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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Apology

This is not a major issue, but I’m upset with myself about it, and I just want to admit that I don’t think I handled it well. At last night’s Education Committee meeting, the school board heard a proposal to bring back the funding for seventh-grade football. Seventh-grade tackle football was one of the things the district cut two years ago when it had to cut $3.6 million from its annual budget. The cut saved the district $30,000, a relatively small amount in the scheme of things. Other cuts included fourth-grade orchestra ($444,000), junior high foreign languages ($239,000), and high school German ($124,000), among many other things.

At the meeting, we heard a brief presentation of the proposal. Given the dollar amount, a formal board vote wasn’t requested (which couldn’t have occurred at a committee meeting anyway). But it’s a sufficiently sensitive topic that the administration (understandably) didn’t want to act without getting a reaction from the board first. We talked about it and there seemed to be a consensus that it wasn’t objectionable and that the superintendent could go ahead with it.

As soon as the meeting was over, I regretted not speaking up to slow the process down. Even though the issue didn’t actually require a vote, once we signaled support for the idea, we owned it. I wasn’t ready to, and I should have said something.

The proposal might well be a worthy one. I’d like to bring back all the things the district cut. But I don’t like the idea of addressing one of them in isolation from the others (and from other possible uses of scarce general fund money) just because that one happened to work its way onto our agenda. Just a few weeks ago we made a major cut to discretionary busing for many neighborhoods that had grown to rely on it. The dollar amounts are not comparable, but if we’re cutting services, we need to be sensitive to how we’re making decisions about competing items, no matter how minor. I should have suggested that we sleep on it, solicit additional viewpoints, and revisit it at a board meeting where there could be community comment. We may well have reached the same decision in the end, but the process matters.

Not blaming anyone but myself here. So many things come at us on these agendas that being on the board sometimes feels like being the goalie in some crazy video game. I just need to do a better job of recognizing when something is rushing past that ought to be explored more fully before we act on it.

21 comments:

It doesn't make sense said...

At the next board meeting can you add the topic of tackle football to the March agenda? I would like to see the following questions answered by the board.

1. If the sports budget has extra money, why isn't it being put into the general fund to for academics? Isn't it a board priority to have smaller class size and more teachers? How can the board justify spending on athletics and not academics?

2. If the board would like to make sports a priority--why isn't it concerned about female participation? Isn't this an equity issue? Was the equity director consulted?

3. If a task force can be formed by the board regarding the bell schedule, shouldn't one also be made up regarding tackle football and what the scientific community feels about it? Many of the leading research scientists recommend that boys should not start playing tackle football until high school. Has the ICCSD consulted with the U of I Hospital regarding this? Is the health of the student athlete a priority for the this district?

Anonymous said...

When was this topic added to the agenda?

Academics should be the priority said...

7th grade fb was never actually cut, it just morphed into flag fb. So boys still had the option for that sport.

4th grade orchestra was cut.

German was eliminated.

Two years ago academics was cut in favor of keeping a sport.

Anonymous 2 said...

Since the education committee is the entire board, are the meetings televised? Thanks.

Anonymous 2 said...

What is the athletic council and who is on it? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Board members were told that interest in German was down before they made the decision to eliminate it. They were not told how many kids started in 7th grade and then quit. If anyone had taken the time to interview even 10 of the kids that quit, they would have known that the claim was not exactly correct.

Has anyone taken the time to ask why interest in girls' basketball is down? Talk to the girls and the parents, not just the coaches and parents rallying to eliminate it. Let's not make this mistake again. Or, at least, please have all the facts in front of you before you do.

Karen W said...

You know I've been there. You'll be more prepared next time.

Mary M said...

Thank you Chris. With regard toward putting money into sports, busing, and academics, my recollection is that the Hanover Research agreement is almost up and that it costs the general fund around $30,000. Before it is entered into again, I'd ask that the board evaluate whether it has gotten its monies' worth and whether any research done could be done either in-house or less expensively since this is a university town with a lot of expertise. (And were the results of the research put into use?)

Also, the new board docs system is pretty; however, unlike the old fashioned posting of agendas where revised agendas were posted, board docs makes it hard to figure out when an agenda gets added to or revised. Is Board Docs worth the extra money? Again, thanks.

Ulrike L said...

I taught 16 kids privately (and those were not all affected-just those that came forward) to get them through the curriculum of the missing junior high school German classes, so they could catch up to the last highschool German class that will run before it's phased out. All 16 students made it in. No, German wasn't as big as Spanish or French, but it was strong, scored well on national exams and was growing again, thanks to dedicated teachers. The interest was there AND is there - I get requests for German private lessons every month... which is great, but I am no replacement for a school language program that meets everyday.

Tannerthoughts said...

German and foreign languages do not injure children. Football (not flag football) evidently does. So I wonder why football sailed right through.

Chris said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I will ask that the proposal receive further discussion. The points you have all raised are exactly why we shouldn't make a decision like that one on the fly.

I do not know when the proposal was added to the agenda; I didn't read over the agenda until Monday night, and it was on it by that time.

Meetings of the Education Committee are not televised, but they are recorded. The recording will eventually be posted at the top of the meeting agenda for that date. It takes a while, though; for example, the recording of our January Education Committee meeting is not up yet.

I'm checking to see who is on the Athletic Council.

Karen -- Thanks. It's really more a question of thinking fast enough on my feet.

Mary -- Thanks for the ideas. For what it's worth, it's my understanding that Board Docs should be paid for out of PPEL, not the general fund, though I'm no sure about that anymore, since the most recent accounts payable showed a payment for Board Docs coming from the general fund. I asked the administration about that and am waiting for the follow-up.

Paul said...

Mary, I like Board Docs quite a bit vs the old system. It is searchable, transparent, eliminates strategic voting and is very time saving when preparing 400 page agendas.

Mary M said...

Paul, If ICCSD continues to pay for Board Docs, I would like Board Docs not to be paid for by the general fund and to be be updated to reflect when agendas are added to or revised--that way it is easier to make sure Iowa's open meeting law is complied with and would increase transparency.

Paul said...

Maybe I'm missing your point exactly. I can see on agenda items when they have been changed or updated, it's noted. Are you asking for some sort of notification?

Anonymous said...

Where does in note when the education committee meeting agenda was amended and how?

Paul said...

Agenda Item Details
Meeting Feb 16, 2016 - Education Committee Meeting - Amended Category 7th Grade Football Subject 7th Grade Football Type





Proposal 7th Football.pdf (97 KB)

Anonymous said...

The meeting was on Feb 16, correct? If the amended item wasn't added until the day of the meeting, then the concerns about open meeting laws and transparency are very valid. Chris already stated it was on the agenda Monday night, 2/15. I think the question remains about when this item was added to the agenda.

How do you know all the AD's participated? Were they all at the meeting? No names or dates are noted on the proposal. All the coaches did not know. The families and students with girl basketball players did not know.

Paul said...
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Paul said...

Maybe Director Liebig will chime in here as well on this and how he knows when an agenda items has been amended.

I'm fairly certain all three athletic directors were present

Anonymous said...

Director Liebig already answered that question above. The public should be able to tell when the agenda was amended and how. Including a date with the changes would solve the problem.

Chris said...

Again, I just don't know when the amended agenda came out, other than that I believe it was there by Monday night when I first went through the agenda for that meeting. It may well have been posted for some time by then; I just have no way of knowing. I don't have any reason to think that it wasn't posted twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting. But it does seem like it would not be that hard to indicate the time of content of the amendment.

Yes, the three athletic directors (for City High, West High, and the junior highs) were there to present the proposal.