Iowa City School Board Candidates Name Priorities
By Gregg Hennigan
CORALVILLE, Iowa – Educational vision and communication skills would be two of the priorities for Iowa City school board candidates if they are elected.
The nine candidates running for three open seats in the Sept. 10 election were asked at a forum Tuesday night to select a priority from a list provided by the Iowa City Education Association and the Press-Citizen newspaper, who co-hosted the event at the Coralville Public Library.
The candidates are incumbents Tuyet Dorau and Karla Cook and challengers Gregg Geerdes, Chris Lynch, Sara Barron, Brian Kirschling, Jim Tate, Jason Lewis and Phil Hemingway.
Asked to rank their highest priority over the next two years out of educational vision, financial oversight, communication skills and managerial competence, three candidates picked educational vision and three more communication skills.
In picking educational vision, Geerdes said all the other choices must be accommodated for the district to meet its primary goal of providing an education.
“In the end, it’s educating kids that needs to happen,” he said.
Tate chose the same priority and said the school board's role should be getting teachers the resources they need.
"If we're going to change how we teach our students, the teachers need to be the biggest voice in the room," he said.
Cook, a retired math teacher, also selected educational vision, saying the district needs to provide an education that helps students get jobs, including in professions that don’t exist yet, in a fast-changing world.
We need to focus on “what it is that our students are learning and how they are learning,” she said.
Kirschling said good communication is important with all of the issues facing the district, from facilitates to socio-economic disparities, and the board needs to bring together parents, teachers and city and county officials.
“It’s only through the involvement of all of these individuals that we can build a strong base and move forward solving all these issues,” he said.
Dorau said that although she believes the school board needs to refocus on education, teachers and staff have the expertise to implement that.
As a school board, “we need to communicate that message and communicate that vision,” she said.
Lewis said all four options were important toward his goal of developing a strategic plan for the district, but he said communication is a focus of his and district leaders need to better answer the who, what, when, where and why questions.
“We don’t answer those questions very well, and that’s why we come to so many bottlenecks” when tough decisions are made, he said.
Hemingway chose financial oversight. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has seen a school board meeting the past few years, where Hemingway frequently inquires about spending decisions.
Tuesday night, he mentioned the $260 million facilities plan that was recently approved and said the district will not have enough money to undertake every project in it.
“So there’s going to have to be prioritization and selection of projects going forward,” he said.
Lynch and Barron declined to pick just one.
Lynch said all were necessary and his two decades of experience in operations management has taught him how to run a large organization and to set a vision.
If he is elected, he said, “we’ll have clear strategies, and everyone will know what those goals are.”
Barron said the school board needs to facilitate the development to each of the four skills because for too long, the district has concentrated on just one issue at a time.
“By putting that narrow focus on one thing, we’ve allowed other things to slide,” she said.
In response to a question from the audience, eight of the candidates said a new high school should be built before City High School is expanded. Tate said he believes another high school is needed, but he would not say when it should be constructed.
What's On KCRG