Sunday, May 21, 2017

School board agenda for May 23

Busy week on the school board agenda. Among other things:

We’ll hear an update on the annual student climate survey, including comparisons to last year’s results. More information here.

We’ll review the report of the School Improvement Advisory Committee.

We’ll get a safety update from the facilities department.

At our work session, we’ll get an update on the district’s proposed contracts with the providers of our before-and-after-school programs. (Information here; see also this post.)

We’ll review the status of the Shimek playground project. The board approved the project in March, but there are still concerns about whether the planned playground is sufficiently accessible to students with disabilities. (More information here; see also this post.)

We’ll get an update on busing plans and costs from our transportation committee.

We’ll continue to discuss the district’s bond proposal and facilities plan, including its building capacity and enrollment projections.

All that and more! The full agendas are here and here. Please chime in with a comment about anything that catches your attention.

One editorial comment: When I’m no longer on the school board, I won’t miss reading this kind of prose. Readers, can any of you tell what this company is going to do for the district?


amy said...

Um...yeah, that's not so much "do for the district" as "do to the district".

I would be looking very hard at who owns this outfit and how many degrees of separation there are between it and SUPES, and between it and...argh, I can't remember the name off the top of my head, there's some related grifter in Colorado.

Who else is lined up to pick the district's pockets?

Anonymous said...

Please provide the child in a wheelchair a playground along with the other kids in his grade. The playground should be designed for ALL children.

Anonymous said...

How can schools with modulars be considered under capacity? Aren't modulars used when there's not enough space available in the main school building?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:03---our school has a capacity of 500 and we are at 450 and have one modular. The modular is needed at our school due to the WRAM model. Our school has greatly benefited from the WRAM model however because of our smaller class sizes it means that we have multiple sections of each grade and have run out of space thus needing the modular to accommodate the multiple sections.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13 - Anon at 7:03 here. Thanks, that makes sense. With WRAM, the functional capacity of the building is significantly less than the actual capacity.

On the other hand, according to the 1/31 board workshop report, Garner has 5 modulars, Penn has 4. I don't believe either school has smaller classes sizes due to WRAM. Back to my original question - how can they be under capacity?

arial said...

Anon 7:03 and 9:41, I wonder the same thing. It also looks like the capacity at Garner is lower in 2022, maybe they are counting modulars, but they definitely aren't counting them at all schools. Honestly, I think the graphic is designed to make it look like NL is fine capacity-wise (at least if the bond passes), even though it isn't. I also noticed that some projects that won't be done until 2024 are included in the 2022 capacities, Kirkwood and Lemme I think, maybe others too.

Anonymous said...

"this kind of prose" - Why does Murley need Discovery Education when he has Teacher Leadership and assistant supes? If it's to sell more computer learning, Discovery Education should be paying us. In the beginning, teachers will work with computers. In the end, digital education will replace teachers.

Mary M said...

Chris, I saw the Transportation update on the board work session.

For those children who are currently at NWJH who historically would have gone to West High but now will go to Liberty High, are there any plans in the works to help these children who will need transportation support to participate in extracurricular activities at Liberty High, (especially for freshmen and sophomores who may not drive yet or have friends who drive) and if so, will these children be informed of the same?

Google map shows a 1 hour, 45 minute walk from NWJH to Liberty High versus a 52 minute walk from NWJH to West High. For some kids, the walk to Liberty High could be even longer. Google map shows no bus service from NWJH to Liberty High.


Anonymous said...

I got an email from my PTO asking for signature to put the bond on the ballot. They need about 1,400 signatures. They are not getting mine.

Anonymous said...

PTOs should stay out of politics.
I'm glad mine is not seeking signatures for the bond. https://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/1156-is-it-legal

Chris, how is it legal for the school district to require principals to send out letters asking for signatures for the bond on the district email? School facilities should not be used to promote the bond yet this is happening no matter what the letter says and in other ways too. I am not signing either.

The bond PAC should do its own work. Vote NO on September 12.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:53: which Principal sent out "letters asking for signatures on the bond?"

Fred said...

There is a email that Murley has sent to school principals and PTO's that is requesting their help in getting signatures to get the bond on the ballot. The one we received makes it seem like it is send to be informative only, but it is obviously pandering for support of the bond. It states that "Acquiring signatures does not indicate support or non-support of the bond..." and that they must get 1,441 eligible signatures by June 5, 2017 and then has a bunch of links to their propaganda for supporting the bond. How is signing this petition NOT supporting the bond? My question is what happens if they do not get the required signatures to get this on the ballot? Can they get an extension? Can they rewrite the language and try again to get enough signatures? Does anyone know how many signatures they currently have?

Anonymous said...

12:51 I have seen bond propaganda emails from three principals so far. Each email said exactly the same thing except the name of the school was different. I have heard all principals were told to send the email out.

amy said...

Yes, I've heard that confirmed from a principal. I will be making a call to the state Ethics Board for guidance.

amy said...

Fred, IASB's guide for school boards tells them that they may use public funds in preparing bond proposals, and that they don't consider things to be "ballot issues" unitl they're actually on the ballot. The problems is that the rules as written are clearly allowing for public expenditures in order to prepare, say, a bond proposal to go up for a vote -- consultants, architects, etc. That's the spirit of the rules: it's about functional spending. The question of using district employees, during business hours, as district representatives, and on business email systems, to recruiting parents to sign a petition to put the issue on the ballot, though, is not, afaik, explicitly dealt with. My guess is that it hasn't come up, and if that's the case, it seems to me it ought to, and it ought to do so publicly.

Frankly, I'd think this puts our use of ThoughtExchange under a microscope, too. Lynch explicitly said that he wanted ThoughtExchange as a means of doing market research, as it were, for the bond. That actually seems to me closer to the spirit of the rules, but it still obviously looks bad, selling a messaging system to the public as "we want free exchange of ideas" when it's actually "we want to know how best to position this bond for the ballot", and it seems to me that it's also a question that belongs in front of an Ethics Board, what kind of expenditures a board can make in an effort to market the bond to the voters, and how those expenditures need to be labeled.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely zero problem supporting our schools and educational goals. I would happily support a $200 million dollar bond if necessary and have supported school bonds in the past. I am very torn on this situation though. While we have great immediate needs in this district, there is way too much included in this bond (like half of it) that is not needed right now and possibly not for a long time, and makes no sense. Couple that with the shady persona of the superintendent and certain board members and how all of this has transpired over the years and it makes it very difficult for me to support this particular bond. If I vote yes then we get the schools and additions that are desperately needed in certain areas and I choke down knowing that I am probably also supporting closing smaller schools and lining developers pockets by building new schools in areas that are not needed right now. Right now my conscience is telling me to vote NO with the hopes that we can get new board members without political or personal agendas who will think logically to draft a new plan and bond next year for the things that we really need. Hopefully we would be one step closer to getting a new superintendent with integrity that can make positive change.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:11, I completely agree with everything that you said! Shady is the best word to describe the superintendent and some members of the board, past and present. I simply cannot trust them with this much money. No way!

mariaconz said...

FIRST give us the money and THEN we'll tell you what we're going to do with the money, including what we're going to do with the space that Hoover sits on. The Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) was sold to us with the promise that no elementary schools would be closed; to wit, "We need all of the schools we have and more." Then, the RPS was voted on, and suddenly, talk began on which neighborhood elementary schools would be closed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I'm a NO vote on the $191 million school bond. If you can't trust the superintendent to spend the money wisely, then don't give it to him!

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or are others likewise watching what is going on with the Hoover playground and finding it to be a weird mixture of horror and morbid humor? The district can't even do a modest playground renovation without finding a way to exclude handicapped kids? How can you screw up a playground? Shouldn't that be a fun project for everyone? Yet, somehow, the district finds a way to plan a playground which is not as accessible for handicapped kids as it could be. And the administration, instead of saying "oops, we overlooked that and this is how we will fix it" instead digs their heals in and refuses to admit that they made a mistake.

With this arrogant "we are not capable of making a mistake" attitude, it sure is easy to understand how our district developed its unforgivable retaliatory practices which were cited in the recent special education report.

And now they want $192 million more to spend as they want? That's just nuts.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - meant Shimek, not Hoover, playground.

amy said...

I think part of the problem is that the bond proponents are making out like this is the only bond that can be passed ever, so if you vote no you're essentially demolishing children's chances for an education. What I'm hearing is that people who are planning to vote no do actually want to support a bond, and support schools -- but they want a sensible, well-laid-out bond for a reasonable amount of money, for specific projects that will actually be completed, with the money in the hands of trustworthy people. A no vote means we try again and this time maybe the board will have heard that message.

I actually don't think that's too much to ask, myself.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% with Amy at 1:51 pm. She described my thinking perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Amy at 1:51pm, we need a better spending plan. I will be voting no and looking to the future for a plan presented by a more trustworthy board and administration.

Anonymous said...

The board/admin like to present a forced dichotomy/choice. They typically present an option they know most people will argue against, and then they move to what they really want to do. For the bond, it was let's first take out a $100 million dollar bond to do the first half of the FMP, then 3-4 years later we'll ask for another $100 million to do the second half.
After people freak out about being in the second half of projects and how unlikely it would be to pass another huge bond, then they say the other option is one big bond. So they go to the ONLY other option which is one giant bond for nearly $200 million.

Notice, no choice on the FMP. Or The Order of the FMP. Just do a $100 million dollar bond then come back later for another $100 million OR we bond the whole thing up front. As if we can adequately predict needs/enrollment 7 years from now.

The enrollment projections for the next three years - that are most accurate - already pretty clearly show additions going where they are not needed once the new boundaries are truly in effect (i.e. capstone kids are out). Why???

All that said, the enrollment projections FAILED to capture known near/future developments in Coralville and North Liberty which combine to about 2,000 housing units over the next 5-10+ years. How will there be enough seats for these children with the current FMP with only ONE new elementary school on the bond?? How unlikely is it that another bond would pass to add needed capacity in the north while already paying on a $200 million dollar bond? Answer: Very unlikely the community would pass another bond while still paying for this nearly $200 million dollar one.

It is very clear the north is where the unmet needs are going to be should this bond pass and this FMP be followed. Also very clear that North siders need to vote NO to force a better bond and build a better FMP. Put needs first (long overdue maintenance, AC, and capacity adds only where truly needed), and take out a series of smaller bonds listing 2-3 years of specific projects to address needs as they arise to provide flexibility and transparency/trust that money will be spent exactly as voters want it spent.

Liberty needs athletic fields too for equity sake, since it seems more expensive, if not impossible, to get a giant plot of land centrally located that could meet the athletic field requirements of a district of this size. Athletics/extracurriculars, while not academics, are a very important part of school culture and is a very important way to engage kids and keep them in school.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:38am, the whole idea of this bond is NOT build where there is need. It is build to CREATE need. So called "we build and they will come" You stick a big shiny school in the middle of nowhere and the developers will follow with patches of new houses. Persons involved with line their pockets with bond money and retire to the Bahamas. Iowa City gets a bigger tax base, which they would have gotten had they not refused to the Coral Ridge Mall. A big part of the the bond is a disguise of resource reallocation among the cities to make up for what Iowa City leadership missed out on the Mall deal. Not saying it is all that it is, but it is a significant part of the motive of the bond.

amy said...

Perhaps we can dispense with the geographical conspiracy theories, and stick to the obvious:

1. there's nothing here resembling a responsible and transparent plan for spending the money;
2. too many people waiting with hands out are obviously untrustworthy;
3. it's a big enough loan that, handled irresponsibly, it can do serious damage to the district;
4. we do have the option of going back to the drawing board and coming up with smaller bond proposals for specific projects that will in fact be carried out.

Incidentally, one of the arguments I keep hearing against small bonds is that you'll never get people to vote for bonds that don't pay out to their kids' own schools. That's patently false and paints the community as a collection of selfish people who frankly don't care about the nature of the city/district, a characterization that doesn't look anything like our cities, where people consistently pay taxes for parks/rec facilities other use, airports others use, libraries others use, etc.

Instrumental, though, in the passage of small bonds is trust in our neighbors -- the idea that yes, if we vote money this year for, say, improvements at Shimek and City, year after next we'll be voting money for improvements at schools our kids attend, or that we expect they'll attend. Also instrumental is some sense of proportion.