Chris Liebig, a lecturer at the University of Iowa College of Law, said he wants to bridge gaps between the district and community if voters elect him to the Iowa City Community School Board.
Liebig is one of three candidates seeking a two-year seat on the board left vacant when Tuyet Baruah resigned. Ten other candidates are running for four full-term seats in the Sept. 8 election.
Liebig said he thinks the district’s decisions should reflect the community’s input and desires. He said announcements about district budget cuts in 2013-14 and changes to schools’ bell schedules in 2014-15 came too late for the community to provide adequate feedback.
Liebig, 50, also said the decision to close Hoover Elementary seemed to contradict the community’s wishes.
“That type of thing does not lend itself to incorporating community input into the process,” he said.
Liebig has blogged about education issues for roughly six years and helped organize a “Save Hoover” movement in the local area.
- Age: 50.
- City where you live: Iowa City.
- Occupation: Teaches legal analysis, writing, and research at the University of Iowa College of Law.
- Family: Wife, Carolyn; One child at City High, one child at South East Junior High and one child at Hoover Elementary.
- Attendance area where you live: Hoover, South East, City.
Chris Liebig’s answers to questions about key issues facing the district:
Q: Do you support changing the facilities master plan before the district’s planned bond referendum in 2017?
A: Yes. I want to keep all of our schools, including Hoover Elementary, open. Closing schools when enrollment is expanding makes no sense and is needlessly divisive and expensive. A 300-seat elementary school is worth between 8 and 12 million dollars; the district should not throw away a multimillion-dollar asset for the sake of obtaining a few acres of land, especially when it can’t identify the needs it will use the land for.
If Hoover is kept open, there will be no need to build a $3 million addition to Lemme. I’m not in favor of closing some schools to super-size others.
Q: When are boundary changes necessary, and is preserving neighborhood schools a high priority for you?
A: Boundary changes are necessary when new schools are built and can be a solution when there is persistent overcrowding or under-enrollment.
Yes, preserving neighborhood schools should be a high priority. My sense is that most families (rich, poor and in between) highly value being able to attend a school nearby when there is one.
Q: At a time when educators are concerned about state funding, when is it appropriate for the district to make budget cuts and from which areas should the district cut first?
A: All cuts hurt, but lean times call for temporary sacrifices with the least direct effect on the educational experience. Three initial thoughts: 1. Administration needs to be lean and focused on essential activities. 2. The state is on the verge of requiring comprehensive Iowa-Core-compliant standardized tests; can we, then, cut some of the many standardized tests we’ve been using? 3. The state is giving us $4 million next year for the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Program; can we reduce some spending from the general fund on other professional development activities?
I don’t believe that we should be closing elementary schools to shave a fraction of a percentage point off our annual expenses, especially when it means losing millions of dollars worth of capacity. When the pendulum swings back and funding returns (I believe it will), we can restore the things we temporarily sacrificed, but schools we’ve closed will be gone forever.
Q: How would you promote equity in the district?
A: Some schools have more kids who are facing greater challenges than others. Those schools should get more resources — for example, smaller class sizes.
I support the district’s efforts to attract and retain qualified minority teachers and staff and to address discriminatory treatment of students in, for example, its discipline and special education practices.
I support the renovation of our older facilities, and the construction of new capacity to prevent over-crowding, to ensure that students are getting a high-quality education no matter what building they’re in.