Parent Randall Anderson, who moved his family to North Liberty, made an excellent pitch for the North Corridor high school, which hasn't been built yet. Most of the Iowa City Community School District board of directors acknowledged his and other community members' pent-up demand for the North Corridor high school but expressed a preference for first addressing overcrowded, hot elementary school classrooms.
"Especially Penn Elementary School [in North Liberty]," board member Sarah Swisher commented. "As long as we tie up SILO funds for large, expensive projects [like the North Corridor high school], we can't move on cheaper elementary school projects.
"The high school should be a long-range project."
Board member Sally Hoelscher agreed and mentioned that she campaigned on a promise to work on older schools first, not build a third comprehensive high school.
"That should be a long-term project," Sally added.
Marla Swesey, board president, agreed. She's investigating parcels of lands the district already owns and wants to buy more land for additional schools. So does Superintendent Steve Murley. Swesey pointed out that City High has capacity for more students while West High is overcrowded.
Why? Why hasn't West High shifted some students to City High, which has extra capacity still? (I don't know for how long City High will have extra capacity, but it does now.)
Ironically, Patti Fields brought up the issue of community trust. Even more ironically, she brought up the issue of transparency. Transparency, mind you.
If anyone has fought community efforts to make the school district transparent more than Patti Fields, I'd like to know who it is. Ed Stone and Dave Gurwell had to file a lawsuit, a successful lawsuit, to get the information they wanted from the school district. I asked their attorney, Wally Taylor, if the lawsuit based on the district's violation of the Iowa Open Records Law, which the district acknowledged that they violated, was a slam dunk.
"It should have been," Wally remarked, "but they put up a fight."
Patti Fields' point about transparency, however disingenuous, is well taken. Yes. There's an issue with community trust. Does the community trust the board, headed in the recent past by one Patti Fields? I don't know why we would.
Transparency hasn't been Patti Field's strong suit, the board's strong suit, or the strong suit of the Iowa Association of School Boards, Patti Fields' new bailiwick.
The trouble is, the board has taken so long to clarify what they want and when they want it that the community's pent-up demand for the board to deliver on past promises has created a fractured community. Since we can't do it all with existing monies and we didn't do it with money we had (like SILO money), the community is taking sides and engaging in the fratricidal politics of scarcity. That is, whatever one segment of the community gets will be at the expense of another segment of the community because there isn't enough money to go around.
The district's scarcity of resources wouldn't be so real if the district hadn't wasted so much time and so many resources already, much of it bleeding into administrative salaries and physical plant expenditures.
The board created a monster of pent-up demand that can't and won't be satisfied. Regardless of what this sluggish board decides to do, I wish them luck in their reelection campaigns.