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.

No Blinders March 22, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Suzanne Summerwill is associated with Midwest One Bank and Iowa State Bank and Trust. For her to stand up and publicly insist that it is “unacceptable” for her kids to attend City High is a slap to many Iowa Citians who use her family’s banking services and basically contribute to her family’s wealth. This elitist attitude has got to stop. Find a legitimate reason to oppose redistricting, if you have one. (Please don't use the unsafe driving schtick; everyone knows Wickham families and kids drive on I80, and besides, Oakdale Blvd will expand to North Dubuque St. by Deember 2013.) The same goes for John Weihe, an eye doctor; Kirk and Lori Fridrich, both area dentists / oral surgeons (and UI big wig); and others from that neighborhood who believe they can use their influence on this school district. I would guess that the most vocal opponents know almost nothing about City High. What you say and how you behave does not go unnoticed. If you want to create contention in this community -- based on your own ignorance, fear and influence -- be prepared for pushback.
Cynthia Gillham March 22, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Everyone should read Diana Spears guest opinion that appeared in the ICPC earlier this week. It was well written and really cuts to the core of the matter.
Stephen Schmidt March 22, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I believe this is the article you are referring to? http://www.press-citizen.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012303200017
Molly Severson March 22, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Yes...Diana Speer's article is a must read. In reference to "no blinder's" comments above... similar with what people are saying about "those Grant Wood kids." It is simply dispicable. I can't even believe these people really say these things. Grant Wood kids aren't bad...their families aren't bad...their teachers aren't bad...but the system needs adjustments. The same goes for Twain and Kirkwood. You put lots of kids with high needs in a school and, turns out, the school is under-performing....again...not bc of the kids, the families, or the teachers/school....but because there is too much concentrated need due to poverty. The teachers can provide the best research based methods and be at the top of their game and still not get students to proficiency levels. The resources (specifically human resources-teachers) are drained and cannot meet all the needs. The needs must be spread out. The kids at the other schools would not have their academic gains affected (as per the research). They would be enriched with diversity and what the amazing Grant Wood Students have to offer...and it is a lot. Diversity brings new life stories, experiences, beliefs, etc....all things that provide for a rich learning environment. Iowa City is seen as a progressive community in the eyes of Iowans and everyone...that is something that makes it so special. What happens to our community affects us ALL longterm. So this isn't just about the lives of our students...but our future lives also.
No Blinders March 22, 2012 at 06:50 PM
It is true that people all over this town have said terrible things in this and other redistricting processes. It's especially distasteful when bankers, hospital big wigs (partially paid with our taxes), business owners and healthcare providers try to use their influence and say inflammatory things about schools that their clients and patients use. Entitlement runs very deep in this small town, and it's d*mn ugly.
Stephen Schmidt March 22, 2012 at 07:46 PM
No Blinders, just for the sake of conversation, if it is wrong to judge schools or people based on their low income status, wouldn't it be equally wrong to do the converse and attribute opinions to people solely due to the high income status? If their ideas are wrong, as you claim, shouldn't they be wrong regardless of whether or not they are a banker, a butcher or a candlestick maker?
No Blinders March 22, 2012 at 08:15 PM
It is not just about income. People who provide healthcare and bank loans serve the entire community and should be careful about creating division based on ignorance and ill-informed views. Patients who sit in your eye exam chair or dental chair are not exclusively patients from one side of the school district. People who write checks for bank loans to Midwest One (Summerwill is on the board of directors) are not exclusively from one side of the district. I know your story couched Summerwill's comments in the context of driving safety. But her hostile quote was practically hissed out and was not in the context of the (questionable) driving safety discussion. If you think the butcher and baker hold as much sway in the community as the Dentist and the Banker, you're kidding yourself.
Stephen Schmidt March 22, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I see what you're saying. I also know from covering redistricting that it tends to devolve into "us versus them" sort of discussions, and I think these discussions need to be approached very carefully.
No Blinders March 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM
It is an absolute nightmare for the entire district and there is no way to have the discussion about your own wants and needs without sounding like a hypocrite. It has been going on for far too long and something just needs to get done, without caving to the loudest whiners, before it gets even more divided. It's a public school district. End of story. Some people last night insisted we should build just so kids won't have to move. I am pretty sure the taxpayers would disagree. We all pay for schools, regardless of whether we use them or not, and for most of us, education is the biggest chunk of our tax bills.
Stephen Schmidt March 22, 2012 at 11:49 PM
NB, I think you hit on some of the big questions that are still up in the air. With the consistent growth to the district more building seems inevitable (either in new buildings or new additions) The question is where and when, and what do they do in the meantime to solve some of the problems such as overcrowding and free and reduced lunch rates.
Avril F March 23, 2012 at 03:47 AM
I think many who give reasons why change can't happen are just trying to stall the process long enough to get their kids through the system. Wow.."unacceptable"...that is fairly harsh. Whether one agrees with Summerwill or not, I think people like her are in a unique position, as NB points out. I probably agree more with NB's point of view.
KLF March 24, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Posters should not use names without identifying themselves. Neither Lori and or have ever disparaged City High School; we consider City High to be an excellent school. We consistently advocate for neighbor schools, safety and the security of our children in a respectful manner. 1. While accidents are less frequent on the interstate than within the city, they are often fatal or severely maiming due to vehicle speed. 2. Short “hop on, hop off” interstate travel is especially dangerous for young, inexperienced and often reckless high school drivers. 3. High school children are poor drivers and often distracted by mobile phones and social media. 4. Rain, snow, ice and sleet make travel on all roads more risky, but especially on the interstate at high speeds. 5. There are routes to City High from Wickham neighborhoods that avoid interstate travel, but we all know our children will use the quickest route and will not “listen” to our advice especially when late and faced with congested city streets. 6. The Oakdale extension offers little comfort as it only takes you as far as Dubuque Street, leaving the interstate as a viable option for our children to utilize. 7. It is not about occasionally using the interstate; when 4 years of Wickham students are going back and forth across town daily, there will be an additional 250,000 or more commutes in a single school year, and many will involve interstate travel. Safety should be priority one for redistricting. Kirk Fridrich
Julie VanDyke March 24, 2012 at 04:14 PM
"Posters should not use names without identifying themselves." Wow, Dr. Fridrich, you're finally came out of the comment "closet"? You posted vicious comments and questionable "truths" under a pseudonym during the entire last high school redistricting. Shall I go back to prints of your comments to specifically remind you what YOU said under a pseudonym? I am disgusted with anyone who REGULARLY posts but is not brave enough to use their own name - I don't care who they are. If they are opined enough to post, they should do it under their own name (especially when attacking the opinions of others who do). I clearly remember offering my full name (not that my pseudonym didn't include it) in exchange for yours repeatedly during the last round of high school redistricting, an offer that you would not take! What a hypocrite. If you're so frightened of I-80, move to an island without highways! Clearly your children are not safe in Iowa because of the big scary road they "might" drive on when you're not looking. Well then put them on a school bus instead of giving them their own cars before they're 18! Oh, and Oakdale blvd won't work to keep them off the highway - what a load - even if they took I-80, they'd still exit at Dubuque to get to City High anyway - SAME EXIT BUT TAKING OAKDALE EXT = NO I-80. Ditch the false shield safety argument and tell us all your real "truth" why City High is "unacceptable" for entitled children when it's GREAT FOR EVERYONE ELSE! Julie VanDyke
Julie VanDyke March 24, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I would also most sadly, and respectfully remind every parent using the I-80 safety ploy when there are many OTHER ways to drive to City High, that the one West High student to die in a traffic accident in recent memory was on Mormon Trek, south of the Coralville strip, on the route she many of their children would take to get to West High. I would also remind you that, straight from the IDOT, "Roughly one-half of Iowa’s crash fatalities occur on local roads." From the National Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS), "Iowa – 88% of traffic fatalities occur on rural roads." Dr. Fridrich will then go into an empassioned argument that non-fatal accidents are really what is behind the safety argument, to which I will say: OK, you want to pull that one, list the total number of accidents in which a City High or West High traveling student has been seriously injured on the way to or from school - let's deal with "real" numbers instead of scare tactics. Then, with your concern for safety understandably high, are you equally or, better yet, even more so vocal about why students should not have cell phones that text because texting is SO dangerous while driving on ANY type of road? Keep it real chicken little.
No Blinders March 24, 2012 at 04:47 PM
On KLF's basis student drivers from all neighborhoods should have their paths examined for potential safety issues and the district should assign attendance areas based on the safest routes. Another factor for the district to consider in redistricting.
KLF March 25, 2012 at 12:22 AM
To Blinders, thank you for your civil response. To JVD, your anonymous poster remains at large, it is not me. As previously stated, I have been open, respectful of all parties involved, and fully public with all my communications regarding school redistricting.
Julie VanDyke March 25, 2012 at 01:03 AM
And yet, the arguments made were identical to the points you made when you spoke to the board, in your above comments and in public...oh, and since you do not likely know my middle name, my initials for your reference would be JV, your effort to rewrite the rules of first middle last into something you clearly find more amusing is beneath your status as an adult.
Stephen Schmidt March 25, 2012 at 02:14 AM
For my benefit, how far is Wickam from City High versus West High? I'm asking not in Google Map terms but in terms of how long it takes you to get one place to the other.
Stephen Schmidt March 25, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Also, please resist the urge to make personal attacks. I know these are emotional issues, but it's better to talk about the issues than each other.
No Blinders March 25, 2012 at 05:34 AM
It’s crummy to accuse people of being secret posters when you can't know for sure [JVD]. That is seedy. However if you are a public figure or business person and you make money from people all over town or even just have a relationship with them as patients or friends, stuff you say is out there for all to see. KLF we all deserve decent replies but I hope that you realize my point was that it’s not realistic for the district to base boundaries on driving safety. I am guessing you don't realize how many high school drivers come from areas that are further out and more dangerous than the Wickham area, driving to both high schools in town. There are kids who live out off Highway 965, kids who live in Hills, kids who live off Highways 6 and 1, Sand Road and so on. Interstates are not known to be the most dangerous roads and the stretch you are worried about is just one mile and is also on a stretch that will soon be 3 lanes. If you tell your kids not to use the interstate and they do anyway, then you give consequences to them. Seems simple to me.
Julie VanDyke March 25, 2012 at 09:40 AM
Hi "No Blinders" taking shots from a blinder just like duck hunting. Post under your own name or don't criticize others directly. To misuse my initials again - if it helps you to be more polite yourself, my initials would be J.K.V. as Van is not a middle name. While I agree with your points about road safety, Dr. Fridrich was not nearly so sympathetic to them in previous "discussions". Unless you reviewed the posts, which based on their identical content to his points above and elsewhere (along with other "facts" he included that make it even more convincing) you really don't have anything but his word and mine to base it on - hmmmm, hearsay. I have NO sympathy for people who don't post under their own name, I am in no less danger for having the courage to post under mine than anyone else. If you can't sign your name to it, you shouldn't be saying it. I guess I'll have to agree with the Press Citizen on that one...I suppose if patch isn't going to similarly require it, this board will quickly deteriorate to the same mud fight the PC used to be. No Blinders...I'm going to start posting the names of the people who come up to me and make personal attacks on me in public...do you think that just because they're important they should be able to do so as well? Patch.com...unless you start educating "No Blinders" about name calling and personal attacks, those kinds of anonymous commentators will compromise the honesty of your boards.
KLF March 25, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Blinders, I do realize how many other children have to drive to school from further out of town or on dangerous rural roadways; I wish I could change their situations, but sadly I cannot. The school board did not mandate their long distance or rural commute. In the case of north corridor neighborhoods to City High, the school board can make decisions to avoid adding to the “potential” for hazardous commuting.
Julie VanDyke March 25, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Dr. Fridrich, Now no longer posting under your name but using just your initials of KLF then? Where'd that sudden courage go? 1) You say, "I wish I could change their situations, but sadly I cannot." yet you most certainly did contribute to changing children's dangerous drives on rural roadways. The children of Hills were moved from a safe 10-minute commute on I-380 to West to a 40-minute commute over two-lane undivided roads, over multiple train crossings and through many city intersections instead to go to City instead. Hmmm, and whose neighborhood was at West first? You stood in front of the board and told them how much more dangerous it would be for your child to attend City High because you couldn't trust your children not to drive on I-80 than it would be for mine on a two-lane undivided highway over several more sets of railroad tracks and many more intersections. You didn't stand up and point out with equal concern at all, you just championed the safety of YOUR neighborhood's children. I stood up in front of the board, I have my speech to refer back to, and stated that busing children long distances to balance FRL served "nobody's children". Do you understand the difference between our speeches? Mine tried to protect all of our children from more dangerous commutes while yours championed only your children. 2)Partially based on your argument the board DID mandate a longer and more "rural" commute for the kids of Hills. I'll disagree with you on that one too.
Julie VanDyke March 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Dr. Kirk Fridrich (alias KLF), you say, "In the case of north corridor neighborhoods to City High, the school board can make decisions to avoid adding to the “potential” for hazardous commuting." Gonna have to disagree with you there too...put your child on a school bus if you can't trust them not to take the many other possible routes to City High than I-80...the new Oakdale Blvd. through to Dubuque street will avoid it entirely.
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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