Monday, June 22, 2015

Iowa City should support neighborhood schools

The following letter to the editor by Barbara Buss appeared in the June 23 Press-Citizen:

I am writing to endorse the letters to the Iowa City Press-Citizen that have been written in opposition to the closing of Hoover Elementary School. I’m not writing to add facts to their arguments, but rather to reinforce the point that neighborhoods are lost when their schools are closed — a point so eloquently presented in a letter by Karen McDonald on May 22. Well-run communities need to take efficiency into account in their administration, but they should not be governed by efficiency alone.

I’m aware that Iowa City is not Chicago, and that the issues facing our school system are not those with which Chicago must contend. But when I read the following paragraph from “There Goes the Neighborhood School,” by Jennifer C. Berkshire, in the December issue of “The Progressive” about the Chicago system, I thought of ours: “When the city of Chicago shuttered some fifty neighborhood schools last year, officials used antiseptic-sounding words like ‘underperformance’ and ‘underutilization.’ But visit neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the closings, as I did recently, and you’ll hear that the battle over the city’s schools is about something much larger: the future of the city itself and who gets to live here.”

By opposing the closing of Iowa City’s neighborhood schools, one is supporting the future of Iowa City as a community. It is therefore important that we ask those responsible for shaping this future for a clear description of their visions for Iowa City as a healthy community. It will then be the responsibility of the citizens to vote for candidates on the basis of these stated visions, and not be misled by “antiseptic sounding words.”

Monday, June 15, 2015

Please attend the June 16 meeting!

Two school board members, Chris Lynch and Orville Townsend, will be meeting with parents and community members who are concerned about the future of Hoover Elementary on Tuesday, June 16 at 5:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library. The meeting is organized by the Hoover PTA’s Hoover Advocacy Committee.

Please come out and show your support for Hoover!

UPDATE: We had a great turnout for the meeting, and a lot of important issues were raised. Coverage here and here.

School district should promote sustainable neighborhoods

In the June 15 Press-Citizen, Eric Gidal, a Horace Mann parent, writes about how schools play a role in sustaining neighborhoods and vice versa:
Schools benefit in many ways from the health of our larger community, but they are also micro-communities that, in turn, nourish the neighborhoods and cities that surround them.

Are we interested in supporting efforts to develop and sustain Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty as walkable, renewable and engaging places to live, for us and for future generations? If so, then neighborhood schools are critical. If you want a healthy neighborhood, if you want a healthy city, you need to support local schools.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Closing schools doesn't make sense

The following letter to the editor by Bill Whittaker appeared in the June 2 Press-Citizen:

I agree with Chris Liebig’s May 13 guest opinion on the issue of school closures.

There seems to be an increasing divide between the public and the administrators who run this school district. The elected school board is supposed to make the policy decisions, but they often seem to be taking their directions from the administrators, instead of the other way around.

In 2013, the school district held several community workshops to develop a facilities plan. Hundreds of people spent hours attending those workshops. Each time, a wide majority of the participants were against closing any schools. The school board voted to close Hoover anyway. This year, the administration floated even more closure proposals.

Why have so many school closures been proposed at all? One of the main reasons for the facilities plan was to reduce overcrowding and make room for growing enrollment. Why close schools when enrollment is growing? But the administrators seem determined to close schools and convert others into 600-student mega-schools, whether the public wants it or not.

Now it’s two years later and the district still can’t (or won’t) say what it plans to do with the Hoover property that it claimed to “need.”

It’s time to put the community back into the Iowa City Community School District. If the school board won’t stand up for the community, then we need to elect new board members who will.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How you can help Save Hoover

The goal of Save Hoover is to elect school board members who will reverse the decision to close Hoover. How can you help? At this stage, the best thing we can do as a group is to make our presence felt. Here are several ways:

  • Write a letter to the editor of the Press-Citizen or the Gazette about keeping Hoover open. (Scroll down to see some that have already been published.)
  • Raise the Hoover issue when you meet school board members and candidates.
  • Attend the meeting with school board members Chris Lynch and Orville Townsend about Hoover’s future. The meeting is on Tuesday, June 16, at 5:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library.
  • Talk to your friends in other attendance areas about the reasons to keep Hoover open.
  • Consider contributing to the Save Hoover Committee. The Committee plans to publicize the candidates’ positions on Hoover and get out the vote for pro-Hoover candidates. (The link to donate is in the sidebar.)

As we get closer to Election Day (September 8), there will more opportunities to get involved—for example, by helping distribute campaign literature, attending candidate forums, displaying a yard sign, helping get out the vote, etc. Let us know you’re interested by emailing us savehooveric [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com, and we’ll keep you posted on opportunities to help.

Thank you!

Hoover School closure not an isolated issue

The following guest opinion by Chris Liebig appeared in the May 13 Press-Citizen:

Last month, our school district’s administrators released several possible “updates” to the district’s facilities plan. All of the updates continued to close Hoover Elementary, and two of the three updates would have closed additional elementary schools as well.

District officials were taken aback by the coverage of the updates, which emphasized the possibility of more school closings. The “recommended” update closed only Hoover, they argued, not the other schools. The other updates were just “thought exercises,” the superintendent said.

But no one had to look very far for evidence that the administration is inclined to close more schools. During the facilities planning process two years ago, many of the scenarios included school closures, and some would have closed multiple schools — even though district enrollment is projected to grow. And, of course, the school board did vote to close a school, Hoover, even though the majority of the public feedback favored keeping all existing schools open.

As the school board election approaches, the people who support the Hoover closure will try to convince you that it is somehow unique. “We want to close Hoover,” the argument will go, “but don’t worry, we’d never want to close your school.”

But a candidate’s support for closing Hoover tells you something: it shows a willingness to close a school for less-than-compelling reasons. For there have never been convincing reasons to close Hoover. We were told that we can save money by having fewer, larger schools — but any savings is dwarfed by the millions it will cost to replace Hoover’s lost capacity. We were also told that City High needs the Hoover property for — well, for something, someday. (Don’t ask what.)

Anyone who finds those reasons convincing will have no trouble finding reasons to close additional schools, such as Horace Mann, Lincoln, Hills, Longfellow and Shimek — all of which are significantly smaller than Hoover and thus cheaper to replace elsewhere.

The administration’s “updates” made it clear that the issue of school closings is not going away. If you think we should value our existing elementary schools, rather than close some and super-size others, you should ask this year’s board candidates where they stand on the issue.

And if the answer is, “I support closing Hoover, but I’m against school closures,” you’d be smart to look for another candidate.

Hoover Elementary still alive and well

The following letter to the editor by Kristine Lumb and Erin Kaufman appeared in the May 9 Press-Citizen:

The Press-Citizen recently reported that the Iowa City Community School Board approved schematic design documents for the new elementary school located on the east edge of Iowa City.

The article referred to the new school as Hoover, not “Hoover East,” the name the board has agreed to use to differentiate the new school from the Hoover that already exists and that has served Iowa City's children for six decades.

While the construction of new schools marks an exciting time for the district, it is important to remember there is already a Hoover Elementary, alive and well.

Despite possible closure in 2019, Hoover Elementary remains at the center of a thriving community. Students and families have spent the year celebrating the school’s 60th anniversary. We have marched in a parade, taken field trips, and welcomed members of a presidential family. We have learned about the world and how to be caring, courageous, honest, respectful, and responsible citizens. We have welcomed incoming kindergarteners and will see sixth graders transition to junior high. In short, we are still here.

In fact, many want to see Hoover thrive beyond 2019. The Save Hoover Committee (http://savehoover.blogspot.com) is working to make known the good reasons for keeping Hoover open, with the ultimate goal of preventing its closure. Save Hoover will work to get the word — and the vote — out in the upcoming board election.

Hoover is a tight-knit community of students, families and neighbors that will not be replaced by simply transferring its name to a new school.