find all of the interviews here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Compounding the harm

As I wrote about here, this year our district’s central administration told the teachers at Hoover school, which is scheduled to close in 2019, that they would not be moved as a group to the new East Elementary School or given hiring preference there. Many of Hoover’s teachers want to stay at Hoover for as long as there is a Hoover, but they can’t possibly stay if they don’t know whether there will be any job for them after the closure. As a result, the teachers have no choice but to start looking for other jobs and taking whatever they can find. This is a recipe for the slow death of Hoover, as its teachers will be drained away even though it is still the elementary school for hundreds of kids for the next four years.

This was a major topic of discussion at the Hoover listening post this past June, but there’s no indication that the board or the administration have done anything to address the concern. Teachers are already talking about leaving (and some have left, though I don’t know if this is why).

From what I’ve heard, this is not at all what happened when Roosevelt closed and Borlaug opened. (Maybe readers can chime in with more information about how Roosevelt teachers were treated?) How can the administration not have seen this problem coming, especially if it went out of its way to tell teachers that they would not be given any hiring preference?

The district needs to address this problem now, before the harm to our kids’ elementary school experience is irreversible.

Monday, August 24, 2015

School board campaign update

Yard signs are here, get ’em while they’re hot. Email me at chrisliebig2015 [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com.

Campaign website is here.

You can donate to the campaign using a credit card here (no PayPal account necessary) or by sending a check to Chris Liebig for School Board, P.O. Box 735, Iowa City, IA 52244-0735. Please include your full name and address. Corporate contributions are not allowed.

Thanks to all of you who have already offered your support in so many ways. Not much time for blogging lately, but a little more to come soon . . .

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Candidates' positions on the closure of Hoover School

Save Hoover has posted the school board candidates' responses to the question of whether it makes sense to close Hoover. The issue is important in and of itself, but it's also a great proxy for which candidates are willing to think critically about administration proposals and push back against them when necessary.

Read them all here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Murley, McGinness: Hoover must close

Outgoing school board member Jeff McGinness is warning voters, in an opinion piece and in mass emails like this one, that the entire facilities plan will become impossible unless Hoover school is closed.

I’m happy to have McGinness contributing to the discussion. But where exactly is the argument? His entire piece hinges on the statement that “the administration team has said repeatedly that the district cannot afford to operate both the existing Hoover and the New Hoover.”

Does McGinness subject the superintendent’s assertions to even minimal scrutiny? How can it be true, for example, that the only possible way to find money in the budget is by closing an elementary school? If that is true, what will happen the next time the superintendent needs to find money in the budget? Will more schools have to close? Doesn’t closing an elementary school—and pitting one neighborhood against another—in fact endanger passage of the bond that will be necessary to follow through on the facilities plan? McGinness doesn’t ask.

McGinness also accepts at face value the superintendent’s analysis of how much it would cost to keep Hoover open, even though that analysis doesn’t even pretend to use actual costs.

When we want to know why they need the Hoover property, all we get are evasions. When we want to know what it costs to keep Hoover open, we get obfuscation. When we want to how much more we’ll have to borrow to replace the capacity lost by tearing Hoover down, we get nothing, because the district has never asked.

If the school board is to have any purpose at all, it can’t simply defer to administrators’ preferences, no questions asked.

Friday, August 7, 2015

There is no plan to use Hoover as a swing school

More than once over the past week or so I have heard people (including at least one board candidate) defend the Hoover closure partly on the grounds that it would throw off the facilities plan if Hoover could no longer be used as a “swing school”—that is, as the building that will temporarily house kids whose schools are being renovated.

But the facilities plan does not include any use of Hoover as a swing school. The school board rejected that option early on. Hoover is scheduled to serve its own attendance area until 2019, and then to be torn down (unless people like me succeed in getting the plan changed to keep Hoover open).

The facilities plan has a lot of parts to keep track of, so it’s understandable if people have some misimpressions, but that’s one that we should lay to rest.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gazette article

Andrew Phillips has a good article about my school board candidacy in the Gazette today, but one part of our discussion was cut short in a way that I think really changed the meaning. Here is his question and my answer:
What’s your position on how (or if) the district should attempt to balance student demographics between schools, including by moving students through boundary changes?

My sense is that most families (whether rich, poor, or in between) strongly value being able to attend a nearby school if there is one. I do not think there is sufficient public support for boundary plans that send kids to schools much farther from their homes when there is a school close by. More importantly, I do not think that such plans are favored even by their intended beneficiaries—economically struggling families. (If they were, that would weigh heavily in my evaluation of them.)

Where there is no nearby school, or when there is more than one nearby school, there can be opportunities to use redistricting (which has to occur, since new schools are opening) to prevent a situation where there are some “rich schools” and some “poor schools.” There may also be other creative possibilities (sister schools?) toward that end. But I think we need to recognize that there are limits to what redistricting can do to address the problems of poverty and income inequality, and try to make sure that we can give kids the best education we can, wherever they are.
I certainly did not mean to suggest that we should throw up our hands about addressing the problem of poverty as it affects kids in our schools. In fact, I think there is a lot of good will in the community toward finding ways to direct the district’s resources to the kids who need it most, and that that should be a priority.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

How you can help

Thanks to everyone who’s offered to help. (I’ll need it.) If you’d like to take a yard sign when they’re ready, or to help in some other way, contact me at cjliebig [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com.

If you’d like to make a campaign contribution, send it to Chris Liebig for School Board, P.O. Box 735, Iowa City, IA 52244-0735. Please include your full name and address. No corporate contributions allowed.

My reasons for running are here. A more official campaign website is on its way.