Hoover Parents Attend School Board Candidate Forum

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

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By Forrest Saunders

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Sunday evening, nine school board candidates vying for three open spots made their pitch to some upset parents in Iowa City’s east side.

In July, the current school board voted 5-to-2 to close Hoover Elementary School in that part of town to make room for new schools in a growing district.

Hoover will permanently shut its doors sometime after the 2017-2018 school year. But with its closing come four new openings, a 1,500 student high school, three new 500-student elementary schools, as well as renovations and additions to several other schools.

The board’s move left many Hoover parents frustrated. Some said the improvements could have been made without touching the elementary at all.

"We as a community have questioned the school board, lost faith in the school board, because we don't feel they have fully considered all the options to keep Hoover open," said Gregory Howes, who plans to send his children to Hoover when they’re old enough.

Howes attended Sunday’s candidate forum, where many voters said their pick will largely depend on who supports keeping Hoover in operation.

Of the nine candidates running, six wanted to keep the school open.

"When I look at the numbers we don't have the data to support the decision to close Hoover at this time," said Sara Barron, a candidate and member of the district’s steering committee.

"It doesn't make sense to close a building which is full of kids only to have to turn around and build another new building," said candidate Gregg Geerdes, an Iowa City attorney.

"I think keeping Hoover is going to be vital to the growth of our district with the over capacity issues that we've had," said candidate Jim Tate, a former Marine.

"It makes financial sense to keep it. We need the capacity," said Phil Hemingway, a candidate and owner of a car and truck repair shop in Iowa City.

"I've been a proponent of neighborhood schools since 2004 and everybody in this community, I think, is aligned on neighborhood schools," said candidate Chris Lynch, an operations manager at Procter & Gamble’s Oral Care Site in Iowa City.

"What justification are we providing to close the neighborhood school? I couldn't find one," said Tuyet Dorau, a current school board member and candidate for 2014.

Dorau was one of two who voted to keep Hoover open in the board’s July decision.

The other three candidates disagreed, including current school board member Karla Cook, who voted to close Hoover last month. "I was never in favor of closing an elementary because I didn't think we had enough seats. They actually showed me a plan where we had enough seats," said Cook.

Candidate Brian Kirschling said he didn’t like the process the school board used to close Hoover, but thought going through it again would waste time. "The board's decision, I think revisiting it is not necessary," said Kirschling, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Iowa’s Department of Ophthalmology.

"Building three new elementary schools, building a new high school, we're going to have to economize. We're going to have to figure out where that money is coming from," said candidate Jason T. Lewis, director of the Writing and Humanities Program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

In the end it all comes down to Election Day, September 10th. Board members are elected at large and serve four-year terms.

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