Monday, September 7, 2015


Caroline Sheerin shares all the good reasons for voting for Chris Liebig in her Sept. 6 Press-Citizen letter:

I am writing to express my support for Chris Liebig, who is running for Iowa City School Board this year in the election to fill the two-year seat. I have known Chris for ten years now, as a colleague, a neighbor and a friend. In addition to being an excellent team player at work and a stalwart friend, Chris has many other qualities that will serve him well in this position.
First, he is whip-smart. He is one of the clearest thinkers I know — he has an uncanny ability to analyze an issue thoroughly, while being fair to all involved. Related to that, he is also a man of great integrity. I have never known him to be swayed by anything other than the truth. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for a member of the School Board, Chris is not afraid of detail. Indeed, he takes almost a perverse pleasure in reading the most complicated and convoluted documents and boiling them down to their essential points.
With his background as a lawyer and a long commitment to improving education, I believe Chris Liebig is just the person our School Board needs.


In his Sept. 6 letter in the Press-Citizen, Lou Messerle describes the needed cultural change that electing Phil Hemingway, Chris Liebig, and Brian Richman will bring to the school board:

It took two years for a board member to admit that closing a school, in a growing district, is needed to provide land for City High. The board still won’t say how the non-contiguous land will be used. A baseball field, parking lot? This secretive, non-justified, ultimately expensive decision of two years ago is continuing the pattern of building larger, expensive schools on ICCSD edges, often on developer-donated land, increasing busing costs and neglecting eastside neighborhoods. The supposedly community-vetted Facilities Master Plan is, in the view/desire of many board candidates, immutable, even though it has been modified recently for some eastside neighborhood schools, and will be again. The community needs an ICCSD board culture change, replacing poorly-responsive, we-know-what’s-best members, subservient to the administration, who make major decisions with little or no community input. Roosevelt, Hoover; is your neighborhood school next?
I write, as a taxpayer and parent of former Hoover and CHS students, to urge fellow voters to learn the candidates’ positions, especially on blindly following the FMP, despite its considerable costs in closing and demolishing one larger, newer school and replacing it (New Hoover). Your due diligence will lead you to Phil Hemingway, Chris Liebig and Brian Richman, who will provide that needed culture change. Otherwise, I and other citizens may vote against the upcoming bond issue, given our loss of trust.


Anne and Vern Dengler write about the importance of supporting neighborhood schools in their September 6 Press-Citizen letter:

For many years, the School Board has been looking for ways to justify closing Hoover for use by City High. As recently as July, the board would not give an explanation for plans for Hoover property. One indication of possible future Hoover use, according to the Master Facilities Plan, is for another softball field, and reconstruction of tennis courts displaced by a wrestling addition for a third wrestling mat.
It’s interesting that the April 13 Press-Citizen reported the district MFP now includes $17 million in athletic facilities, and Superintendent Murley stated the district would seek additional funds through the bond referendum vote planned for fall 2017.
A few years ago, it was suggested that City High additions of classrooms, library and cafeteria space, could not be completed without Hoover land. Phase I, for half of the classrooms, is under construction. The remainder of additions will be built on existing City High property. Recommended projected capacity of City, West, and Liberty is sufficient for projected high school enrollment.
Hoover demolition and facility replacement may exceed $10 million. This means $5.5 million additional cost for City High athletic facilities. The MFP has worthwhile projects, facilities need to be maintained, but demolition of any high performing, neighborhood elementary schools for athletic facilities is not the best use of tax dollars. Paraphrasing the NCAA, most post-high school endeavors will involve “going pro” in something other than athletics. Support our neighborhood schools.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Meg Ketterer describes the district-wide support for Save Hoover in her Sept. 5 Press-Citizen article:

If I believed all the misinformation being put forward about the “Save Hoover” group, I would not recognize myself.
We are not a “small group” of malcontents lately formed to promote a “single issue.” We are several hundred members of the community distributed everywhere in the ICCSD. We organized in 2013 when the school board chose to disregard the community’s expressed priority in maintaining neighborhood schools and, as with Roosevelt Elementary, voted to target Hoover School.
The community’s “hard work” that led to the Facilities Master Plan did not cast that plan in stone. The FMP is a work in progress, for preserving and improving our neighborhood schools.
Programming at all the area high schools should be equitable, but “equity” does not mean acreage. City High does not need Hoover School’s site so that its lawn can match that of West High. Celebrate the unique environments of the different schools.
Growth on Iowa City’s east side justifies building a new elementary school, and that school should certainly be built with a plan for the future. Use the millions of dollars that would be spent in tearing down a thriving elementary school to build a new school with capacity for future growth.
Chris Liebig, Brian Richman, Phil Hemingway and Tom Yates are candidates for the School Board who have offered a vision for the future, a respect for the vitality of our neighborhoods, transparency in action and decision-making and solid financial sense.


Melanie Sigafoose writes about the importance of candidates willing to adjust the FMP as circumstances change in the Sept. 3 Press-Citizen:

As we approach the Sept. 8 School Board election, there are some candidates who have said that they would not change the district’s long-term facilities plan, and some who believe that the plan should be changed and improved.
I support candidates who believe that the long-term plan can be changed and improved. In particular, it is simply untrue that we cannot reach our goals without closing one of our elementary schools. No one has made a convincing case that the City High addition cannot be built without closing Hoover Elementary, or that the only possible way to renovate older schools is by closing a school, or that we can’t build and open new schools unless we close existing ones.
The people in this district have consistently opposed school closures every time the district has solicited their input. It is important for the district to stay faithful to the message it received from the community.
I will be voting for the candidates who understand that long-term planning is an ongoing process and who are willing to think critically to improve existing plans: Phil Hemingway, Chris Liebig, Brian Richman, and Tom Yates.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Is that all there is?

Yesterday—the Thursday afternoon before Election Day—our school district released a “City High 6 Year Preview” that was plainly designed to influence the election.

It’s been over two years since the board voted to close Hoover.  During that time, people have repeatedly asked the board for a better explanation of why Hoover should be closed and why we can’t achieve our facilities goals without a closing a school.  Just this summer, the board asked the administration for a better explanation of how the Hoover land would be used, and the administration replied that it would take $400,000 to answer that question.  All of the board candidates have had to take stands on the issue, which has become one of the most discussed issues in the election.  Now, just five days before the election, the district releases a “Preview” of its plans for City High (which apparently didn’t cost $400,000 after all).

The timing of the Preview raises real questions about the district’s use of public resources to sway an election, and sends the message that the district will communicate only when it is suddenly worried about an election outcome.

Most importantly, the Preview does not provide a convincing rationale for closing Hoover.  The Preview states that parking, outdoor athletic facilities, and green space are likely to be displaced by the City High addition, and simply asserts that if they are displaced, there will be “reduced access for all students” and “reduced engagement by students with additional barriers to participation.”  The Preview does not attempt to quantify the amount of land that will be required for the addition—which is likely to be very small compared to the Hoover property—or explain why the necessary facilities cannot be accommodated without closing the school.  In other words, the Preview adds little to the arguments that we’ve heard all along for why Hoover must be closed, which ultimately come down to “Because the superintendent says so—and please don’t look behind that assertion.”

To make matters worse, the Preview includes an “operational cost comparison” between medium- and large-sized schools that cannot withstand even brief scrutiny.  Michael Tilley’s post here shows how the generic costs in the chart bear no resemblance to Hoover’s actual costs—and, if they’re accurate, demonstrate that Hoover is not only more efficient than the “medium” school, but even more efficient than the “large” school!

We need board members who will scrutinize the information supplied by the administration, rather than simply accept whatever assertions the administration provides.  Please consider voting for Phil Hemingway, Brian Richman, Tom Yates, and Chris Liebig this Tuesday, September 8.


Tom Carsner penned the following letter to the editor that appeared in today's Press-Citizen:

Last week Pete Wallace wrote to the Press-Citizen that voters should “beware the single-issue candidates,” and that candidates with minority viewpoints should politely stop talking and let the “majority decision” proceed without messy conflict.
This thinly veiled message to vote against the “Hoover candidates” displays a preference for “no issue candidates” and an elitist perspective that is counter to the best of democracy. I urge voters to ignore it.
The “Hoover candidates” have gained support because their message of keeping neighborhood schools open is accepted districtwide and encompasses many issues. Because with an administration and board that does not listen to its constituents, no one knows if their school may be the next to close. Sabin, Roosevelt and Hoover are the first to test the unproven “growing by closing” theory. Will Hills, Mann or Longfellow be next?
Creative destruction is a business school theory that has no place in running a school district. It only empties the inner city and widens the gap between the rich and the poor and makes us weaker as a community.
How can school administrators expect to pass the next bond issue without the support of voters who support neighborhood schools?
The “Hoover candidates” will not politely cower and be quiet. Rather, they are speaking the message that will keep our communities strong and our children well-educated. I am voting for Richman, Hemingway, Yates and Liebig and I encourage you to do the same.