Saturday, December 28, 2013

What's up with Hoover after the December 10, 2013 vote?

On December 10, the Iowa City School Board voted 6 to 1 to implement the phasing plan as proposed by the administration. As part of the phasing plan, Hoover Elementary School will receive much needed renovations in 2014 -- including AC and addressing violations of building code issues. A Hoover attendance area will remain in place until 2019, which coincides with the opening of two new elementary schools in North Liberty and Eastern Iowa City. All in all, except for the closing of Hoover, the outcome is very favorable to the interests of the Hoover community.

What is my take on the result? I'm disappointed, but the outcome was what I expected. So, where does that leave those of us who remain unconvinced by the arguments for closing Hoover?

1. Our successes thus far:
  • Election advocacy was largely successful. Six of nine candidates in the 2013 school board election expressed clear opposition to Hoover's closure, including the 2 highest finishers, and those two board members have continued to express concerns with Hoover's closure. Chris Liebig had an insightful post on this matter here. The third person elected to the board has expressed opposition to the process in which Hoover was closed.
  • Hoover is receiving much needed renovations in 2014, and it is situated in a much better position than it was when the administration first presented their proposal to the board in October. Recall that the Hoover attendance area would have been closed in 2016, and it would then be used as a temporary facility for other attendance areas with the result that many Hoover students would most likely have been moved 3 or 4 times. Our advocacy on behalf of Hoover played an important role in protecting Hoover students from these needless moves.
  • We were instrumental in advocating that Mann and Lincoln be swung together through the East Elementary so that the North Elementary could be brought online one year earlier than was proposed in the November board meeting. This small change will help relieve capacity issues in all parts of the district in a more timely manner than we would have seen otherwise, and it also helps out Hoover's current teachers who will likely have another choice for a long-term teaching assignment at a school of their choosing.
2. Hoover's closure is not set in stone. Partially because of our advocacy, Hoover will remain in operation most likely with its current boundaries until 2019. There are multiple school board elections before Hoover's closure will be ultimately decided.

3. The 6-1 vote is not an indication of how good the arguments are for closing Hoover, and it isn't an indication of public support for doing so.
  • Our consistent criticisms of the stated rationale for closing Hoover has weakened the case as evidenced by some board member comments, and the outcomes of the past school board election.
  • A petition to keep all of our community schools open has been circulated and has collected a large number of signatures on our paper petition and our online petition (sign it here!). At last count, there were well over 800 signatures collected between them.
  • There are, at least, two board members who were just elected who are sympathetic to our argument. The board director who voted against the proposal (Tuyet Dorau) was the one who received the highest number of votes in the last school board election. The 2nd place finisher, Chris Lynch, expressed strong sympathies for keeping Hoover open and seems open to revisiting the closure of Hoover if certain conditions are met. The 3rd place finisher, Brian Kirschling, expressed his disapproval of the process of closing Hoover before and after his election.
  • The four other board members have two years left on their term, and each of those seats are up for reelection in 2015.
  • Our advocacy during the last election helped shape the positions of a significant number of board members, and that had an impact on the last election. It will probably continue to be the case in 2015 and beyond.
  • Finally, the phasing plan as a whole was widely supported by the public and the school board directors. As such, it was no surprise that some school board members would support the overall phasing plan, even if they disagreed with some features of the plan.
4. Over the course of the next couple of years, I will be important to make the administration and the board provide evidence that the goals of the phasing plan are being met: that (a) facilities equity is indeed designed to benefit those who are most in need in our district -- particularly low-income students, minority students, and special needs students. The mistake of not properly soliciting and actually getting feedback from our minority communities with regard to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the Raptor ID program need to also be rectified with the facilities master plan;  (b) we need to ensure that operational costs will not present a burden to our community -- particularly on those who are least well off -- and (c) that the closure of Hoover, all things considered, will result in a net benefit to the district as a whole. If the evidence about operational costs, enrollment, and opinions from those who are least well off in our district do not bear out the administration and the board's claims, then we, as a community, should be prepared to go another route.

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