Saturday, March 4, 2017

Plan B

Some people have asked what the district’s “Plan B” is if its facilities bond proposal fails. When that topic came up in one of the board’s work sessions, our board chair made it clear that he was against any attempt to specify a Plan B, and the board followed suit.

It’s understandable that voters would like to know Plan B, but I agree that the board should not try to state one. We can each advocate for what we think the back-up plan should be, but it would be misleading for the board to say what it will be, for three reasons.

First, this board simply doesn’t have the right to decide Plan B. That decision can only be made by the next board, which will include three members to be elected this September (at the same time the bond vote occurs). If the bond does fail, why would anyone think that the same board that created the failed proposal should get to tell the next board what the back-up proposal must be?

Second, if the proposal fails, any revisions to it will have to depend on an assessment of why it failed. The board can’t possibly assess that until after the bond vote occurs.

Third, a board that wants to pass a bond has an incentive to make Plan B sound as awful as possible—otherwise, voters might decide they like Plan B better than Plan A! Be prepared to hear lots of arguments about the disastrous consequences that will follow a “No” vote, and be equally prepared to scrutinize all of them with a critical eye. What we know is that a bond defeat means a one-year delay in the facilities plan as the next board revises the proposal for another try at passage. That one-year delay and the resulting uncertainty do have real costs and disadvantages, but so does passage of the proposal, which in my view significantly overcommits the district. How to weigh those costs and benefits is ultimately what the voters have to decide.


Anonymous said...

Good to see you have time to blog but not attend the board meeting today.

Chris said...

Anonymous — I interpret your comment as asking the question, “Why aren’t you attending today’s board retreat?”

I am intentionally not attending today’s retreat. The topics on the agenda—“board goals” and “board norms”—are the same topics that were on the agenda of our board retreat just six months ago. My sense is that the main difference is that this retreat is an opportunity for the board to strategize toward the passage of the bond proposal. Since I’m not supporting that proposal, I didn’t see much purpose in my attendance. It’s perfectly fair, though, for the board majority to schedule a board meeting for that purpose, since they can’t legally have that discussion as a group outside of a public meeting.

As for “board norms”: judging from our discussion six months ago, I believe that the board majority puts a counterproductive emphasis on unity and on discouraging dissent and criticism. “Norms” by definition depend on group buy-in, and the elevation of “unity” as a value does not in fact have the buy-in of this group. (In fact, I believe that some of us were elected partly because we do not share that value.) The board majority already knows where I’m coming from on that issue, in part because we discussed it at the retreat six months ago. I’m just not interested in another lecture about how criticism of the district is form of “bullying.” (See this post.)

Speaking only for myself here, as usual.

Amy said...

About the actual post:

Sounds reasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

Well, Anonymous- I DID attend the school board retreat (Why is it called a "retreat"? There was nothing retreaty about it, just another board meeting in the same old room with no windows. Whateves. I digress.)

The take away that I got from the meeting is that there are currently board members who would love to see legal action taken against board members with dissenting opinions. Ay Carumba! What part of "building group consensus" do 4 board member not get? Their idea is to lament that they can't sue board members who publicly disagree with them!
Scary, scary, times.

Also, be prepared for one hellva public relations nightmare if the board actually does some of the stuff they talked about today (luckily, all audio taped for the public, I was told by Brian K. at the meeting.) Pretty sure that some lines will be crossed between giving factual information/ flat out pressuring school employees to cheer lead the bond. Oh well, what's another legal complaint against the district, right?

Speaking of legal complaints, absolutely no information regarding the ongoing state AND separate federal complaints against the district for flagrant special education law violations. It was on the agenda to be discussed, but nothing was said other than all complaints will be resolved by the end of the school year.
What is with the utter public silence on the shitte show happening in special ed?
I do not understand how this administration and board expects citizens to fork over 188 million dollars for a bond, at the same time waving their arms and yelling, "Pay no attention to what is behind the curtain!"

It was cray-cray. Be glad you didn't waste your time going to this meeting.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha! Using this logic all the dems in congress should stay home for the next few years and pout cuz they aren't getting their way any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Chris, Thanks for sticking with the board and keeping your blog alive!

The way to show leadership is not for the board majority to write up a bunch of board norms which are really petty rules to hold against those who disagree with them. Kirschling kept talking on and on at the last meeting to promote the bond and board president Lynch didn't even say he was making the meeting less efficient or stop him. Lynch repeats transforming the learning environment like it's a mantra. They can't even get capacity right.

The poor results of the special ed audit haven't been addressed. Can you update us on what the district is doing to fix special education? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh Brian, do you have a hurt feeling?

Anonymous said...

Chris, has anything been presented to the board yet on parent response to the separate Special Ed online survey at them that has already closed? The staff version results, as far as the tellingly low response rate AND the pretty extreme overall negative feedback about the district leadership and their concerns about retaliatory leadership over Special Ed were distressing but confirmed already pretty well established conditions here. Please make sure the list of questions asked of parents is published soon. It should be posted publicly on the district's Special Ed webpage, if they have one that is honestly portraying the state of special education in the district, along with the last set of questions for staff and all public data on the responses from staff too. Sorry to ask as anonymous, but the threat of retaliation shown so clearly in district actions and the staff survey make it seem safer if not necessary.

mariaconz said...

Ha ha ha! When "retreats" turn into "let's target a board member, shall we?" then expect members who don't model themselves after a dysfunctional alcoholic family to refrain from participating.

Anonymous said...

This report is bad. http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/k-12/2017/03/15/seclusion-rooms-iowa-city-schools-disabilities-race/96132820/ When were these boxes added to classrooms? If other districts aren't using them, why is Iowa City?

Anonymous said...

Also, why do the articles on this topic never have a comment from Murley? The board majority group just made the bizarre decision to give Murley a gigantic raise despite this horrific scandal, and the associated retaliation against whistleblowing, all happening under his watch. Yet Murley can't be bothered to even comment about this? Absolutely Pathetic. This guy should be fired.

There is no conceivable justification for trusting this board majority group to make wise decisions with taxpayer money -- VOTE NO on the bond.

Anonymous said...

Clarification: Anonymous 1:39PM, I am referencing the seclusion room article linked in the previous comment.