Thursday, June 30, 2016


To prepare for the July 19 ICCSD school board special election, the Save Hoover Committee asked board candidates: If you are elected, will you support amending the long-term facilities plan to keep Hoover Elementary School open?
One response stood out, not only because it recognizes the costs of closing Hoover, but also because it highlights the importance of building district-wide community and trust.
J.P. Claussen: Recognizing that the Hoover closure does not align with widely held community values, J.P. Claussen favors amending the long-term facilities plan to keep Hoover open.  Claussen believes that the priorities of the ICCSD should align with the priorities of the community, and he encourages the district to listen to more voices as it moves forward with facilities planning.  He will provide a visionary leadership that will build upon thoughtful public engagement.  For more information about Claussen’s views on education, visit his website. If you would like a yard sign, you may request one from Save Hoover via
Paul Roesler is against keeping Hoover open and has even advocated that it close two years earlier than planned. Janice Weiner recognizes that closing Hoover is part of the existing facilities plan, and is noncommittal about changing the plan. You can read the candidates' responses here
VOTE: Election Day is Tuesday, July 19.  Find your polling place here.
You may request a mailed absentee ballot until Friday, July 15.  Requests must be made by 5 p.m. that day.
Satellite voting will occur on Sunday, July 17 at the Coralville Public Library (12–4) and at the Iowa City Public Library (12–5).
Or, vote early at the Auditor’s Office (913 S. Dubuque St.), from 7:45 to 5:30, through Monday, July 18. Early voting begins Tuesday, July 5.

Thank you for your consideration of JP Claussen’s candidacy.

Monday, June 27, 2016


In preparation for the July 19 ICCSD school board election, the Save Hoover Committee submitted the following question to candidates:

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

Following are the responses we received from the three school board candidates. 

J.P. Claussen: My short answer is yes, I do support amending the long term facilities plan to keep Hoover Elementary School open.  I also feel this is a larger issue than just keeping one neighborhood school open, or keeping neighborhood schools open in general.

I feel this way for multiple reasons.

Firstly, I do believe in neighborhood elementary schools. Obviously this does have to be balanced with cost and growth, but there is a deep part of me that is resistant to suburban sprawl and the direction of “newer and fewer” elementary schools. My thoughts on this have shifted over the years. As I talk to people whose children attend older smaller schools, there is a fear that the district will begin shutting down, or poorly maintaining until they shut down, these community hubs. Though there may be some cost savings, ultimately many in our community favor keeping neighborhood schools open, and they have spoken at the polls. At the end of the day, these are our tax dollars, and the priorities of the ICCSD should align with the priorities of the community. I think that those in favor of passing the GO Bond, which I am, would be wise to listen to more voices. We will need 60% of the vote to pass a bond, and community trust and engagement is critical. Engagement doesn't mean just getting people to change their minds to agree with you, it involves active listening and thoughtful consideration.

Secondly, I do not believe that equity means “the same,” so I am resistant to the drive in our district that each of our secondary schools must have the exact same programming, the exact same athletic facilities, the exact same everything. So, if the Hoover question is mostly about expanding City High, then I think we can be more creative in thinking about how students can move to programming, instead of having the same programming in all the schools. One example of this would be Vocational Education, which is something that is seriously lacking in our district. We could utilize existing capacity in the district to develop state of the art Vocational Programming that students who wanted to could travel to for part of their day. In addition, I would like to see programming that taps into resources in our community. Students could participate in building trades programs, nursing classes, art partnerships, community arts organizations, service learning projects, civic engagement with local governments, outdoor education, a more robust Farm to School program, etc. This aligns with my vision of increased Arts, Vocational and Civic programming in our schools, and as I talk with more and more community members I would add outdoor education to that list. Not all programming needs to be provided in house, and research has shown that in many cases students learn more and more deeply in “real world” situations.

Also in the last election, Brian Richman, an expert in public finance, laid out a very detailed explanation as to why closing Hoover did not make financial sense. His argument, I felt, was dispassionate and thorough. I have rarely seen clearer cost/benefit analyses from the district on how our projects will cost out. This is the type of fair and open analysis we need to be able to have honest discussions about major facilities spending.

Finally, this isn't just about Hoover. This is about community values and our approach to decision making. I believe that much of the dissension our community stems from feelings of distrust, and a lack of listening to input and feedback by decision makers. If we truly want to come together and move forward as a united district, we can't insist on only getting our way. I believe the last School Board election sent a very strong message that our community wants to move in a different direction and is looking for more visionary leadership to get us there.

Paul Roesler: In 2013 the School Board voted to pass the 10 Year Facility Master Plan, a plan derived from hundreds of hours of expert involvement and community input.  It was the first time that I can recall the district laying out a roadmap to follow in order to improve its infrastructure.  Prior to the FMP, the district was primarily building new schools reactively.  We were neglecting existing schools’ need for basic improvements such as ADA compliance, classrooms additions, and air conditioning.
The FMP requires schools across the district to make sacrifices and compromises for the betterment of the district as a whole.  Hoover is no exception as it is the only school that will close.  Why is Hoover singled out?  Not for one reason but, rather, the aggregate of several compelling reasons.  First, Hoover is the only elementary school within one mile of three other elementary schools (and 1.5 miles of a fourth elementary school).  Longfellow, Lucas and Mann (with the passage of the GO Bond) will all have been completely renovated and updated by the time the Hoover students go there.  Lemme will have a sizeable new addition completed not long after. These renovations and additions are much needed and a long time coming.  Both Twain and Penn have completed renovations and you can see how the community has been reinvigorated as if they had a new school. 
Second, Hoover shares a campus with City High, which has a significantly smaller footprint than West and Liberty high schools.  As a board member, I will make sure that the land Hoover gives to City High will be used thoughtfully and will benefit Hoover students as they age into high school.  Finally, while Hoover students and teachers are vibrant, the building is not.  Projections to keep Hoover open fail to consider the costs of the improvements Hoover needs including a multi-purpose room. Additionally, more than one in four of the Hoover community do not reside anywhere near the building.
I am moved by the Hoover community’s loyalty to its school.  I hope the same loyalty is shown to the district, including current Hoover students, who will benefit from the progression of the FMP.  In the end, Hoover Students will have the same opportunities to attend a neighborhood school; it will only require going to a different building.  And City High will be stronger as a result.
I commend the Hoover community for advocating for the future of Hoover students and teachers.  As a school board member, I will reinforce this advocacy by holding the administration to its promise to offer Hoover teachers employment at the new Hoover and assist them in finding teaching positions elsewhere if so desired.  I will also continue to advocate for Hoover students to make sure families know where their students will go to school and how that transition will be made when Hoover is retired. 
Finally, the FMP is not intended to be written in stone.  As a community member I have stayed abreast of all the changes (demographic, funding, etc.) that impact our district.  As a board member, I will be committed to making sure the FMP reflects significant changes where necessary.  For now, unless there are major changes in the school funding formula at the state level, or a large influx of students into the immediate Hoover geography, it is neither fiscally responsible nor possible for old Hoover to be maintained and operated.    
Janice Weiner: My understanding is that the current plan that includes the existing Hoover elementary is a long range, complex plan on which the Board decided long before I aspired to join. I also understand this has been extremely difficult for the Hoover community.

Plans are living documents. I can imagine circumstances under which changing demographics and conditions could cause aspects of that plan - as with other plans - to be revisited in the years to come.  In the meantime, it is essential to continue to attend to and, wherever possible, address the concerns of those affected.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


The Cedar Rapids Gazette wrote on the groundbreaking of the new east side elementary building this morning, and the efforts of the Save Hoover committee figured prominently in it.  You can read the article here.  Thank you for your continuing support of our wonderful, vibrant elementary school!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Last week, Superintendent Murley met with Hoover parents to answer questions regarding Hoover's closure.  School board member and Hoover parent Chris Liebig was in attendance and has written a great blog post on what transpired:

Monday, October 19, 2015


In preparation for the upcoming Iowa City Council election on November 3, the Save Hoover Committee submitted the following questions to Council candidates:

1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

The Save Hoover Committee submitted these questions because schools do not exist apart from the communities they serve.  Rather, they are shaped in essential ways by larger approaches to economic development and neighborhood sustainability. Candidate responses are posted below, in alphabetical order.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

It is a bad thing.  Hoover Elementary school is not only a school.  It is not only a park where children can play.  It is a civic institution brimming with social capital.  This is more than about bricks and mortar of where kids learn.  Parents, and kids have pride in that school.  They care about it, and that is reflected in the thoughtful "Save Hoover" campaign.  Other than observation and community conservations, I do not believe that community capital can adequately be measured on a spread sheet.  As an economics major, and math minor in college, I strongly believe in the power of sound financial analysis in decision making; however, I do not believe that numbers should be the only metric to make community decisions.  In addition to numbers, we should also assess community impact, and listen to the opinions of community members impacted by the decision.  

We don't need numbers to show us how strong the Hoover community's connection has been to your school.  You have stayed positive, and thoughtfully expressed concerns to the administration and school board members.  I went to the "Save Hoover" school board meeting last spring, and I was impressed at the passionate and thoughtful dialogue there. As a community, I think we have to be careful about disrupting institutions that already function extremely well.   I do not believe we should take risks with institutions that are already successful.   I support keeping successful institutions open, and that includes Hoover.  A good friend recently reminded me of something that President Obama said in his 2008 campaign, "Our legacy should not be measured by what we tear down, but by what we build together."  That philosophy is consistent with my own, and undergirds my support for keeping Hoover open.  

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

The first thing is rhetorical.  While, of course, we must defer to the ultimate decision of the school board, in my view, the city must clearly express its preference about the importance of neighborhood schools throughout Iowa City.   That rhetorical preference will carry some weight.  

Secondly, we need to meet regularly with the school board.  I know all of the school members pretty well, and in particular, have a close professional relationship with Tom Yates, Phil Hemingway, and Chris Liebig.  I share their views on a variety of school board issues. I also have an enormous amount of respect for Brian Kirschling, Chris Lynch, and Latasha DeLoach and Lori Roetlin.  We have an excellent school board representing a variety of perspectives in our community.  We will need to effectively collaborate on zoning, streets, and healthy neighborhoods for all of our community.  

Thirdly, I would like to continue to explore joint use agreements between school board and the City of Iowa City.  We need to effectively identify ways in which our municipality can use school grounds and school buildings for municipal functions.  This may open up some creative ways in which we can change the conversation on Hoover.  

Ultimately, this must be a school board decision, and I do not want to unduly interfere with the effective functioning of the school board.  Nevertheless, I do support keeping it open.  I will continue to support your civic engagement and constructive dialogue on this important issue.  To the extent that a solution can be found, and our council could be helpful, you will have an open ear from me.   I hope that our school board will find a way to keep Hoover open, expand our inner core neighborhood school, and build schools in new neighborhoods.

While I do believe in keeping Hoover open, and will continue to support your efforts to keep it open, I do think all sides will have to identify a point at which the decision becomes final.  Some already feel that we have reached that point.  I respectfully disagree, and believe we have some time left on the clock to find a solution that will work for all sides, but I do believe we will have to reach a point where we will need to make that decision final, and have some finality.  Our community needs that and our students do too.  

Thank you for your strong civic engagement on this issue.  Despite overwhelming odds, and some negative critics, you have shown persistence, diligence, sound financial analysis, political acumen, and most importantly, heart.  These qualities confirm to me that Hoover is an institution worth saving.  If elected, you will have ally on council.  I will support your efforts to keep Hoover open, and to find a solution that will work for everyone.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

As a Lincoln Elementary alum, former resident of the Longfellow neighborhood, and current resident of the Mann attendance area, I recognize the need to preserve and strengthen our neighborhood schools as much as possible. My sense is that the facilities master plan tried to balance current neighborhood schools with creating the neighborhood schools of the future.  The issues are often complex.  

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

I believe the City of Iowa City needs to work closely with the school district on all issues relating to schools and the neighborhoods around them.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

I have been consistent in supporting the School Directors' policies that favor neighborhood schools. I understand that to many preserving "old" Hoover appears detrimental to this ideal. Based on the information available to me I think the overall plan is sufficiently complex in it's staging that I would prefer to learn more about the issue before offering an opinion. 

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

The Council and the School Board should continue to meet together and share ideas for the greater good of Iowa City and all it's residents. 


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

I think it should be a priority of Iowa City and the ICCSD to work together and show a tangible commitment to our central schools, as opposed to a trend of closing aging, centrally located buildings. Without a doubt some schools in the ICCSD are in need of renovations. I understand these buildings have limitations but I also fully respect their value. My three children have attended two of them and my wife taught at one. These schools are closely tied to the viability of our growing, urban livable city. Schools in established neighborhoods with dense, mixed housing stock contain a naturally diverse population of students, an important issue in ICCSD presently. In addition to growth and needed capacity in outlying areas of ICCSD, central schools are where we need some of our schools to remain. Schools near the U of I and within close range of other amenities and jobs offer an option for urban sustainable living. This will be important to Iowa City moving forward and will attract a variety of people that choose to live here.

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

As a council member I would like to initiate more communication and visionary decision making between the City and the ICCSD. I see a need for an ongoing collaborative relationship between Iowa City and the ICCSD as growth continues for both. I think Iowa City and ICCSD could discuss joint use facilities more often. As a remodeler I can envision more innovative solutions to City High's small, land-locked footprint. The environmentalist in me believes more could be done to promote biking, walking and improvements to public transportation to and from CHS and therefore lessening an emphasis on parking. Walk-able routes such as Court Street need to be made safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. While I respect the vast amount of effort that has gone into our current Facilities Master Plan, I know there is not a one-size-fits all solution to the Hoover issue.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

I was a member of the committee and am a supporter of the ICCSD Master Plan.  I am a proponent of neighborhood stabilization and neighborhood schools.

On balance, I see this as the best of many less than perfect options. Many neighborhood schools are affected by this decision. The new Hoover is necessary in order to efficiently and effectively update and remodel other neighborhood schools, (Longfellow, Mann, and Lincoln) to offer equitable learning environments.

We need to ensure that we have a viable high school in the eastern part of the school district in order to attract new families and to retain those who already live here. People want walkability to all schools - elementary schools, junior highs, and high schools. 

The other elementary schools in the vicinity of Hoover are also great schools, and having a new elementary school on the far eastern side of town will also be a benefit in the long run. 

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

City and school district leaders regularly communicate about common issues. I would expect this to continue, and to address issues related to Hoover where the City could be of assistance.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

Overall, I believe that the closure of Hoover would be bad for Iowa City.  I believe it's a shame for the community to be drifting away from neighborhood schools, and moving towards schools on the outside corners of the city.

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

The lack of any solid rationale from the school district on their plans for that area is unacceptable. The City Council should demand clear answers from the School Board on the true reasons for the closure, and their clear and transparent plans for the use of that space.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

On balance, closing Hoover would be bad for Iowa City. “Healthy Neighborhoods” is one of the points of emphasis in my campaign platform, “4-Points for a Better, Healthier Iowa City”. “Healthy neighborhoods” benefit when neighborhood schools are located within a safe, easy walking or biking distance from the surrounding neighborhood. Iowa City’s 8 eastside elementary schools are placed roughly 1-mile apart, making walking distances to all schools at most a 15-minute walk. Promoting walkability has many public benefits: reducing auto-dependence and promoting active transportation (i.e., walking and biking); encouraging a child’s sense of independence; and strengthening a neighborhood’s identity and sense of community and sociability.

Closing Hoover would also reduce the number of students able to attend schools in Iowa City’s core neighborhoods, while increasing enrollment at the periphery. This enrollment shift weakens the health of the central neighborhoods, portions of which have already been de-stabilized by high percentages of short-term residents. In addition, the de-stabilization of Iowa City’s core neighborhoods further isolates the Downtown from a more diverse population capable of supporting community-oriented retail establishments.      

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

City Council should engage the Iowa City Community School District in a discussion of how the two jurisdictions could help one another by sharing the capital and operating costs of their respective facilities. A joint-use agreement between the two parties could potentially include the following elements:

  • Use of Hoover Elementary School’s buildings and/or grounds by the Hoover neighborhood when school is not in session
  • Use of Iowa City parks by City High’s athletic programs, e.g., tennis, softball or baseball (City High already plays baseball at Mercer Park), in accordance with an agreed-upon schedule
  • Provision by Iowa City of safe walking and bicycle routes to Hoover Elementary and City High
  • Provision by Iowa City of dedicated ICCSD staff parking on public rights-of-way near Hoover and City High to reduce the need for off-street parking on ICCSD property.


1.  Hoover Elementary is slated to be closed and torn down in 2019.  On balance, do you see the Hoover closure as good or bad for Iowa City?

I would strongly prefer that it remain open. Successful neighborhoods (i.e., ones that are diverse, walkable, and affordable) need K-6 schools that can easily and safely be accessed on foot by their students. Likewise, successful K-6 schools are ones that are provide a high quality education for a diversity of students, and which enable their students to learn from the neighborhoods within which they are embedded. As a Council candidate I want to incrementally thicken and improve our existing neighborhoods, and to work with the School Board to ensure that our existing neighborhood schools are well-maintained, well-staffed, and have the resources required to provide their students with a high quality education.

That said, I am fully aware that the District Administration calculates that smaller schools (e.g., 300 students) are much more expensive to operate on a per capita basis than are larger ones (e.g., 500 students). (A downside to larger schools is, however, that they inevitably seem to involve much larger sites and parking lots, both of which undermine the long-term sustainability of the neighborhoods in which they are embedded. For reasons I do not understand, this does not seem to be a concern of the District Administration.) Moreover, I am fully aware that the Facilities Master Plan calls for a complicated series of intertwined steps involving Hoover's closure, expansion of City High's facilities, construction of a New Hoover on the far east side, and upgrades to Mann and Longfellow schools (which, according to the Administration, cannot be accomplished without construction of New Hoover). I have several questions about this intertwined set of steps, and I would want to see key parties engage in a dialogue that results in answers that I and others would find persuasive. See below.

2.  What, if anything, should the City Council do to work with the school district on the Hoover closure issue?

Ultimately, the decision is up to the School Board. We Council members can communicated, advise, and discuss the topic with board members, but in the end it is their decision. I have spoken with all of the current School Board members about it, and I have excellent relationships with them.  In those conversations I have said I think it would be wise for the Board to convene one or more meetings focusing directly on the intertwined set of steps mentioned above. The meetings would involve affected parties, such as Hoover parents, District staff, City High advocates, etc. Such meetings could easily become shouting matches, but, if well designed, they would not. I strongly believe in the value of dialogue oriented toward mutual understanding. This means relevant parties should be able to ask their questions, express their views, hear the other side respond, and reply constructively to the response.

In addition to communicating with School Board members, the City Council's most important role is to ensure that existing neighborhoods remain appealing to parents with school aged children. This is a matter of making incremental investments that enhance the quality of those neighborhoods, I also think that new neighborhoods should be designed to be walkable, diverse, and have an a reasonable mix of uses and housing types/costs.

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.