Saturday, May 21, 2011

The School Bored, Take Two

May 21, 2011, 11:45 a.m.

The Press-Citizen's Opinion Editor, Jeff Charis-Carlson, asked that I provide, in 300 words or less, a full analysis of what our local, departing, school board members should do between May and September, when their terms run out. Given how much they accomplished prior to this month, 300 words turned out to be plenty of space to itemize what they might do by September. Here is my reply to Jeff, as published in this morning's paper. [Old photo is illustrative only, and does not picture current Board members or Superintendent.]

Just What's a Board to Do?
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen
May 21, 2011, p. A17

As I used to say when I was a board member, "You may not get any pay, but at least you get a lot of grief."

The departing Iowa City School Board members have received their share.

Now their terms are coming to an end.

As Frank Sinatra used to remind us:

Oh, it's a long, long time from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game.

The current board, with its uncanny skill at "the waiting game," now finds its days growing short as they rush past on their way to September.

It would be nice if they could resolve the Hills Elementary issues before they left, but that's unlikely -- and possibly even unwise.

Come September we'll have a new board -- and unless more incumbents decide to run for re-election, a new board majority. It will, necessarily, find itself confronting more challenges than it can resolve in short order.

What that board would find helpful from each of those departing are at least three things:

» Their individual, personal assessments of where the district is, the major challenges and opportunities it confronts, and the possible solutions -- both those theoretically ideal and those politically possible.

» Their personal assessments regarding what the rest of the country and world are doing in K-12 education -- best practices, evaluations of innovations, what works and what doesn't, and what ought to be given serious consideration by the next school board.

» What would they recommend regarding the process of goal setting and reporting on progress, relationships between board members, and between the board and the superintendent -- in short, governance?

The present board members may not have identified and solved all the problems. But they do have insights and experience to share.
Nicholas Johnson -- who manages and teaches at the University of Iowa College of Law -- served on the local Iowa City School Board from 1998 to 2001.

Here are some of the readers' comments the column produced:


4:38 AM on May 21, 2011

I also think of a quote. It's by Mark Twain:

"God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board"


7:36 AM on May 21, 2011

This Board has turned dysfunctional and has not been able to pull together- for the good and bad of that. It was time for rubber stamping to stop, it still is. Many new and hard questions have been put on them, but it seems like they spend more time dodging topics than looking into them in constructive manners. Hopefully the new board will be more responsive to the public and its need for input and questions answered. Now the question is - who wants the job?


8:09 AM on May 21, 2011

"Their personal assessments regarding what the rest of the country and world are doing in K-12 education -- best practices, evaluations of innovations, what works and what doesn't and what ought to be given serious consideration by the next school board."

The majority of the current Board has never been interested in the actual issue of education....will they suddenly make up talking points about it?

Now issues like signs at meetings...that is something they do care about, or endless discussions of who should go to school where...that is something our Board should make a priority.


8:56 AM on May 21, 2011

The ICCSD has shown no interest in what the rest of the country is doing. The rest of the country is implementing expanded open enrollment, they are encouraging home schooling, they are stopping the social engineering, they are addressing the problems with union control/lenght of tenure pay increases, and tenure based retention, they are focusing on pay for performance.

Most of all there parents are demanding a new focus on teaching reading, writing, and math. Teaching study skills and accountability - of teachers, students, and parents.

There is no interest in Iowa City in discussing any of these issues. Only in playing with the boundaries and fretting about economic inequality issues. Not teaching the children.

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