Redistricting Plan Met with More Skepticism at Northwest Junior High Meeting

The Wednesday night meeting did garner some more support for the redistricting plan than it had at the previous meeting, however.

Skepticism, criticism, old arguments revisited, and even a little bit of positive feedback.

Another Iowa City Schools redistricting forum in the books.

On Wednesday night the Iowa City School District held its second of two scheduled forums on new redistricting plans in first-draft form by the school district.

Ann Feldmann, Assistant Superintendent and emcee of the forum, told the crowd of roughly one hundred visitors in the Northwest Junior High School Little Theatre that the plans they were to discuss during the evening were the same plans that were pilloried at the previous redistricting meeting at City High School . The administrative team is still considering ideas from that feedback.

"We didn't feel that we had them fleshed out enough to come out with a set of new scenarios," Feldmann said.

As this forum was held in a Coralville junior high, the forum focused more on the proposed junior high redistricting than the previous forum did.

The first draft of the proposal calls for moving 128 students from Wickam Elementary School to Northwest Junior High School to relieve overcrowding at North Central Junior High in North Liberty.

Wickam parents in attendance expressed doubt about the district's enrollment projection numbers, and criticized the district's apparent lack of "long-term planning" and "big-picture thinking."

A major subtext of this concern over long term planning appeared to be what this move would mean for the high school feeder system for Wickam, where students currently attend West High School after going to North Central. There was also some concern over future of the long discussed third comprehensive high school.

Suzanne Summerwill, a Wickam parent, said many parents worry the school district would use the Wickam move as a pretext for moving Wickam students to City High School, which was discussed at the last redistricting discussion two years ago and roundly rejected by Wickam parents for safety concerns related to students traveling on Interstate 80.

"It would become easy at that point for the school board to say those students should go to City High, and that is unacceptable," Summerwill said.

The parents also criticized the plan for only basing the enrollment projections on current enrollment trends, and not factoring in future growth into the mix. The parents pointed out that if current growth continues without expanding North Central's capacity beyond 450 students, this would not help matters much in the long term.

John Weihe, a Wickam parent and former Coralville city council member, summed up another theme of the meeting by saying that he felt that the junior high and high school levels are so connected that he didn't see the sense in developing redistricting plans for one without the other.

"I think the junior high and the high school really need to be discussed at the same time," he said.

Meanwhile, at the elementary school level, there was some support for elements of the plan during the forum.

A group of teachers from Grant Wood Elementary School were among those at the meeting who spoke in support of the district's efforts to adress overcrowding at a school like Wood, while also trying to balance free-and-reduced lunch rates at schools like Wood and Twain, which are both above 70 percent.

Molly Severson, a special education teacher at Wood, spoke passionately about the need to mix students of different economic backgrounds, as she said research has shown reducing the free and reduced lunch rate to even 50 percent improves the learning for both high and low income students at the affected schools.

Severson said after the meeting that the teachers came together because they felt it was important to let the public know how these isolated pockets of poverty in the district really affect instruction.

"It was important for us to come here together because we see this as a huge problem, and change needs to happen," she said.

Feldmann said during the forum that at least one more forum is likely going to be scheduled sometime in April, and that the public would have a chance to respond to any new scenarios the team generates.

This recommendation is scheduled to be delivered to the school board in May, at which point the school board can do whatever they please with it.

Gwen Parker March 25, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Julie, I have to say I sit here shocked at what you have written above. It is very oblivious to me that you have never spent a single moment with Lori and Kirk. This is a wonderful family that contributes a great deal in many ways to our community. You speak so strongly against discrimination but yet isn't this what you are doing to them? We are families with a lot at stake that will affect the lives of our children forever. I give you credit Lori and Kirk for taking the ttime, energy and care to make sure that this is right decision for your girls. Julie I encourage you to spend a moment in the lives of all of these families looking at making this big change. It is obvious to me from your comments that you have not done that yet. Gwen Parker
Julie VanDyke March 25, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Gwen Parker - Yes, you are clearly "oblivious" to the amount of time I've spent with Lori and Kirk. Address the points I made instead of making it all about who likes who the most... During the entire RSP fiasco, I spoke on behalf of everyone to say that being bused farther to balance FRL did not benefit anyone (that was inclusive of your neighborhood). What did you or Kirk do on behalf of "everyone"? Everything the Wickham parents did was aimed at sending another school, ANY SCHOOL, to City High instead of theirs...what did ANYONE in your neighborhood do on behalf of EVERYONE? Yet, Kirk helped manage to influence the board with his area of expertise horror stories of what happens to people in dental reconstructions after high speed accidents on I-80 (even though there are several other ways to get to City High that avoid I-80 entirely) to whip up the terror enough to keep Wickham kids out of City High for two+ more years. Well, you all succeeded, everyone else has already been sent to City that is closer than you (Hills elementary is actually farther from City than Wickham) and now there's nobody left. Kick up your heels, the ONLY way to balance the enrollment (not even the FRL now) between City and West is for Wickham to go to City High. It's a great school with a fine leader. I'm sure you'll come around once you've had a chance to adjust.
GwenParker March 26, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Wow Julie. Your anger and hate have no boundaries. Your point is unheard as it is masked by your rudeness. I will continue to focus on my own family and friends. Your unkindness is a waste of time and absolute nonsense. Gwen Parker
Julie VanDyke March 26, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Wow Gwen, really, cause you continue to prove that your anger and hate have no boundaries. The sense of entitlement radiates from your words which are merely personal attacks - mean girl style. You exhibit exactly the exclusionary tendency I noted earlier in your neighborhood's earlier public dialogue. Why can't you keep your discussion to the subject of redistricting instead of having made yet another personal level attack of personal insults towards me? For you and your clique, my message “is unheard” because you engage the redistricting process with an elitist delusion that Wickham should never attend City High no matter the cost of your fear mongering to everyone’s children (including the potential trauma of these irrational fears on your own). What makes you and your neighborhood so filled with "anger and hate" towards one of our two outstanding and nationally recognized "comprehensive" public high schools, that you feel you have the right to throw everything but the kitchen sink to avoid attending it via the safe, direct completion of Oakdale Boulevard through Dubuque Street? Why shouldn’t Wickham do its fair share to balance the ridiculously skewed enrollment numbers between the two High Schools? Can you answer those simple questions? Your self-righteous indignation would be less pretentious if you had decent answers to my questions...but your reply hasn’t provided any of those, you've just called me names and directed more insults at me instead.
Stephen Schmidt March 26, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Alright guys, I think that's enough for this thread for the moment. I'm going to shut this down for a few days and if you want to come back later and comment on the topic without attacking each other you are welcome to do so.


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