In the May 1, 2012 Iowa City Community School District Board of Directors meeting, board president Marla Swesey wished everyone a happy May Day.
Despite her pleasant opening, hostility soon bubbled to the surface. Tuyet Dorau appeared to be upset that fellow board member Jeff McGinness attended her and Sally Hoelscher's listening post for parents and the community. She expressed a concern about whether it was legal for other board members to attend without participating up front, especially if a majority of board members attended. Fifty parents and community members attended the listening post, which was held in North Liberty.
Board members who host listening posts in pairs don't adequately report on what transpires at these meetings, so naturally other board members want to hear for themselves what parents and community members are saying.
Listening post hosts tend to understate parents' outrage and concern in the North Liberty area about the lack of heat in temporary buildings at Penn Elementary, the overcrowding of classrooms, and the failure to follow through on an implied promise to build a fourth high school in the North Liberty Corridor.
There's plenty of anger on the east and south side of the ICCSD area too, with forced busing to integrate a segregated community made plain by the number of Free and Reduced Lunch students on the south and east sides of Iowa City. John Bacon, the City High principal, attends every school board meeting and can't possibly be happy about the botched geothermal project at City High that has rendered his only practice field wet, muddy, and almost unusable for 7 years now and counting.
Wickham Elementary School parents are enraged that their school, which has a FRL count of 5.7% of students contrasting sharply with Mark Twain's FRL count of 71% of students, is finally being affected by the segregation of FRL students on the southeast side. Longfellow Elementary School now has an influx of FRL students from Shelter House and is busing Longfellow students to Twain.
Parents and grandparents are upset that the culture of their school is changing. Parents who've already had their kids bused here, there, and back again appear to want sheltered, unaffected schools to share in the burden of being bused in order to integrate schools. What a mess.
Board member Sarah Swisher agreed with Tuyet that board member participation should be regulated, but said she would have liked to have attended that listening post as well. That didn't really make sense to me. If board members can't legally attend a public meeting for whatever reason, then board members need to improve their communication regarding what occurs at those meetings. Fifty people at a listening post is a remarkable turnout.
The community has a right to be angry. Taxpayer funds continue to be mismanaged and cost overruns abound.
Tragically, as both Phil Hemingway and Bob Porter have pointed out, the fourth high school North Liberty wants and the additional elementary schools that everyone wants could have been built by now with the money that has been wasted in the ICCSD physical plant. Although Synesi auditors stated that the physical plant does not have anyone qualified to manage multiple large construction projects, a fact that physical plant director Paul Schultz has proven over and over again, he still directs the botched construction jobs at the physical plant. Why? The community has a right to know.
In the May Day school board meeting, community member Phil Hemingway said that a school building was demolished with external and internal security lights and a broken automotive hoist that could have been fixed. Apparently, Paul Schultz prefers to buy everything new.
Would it have been inconvenient to remove valuable equipment that could have been fixed? That's what the physical plant staff is paid to do. District administrators and the board should be watching its money a lot better than they're doing and not predictably paying for the same equipment or botched construction project twice.
What was the outcome of the May 1st meeting? Nothing. It was Labor Day, and nothing was accomplished. Oh, the school board talked a lot. They're good at talking.
Board member Karka Cook made an effort to stress that action and closure on individual projects like the City practice field is what we need now, but for right now, the only action the board and district seem capable of is to tear down buildings and closing Roosevelt School. Why is the district selling the property? It's madness.
Physical plant director Paul Schultz inaccurately added up the sum of all projects being done at West High. The sum of those projects was actually $545,000, but Mr. Schultz put the sum at $445,000, which had the effect of minimizing the usual cost overruns. Whether the error was intentional or not is unknown, but Supt. Murley and David Dude did admit to Schultz's error. One wonders how long they're going to continue to apologize for his mistakes and continue to allow the "equipment spending spree" that Phil Hemingway alluded to at the beginning of the meeting.