Monday, July 24, 2017

The future of Hills Elementary (continued)

What should people make of the board’s omission of Hills Elementary from the bond proposal? A look back at the process can shed some light on that.

At our October work session, our facilities director told the board:
If we’re going to finish Hills, let’s finish Hills, okay? I mean, it’s an unfinished building. The board made that conscious decision in 2013, in December of 2013, to just do the mandatory code updates, and that’s what we’ve done, but they’re in need of more classrooms, we just set two temporaries, or actually two, two duplexes, there’s four temporary classrooms there, their gym is totally inadequate, there are a lot of things that need to be done at Hills, so I put it on there for discussion. If we’re going to do it, it’s going to take three million to finish it and do it right.
So the materials presented for discussion that night showed a $3.2 million Hills project scheduled for completion in 2022. It included a new gym and four new classrooms.

At the same time, the facilities director presented a similar choice to the board about TREC (the former Roosevelt Elementary):
If we’re going to keep that building, which may be another decision for another day, this needs to be moved up [to 2020-21 in the timeline], so that at that point, we’re air-conditioned a hundred percent.
By January, though, the picture had changed, for both Hills and TREC. By the time the board settled on a bond proposal, it had decided to put neither facility into the seven-year bond-funded period. In the case of TREC, the explicit administration recommendation was to start looking for new homes for the programs there in anticipation of closing the building.

In both cases, the administration told us: If we’re going to do these, let’s do them. In response, the board took both facilities out of the bond-funded seven-year period and put them on the unfunded “future needs” list. Are Hills residents unreasonable to be concerned about the future of their school?


Anonymous said...

No, Hills parents should be concerned about the future of their schools.

What's the deal with Kirkwood Elementary? When is it scheduled to be renovated?

What happens if the money runs out?


Anonymous said...

I hate this bond. I can't express in clean words how frustrated I am with this district administration and the majority of this school board.
If they close Hills, a school that is bursting at the seams with local children, I will completely lose my shizz.

Anonymous said...

Saw this comment posted elsewhere. Chris, is it accurate?

Honest question, when was the last time the issue of "Hills closure" discussed by the board or admin. I've scoured the record and the last time I can find is when it was one included in 1 of 16 options presented to the FMP committee nearly 4 years ago and it didn't make it past the first round of consideration ...let alone to the board table.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

So 2 years ago as one of multiple options presented to the FMP community committee. Did it make it out of committee? Has it been discussed or considered since by the board or admin?

Anonymous said...

http://www.thegazette.com/2013/07/09/iowa-city-school-district-parents-speak-against-closing-schools including a quotation from a current bond supporter and http://www.thegazette.com/2013/07/13/hills-fighting-to-keep-school-open

The administration called closing small schools a "thought exercise" to see if they could get away with it at http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/iowa-city-school-board-to-consider-facility-boundary-updates-20150410

Hills should be worried as should other small schools. It is very bad that the bond language is so loosely written and that any of the projects, including renovating any of the older schools, could be deleted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you the additional information about it being part of multiple scenerios presented to the FMP community committee two years ago. However, it would be helpful if you would address my actual question: in the two plus years since the FMP was adopted has the issue of closing Hills been discussed by the board or admin? Was the "thought exercise" closure option even presented to the board or did it make its way out of the community committee?

Anonymous said...

Who considers the closing of a public school a "thought exercise?" That is ridiculous.
Anyone with 1/2 of a functioning brain would know that any talk of closing a school would alarm the whole community.

That would be like discussing your suicide, then brushing it off as a "thought exercise" when the cops, fire dept. and ambulance show up to rescue you.

Common sense says closing a school is not a topic to be discussed lightly, in any kind of exercise. Also, not a topic that is lightly forgotten. Two years is not a long time after a suicide scare.

It was said, it was considered, and nothing has happened to reassure the community that Hills is not going to be back on the chopping block again.

Words have consequences, so forgive us for not brushing off this event lightly.

Anonymous said...

11:03 One of the problems I see is that the superintendent seems to only go to board members Lynch or Kirschling so it closing Hills and other schools could have been discussed with them and the other board members wouldn't know.

Notice how vague the bond language is. Any of the projects can be deleted without going back to the voters. Then the money promised for that project is up for grabs.

So if the future of Hills is being talked about so should the future of schools like Lincoln and Kirkwood because other groups are going to want the money that has been promised to them.

amy said...

Unfortunately, questioning Anon, with this admin the answer seldom seems to be the answer. That's part of why we're worried. There's no reason why Hills couldn't come back up, and a promise today doesn't seem to mean much from these people a year down the line.

That's part of the problem that Chris is pointing out. When you're not transparent, when you jerk people around, when you won't explain why a building has to be knocked down and what the space will be used for, when the plan is this today and that tomorrow -- whether it's boundaries or building sales or busing or bell times -- not to mention when you've got known grifters working with you, when there are issues to do with who you're meeting and discussing school business with and under what circumstances, when you lie and hide and the state and the feds have to come in to contradict you and expose wrongdoing, people lose trust.

For me, the trust issue boils down to this. Given the size of this bond, the way other districts are being pushed to borrow giant money too, and the potential for serious financial problems from bond mismanagement or simply getting taken at the underwriter's table, the sketchiness of the crew in charge becomes an insurmountable problem. It's profoundly irresponsible to hand that much borrowing authority, with that few strings, to people whom you wouldn't trust to give you the right time of day.

If you're saying that you do trust them, my question for you is -- why do you ignore the mountains of evidence of untrustworthiness, right down to a judge's conviction? Why would you hand such people that much money to play with, and just trust that they'll do the right and smart thing?

Anonymous said...


I am not sure why you became so defensive over a relatively simple question and, for the record, I don't trust the admin or the board ...any of them. I equally don't trust the Save Hoover or Vote No folks so I'm simply trying to put two and two together and figure out what is real and what isn't. As it relates to Hills or any other school I am seeing multiple postings, ads, flyers and materials claiming the bond WILL lead to more closures ... not that it might. It seems if closures were so eminent that the board or admin would have discussed.

It seems based on your responses that it hasn't and was never even presented to the board two years plus ago. Rather, it's a matter of opinion and the board might close Hills or that is the admins scheme.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure it was in a board packet actually.

amy said...

Anon 5:40 -- sorry that came off defensive; wasn't meant to. Here's part of the "retire Hills" 2015 talk: see page 10 on this link.


amy said...

Also pages 3, 5, and 11.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. These are part of the multiple versions presented to the community FMP committee, correct? Was any version inclusive of closing Hills ever presented to the board as part of that process or anytime since?

amy said...

It looks as though this set was presented to the board on 4/14/15. Hills isn't named directly; there's just a reference in the minutes to this 2015 BLDD document, which was being shown, I imagine, while it was discussed; "out of the box thinking" in V2 and V3, and talk about retiring schools that shocked some of the people there.

Interestingly, in the 3/24/15 minutes, there's a conversation in which David Dude tries to push for a "construction oversight committee" that comprised people from outside the district who would not be bidding on FMP projects and would thus have no interests. He got shut down pretty fast by Jeff McGinness, whose committee would have been overseen -- Murley supported him -- and then in some discussion of how such a thing might work and why, Phil Hemingway attempts to take the issue deliberately by suggesting they vote down the motion, then table the matter and talk about it more; there's some conversation about who might and might not be appropriate to have on such an advisory committee. There's a vote, with Tuyet and Orville in favor of such a committee and everyone else against (Hemingway abstaining).

I don't know why Dude felt it necessary or important to bring it up, and I don't see it reappear in other meetings.

Anonymous said...


McGinness and Hemingway were never on the board together so your comment above cannot possibly be accurate.

Frank said...

It looks like these scenarios were presented to the board at the 4/14/15 board meeting. Options V2 and V3 show Hills, Lincoln and Mann elementary schools closing. Also note on the athletics master plan it shows tennis courts and softball field drawn in on the old Hoover site. Even though they are not saying it, that is most like what is going in the old Hoover site. There is no doubt that closing Hills, Lincoln and Mann is a very real possibility in the near future. They are old, small and inefficient and administration wants to save money by building new mega-schools. Once the capacity is available on the east side it will make no sense to keep those schools open. Also we wouldn't want North Liberty having all of the new schools. Why would someone refuse to believe this, it is the simplest and most logical explanation?


To Anon 8:55AM - did you even bother to look up the meeting minutes from 3/24/15 before trying to discredit Amy? Phil's statements were during community comment. She didn't say he was a board member at the time. Everything she wrote above looks like it matches what was written in the meeting notes.

amy said...

My "Hemingway abstaining" part would've been wrong (I'd forgotten it'd be a while before Phil was on the board, and was trying to figure out why he wasn't counted in the vote). But the rest, yep.

amy said...

I'm just trying to process the craziness of knocking down a functioning, just-renovated school to build sports fields when there are already sports fields the teams can use. It occurs to me that back when I ran track in high school, we actually had to run a good half-mile to the stadium where the (cinder) track was. This seemed to be okay because we were...being athletic anyway. And my legs didn't fall off, either. Nor did it ruin the college athletic career I wasn't looking for anyway: my university's coach spotted me running one day when I was a grad student, mistook me for a freshman, then tried to redshirt me (while saying bunch of vaguely misogynist things about runners he didn't like as well).

Is it me, or are the people running One Community generally sports-mad? I'd say "well, give them a sports gigantoplex somewhere and then they'll be happy and leave it alone" but it doesn't seem to work that way at university level. What are we borrowing now, $90M for new fancy seats at Kinnick?

More seriously, I can't begin to imagine the permanent bitterness and mistrust doing something like that's going to generate on the east side of town. I can't see how it's any kind of responsible stewardship of the relationship. Not, obviously, that this is a thing the admin's been all that concerned about anyhow. While reading the minutes I was reminded of all sorts of episodes I'd forgotten, including that insane policy about calling the cops for everything, so that one school was calling cops on six-year-olds.