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Pent-up demand for North Corridor high school collides with board's failure to ease elementary school overcrowding

The ICCSD board has delayed so many projects that now they can't satisfy all of the community now no matter what they do. The tortoise isn't going to win the race this time.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Matthew Georges September 05, 2012 at 09:23 PM
"The board created a monster of pent-up demand that can't and won't be satisfied." Remember what I said about hyperbole?
Maria Houser Conzemius September 06, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Matthew, you said you know what hyperbole means. And yes, this is a good example, sort of. You wait. The school board's foot dragging will cost them.
Maria Houser Conzemius September 07, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Really good article on 9/4/12 ICCSD board meeting by Greg Hennigan of the Gazette: http://thegazette.com/2012/09/05/with-vote-iowa-city-board-could-shift-money-for-new-school/
Maria Houser Conzemius September 07, 2012 at 03:49 PM
*Gregg Hennigan, that is.
Maria Houser Conzemius September 07, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Here's another good one by Gregg Hennigan: http://thegazette.com/2012/09/04/iowa-city-board-considers-shifting-money-from-new-high-school-to-elementaries/
B.A. Morelli September 07, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Don't forget the extra 'g' :)
Maria Houser Conzemius September 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Brian Morelli, +1 :)
Julie VanDyke September 10, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Julie VanDyke 9:44 pm on Sunday, September 9, 2012 "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." On what PLANET - the man said the high school should be built because he bought a more than a couple hundred thousand dollar house with the idea that the new high school next to it was inevitable. I may full well, as I do, believe that high school is inevitable, but to emphasize that because of the money he paid for his house (more than mine by 2-3 times which I bought when it was districted to West High, I don't doubt, and more than so many families that don't have a house at all) is one of the most insensitive comments I've ever heard from a doctor (and he's not even a neurosurgeon ;-).
Maria Houser Conzemius September 10, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Julie, I don't remember parent Randall Anderson mentioning that he's a physician or telling us how much his house cost. If he did, I missed it. My point is simply that he & others had every reason to expect that a third comprehensive high school would be built in the Corridor between Iowa City & Cedar Rapids. Why? Because the Corridor is experiencing explosive growth. You know that. So the district is or was saving money to build a 3rd comprehensive high school in that Corridor. Given that the school district & the board haven't yet reached agreement on what the master facilities plan will be & have wasted substantial resources in the meantime, pent-up demand for adequate infrastructure at all levels of schooling is busting the budget before the money is spent. Indecisiveness & in-fighting (see quotes in news article above) on the school board is wasting time. It's time we retired the three board members who've been on the board the longest & continue to sabotage each other rather than solve problems: Patti Fields, Tuyet Dorau, & Sarah Swisher. I like some of what each has to say, regardless of past behavior (e.g, Patti Fields' and Tuyet Dorau's relatively new & encouraging awareness of the importance of issues like trust & transparency), but their in-fighting is costing the board valuable time. "Hard decisions," as Tuyet Dorau said (without saying what she thought those hard decisions should be) "need to be made." Let's make them.
Maria Houser Conzemius September 10, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Here's the news article I referred to above: http://www.press-citizen.com/comments/article/20120909/NEWS01/309090023/Committee-members-discuss-changing-policy
Maria Houser Conzemius September 10, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Shoot. They already rewrote the article since yesterday to eliminate today the previously published nasty comments board members Patti Fields and others made about each other. Anybody think that the school board has way too much influence on what the Press-Citizen decides to publish? I do. Some "news"paper.

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