Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Board Candidates Respond to the Question of Hoover

In preparation for the September 8 ICCSD school board election, the Save Hoover Committee submitted the following question to candidates running for both the two- and four-year open seats:

If you are elected, will you support amending the long-term facilities plan to keep Hoover Elementary School open?

Following are the responses we’ve received so far, posted in the order received, and grouped according to seat. We will continue to update the blog as additional answers come in.

Candidates for the Four-Year Seats:

TOM YATES: I am leaning toward keeping Hoover open. Here are my reasons:

--Informally, my own poll of this question to anyone I talk to (and I always ask) is about 3-1 in favor of keeping it open. I am in favor of keeping neighborhood schools open, in general.

--I am not convinced that the future of a chunk of the Facilities Master Plan is contingent on Hoover's closing. I see what the intended links are for the expansion of current schools to take care of Hoover's student population, but I do not think they all add up.

--The lack of a plan for the site, demolished or not, is a bad sign. Portions of the last two board meetings have led to no clear purpose/plan. Discussion of City High needs, and the list presented at the last meeting, do not indicate a need for more acreage. I taught in that building for 31 years, and can think of several ways to get better use of its space, or added space, than the last two expansion projects. The lack of imagination concerning City baffles me. 

SHAWN EYESTONE: My straight answer to your question is no.  At this time I don’t have enough evidence before me to want to alter the Facilities Master plan to keep Hoover open.  With some very good friends as parents at Hoover, I know this runs the risk of creating some hostility.  I hope that can be avoided by at least having some understanding of my thinking.  However, I am very open to hearing a compelling argument as to why I should change my opinion.  I truly understand the meaning that each of our schools and our school families have for us.  I know that the buildings themselves can hold a lot of memories and a sense of nostalgia.  But there is more to the school than just the building itself.  It is the relationships our children build with each other.  It is the rapport that parents have with their children’s teachers and school administrators.  It is that sense of family that creates the strong bonds that make our district as great as it is.  That is what I would be against getting rid of.  I wouldn’t be in favor of splitting up the entire school and scattering them to the wind.  I would like to see those families kept together as much as possible and the teachers and administrators have the chance to go with them.  The building itself is a different matter.  As a Board member, I would have the responsibility to best help the entire district from a top level as well as each student on an individual basis.  As an elementary school parent I have to remind myself that every student means elementary, Junior High and High School.  The Master plan lists several much needed additions to City High.  These additions are to help make all of the high school students in the community have the same access to high quality programs.  In order to complete these additions to the building, some of the current City High property and components will be displaced.  The nearest and admittedly easiest place to gain back that lost ground is the current Hoover site.  I believe Hoover is also being tasked as a swing school to help with construction at many other facilities around the district.  This touches a lot of students’ lives around the district in a positive way.  I know it touches the lives of the students at Hoover most deeply and not completely in a positive way.  I can tell you that as a parent at one of the newer, larger schools in the district, I really do love it.  I’m constantly amazed at what the staff is able to do utilizing the space to its fullest and the professional development work they accomplish as a team.  My kids, the teachers and parents are quite proud of their school and I truly feel that Hoover parents, teachers and students will be just as proud of their new school.  As I said earlier, I am willing to listen to arguments because I am not as completely educated on the topic as I should be.  I can only speak from what I know.  If the plan is to scatter all of the current families at Hoover to the wind I would like to hear more about that.  I would also love to hear other proposals that show how these other great things in our district can be accomplished if Hoover does stay open.  The couple of times I have had the opportunity to visit Hoover, I enjoyed the building very much.  The same thing is true for all of the schools in our district.  No matter how big, how small, round, square, tall or short, the students are all happy to be there.  The staff loves their kids and we are providing a top notch education to all of them.  My hope is that every decision the Board makes stays true to that statement and improves on an already impressive resume.

PHIL HEMINGWAY: I unequivocally say YES to amending the long-term facilities master plan to keep Hoover open. Recent statements made by administration saying it would cost anywhere from $350,000-400,000 to inform the public on what the new facilities on the Hoover site would be used for is, in my opinion, utter hogwash. And board members who swallowed this tripe might be interested in purchasing the Sutliff Bridge. I am opposed to closing Hoover, Hills, Lincoln, Longfellow, Mann or any other elementary school in existing and vibrant neighborhoods and communities. With what has been provided to the community now, no strong case has been made for the need to close Hoover other than parking, tennis courts, and some future need not yet specified. Money drives all our decisions going forward - which is what I said at many forums during the last elections and it still holds true today. We cannot afford to close elementary schools at a time when we need added elementary school capacity. Does anyone remember that before the (BLDD) consultants came to town, City High was under capacity and needed more students but it took BLDD no time at all to say essentially all our schools are over capacity. 

We need Board members to be honest with the public and to live up to their promises of the RPS vote and to make overdue renovations/additions to existing schools and where needed, build new ones. The ICCSD has to strengthen and unify our community not divide it and weaken it.

Candidates for the Two-Year Seat:

PAUL ROESLER: To answer the question you have asked I would have to say no, not at this time. I am very much in favor of the current Facility Master Plan.  The current plan touches all schools across the district, adding classrooms, multi purpose rooms and air conditioning amongst other things which is greatly needed.  The FMP does not allow for renovations at Hoover without robbing another school of its planned renovations. 

Absent significant changes in school funding, the school funding formula at the state level, or a major influx of students into the immediate Hoover geography, it is neither fiscally responsible nor possible for old Hoover to be maintained and operated.  If the things I mentioned were to happen I would definitely take a second look at Hoover and how it fits into the FMP. 

CHRIS LIEBIG: I support keeping all of our schools open, for these reasons:

1.  The community has made it clear, at every opportunity, that it does not support school closures.

2.  Closing schools when enrollment is expanding doesn't make sense and is needlessly divisive and expensive.  There's no justification for destroying millions of dollars worth of elementary capacity in a district that is growing.

3.  We need a super-majority of voters to approve a bond to complete the renovation and new construction in the long-term facilities plan.  Including school closures in the proposal puts the entire plan at risk.

4.  We are not so desperate that we need to start closing elementary schools to shave a fraction of a percentage point off our annual operating expenses, especially when it means losing millions of dollars worth of capacity.  Lean times call for temporary sacrifices, not irreversible changes.

5.  The acreage that will be displaced by the City High addition is a very small fraction of the Hoover property.  The district has never explained how the addition requires the closure of Hoover, even if it might necessitate using some small part of Hoover’s 5.7 acres.  

6.  Neither expanded parking nor athletic fields is a sufficient reason to close an elementary school.

7.  Not every university town has the kind of thriving central neighborhoods that Iowa City has.  We need to support the schools that help those neighborhoods thrive.  The entire area benefits from a livable, family-friendly central core.

I was one of the main organizers of the Save Hoover group in 2013 and will continue to advocate for keeping all of our schools open.  Thank you for your question and for your consideration of my candidacy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mid-summer campaign update

Save Hoover’s early preparations for the September 8 school board election have gone very well. Our early focus was on fundraising to enable us to get our message out when the campaign is in full swing. We’ve now raised over $4000 for that purpose. More importantly, we’ve gotten donations from 75 households: that’s more than all but four of the ICCSD school board campaigns on record. Our median household donation is $30.

That kind of broad-based support—like the unexpectedly large turnout at the June 16 listening post about Hoover—sends a strong message to the school board that the community is still against closing schools.

Our goal is to help publicize the good arguments for reversing the closure, let voters know which candidates support keeping Hoover open, and get out the vote. The fundraising will help us achieve those goals—for example, through mailings and leafletting to contact supporters and likely voters.

Thank you to all the people who have donated and to all those who have helped and expressed support in other ways. Though we’ll continue our fundraising efforts, our focus will now start to shift to campaign advocacy. If you’d like to help as the election approaches—by contacting your friends, writing a letter to the editor, leafletting, working on Election Day, etc.—or if you’d just like to let us know your thoughts about the candidates and the campaign, we’d love to hear from you at SaveHooverIC@gmail.com.

Anyone who would still like to make a donation can do so via the PayPal link in the sidebar or by sending a check made out to Save Hoover Committee, P.O. Box 1923, Iowa City, IA 52244. We welcome donations of any amount; the fact of your support is worth more than the dollar figure. We hope to raise $5000 by Election Day. Thanks for all your support!

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!