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.