Board fields queries from critic
IOWA CITY– The school board recently rearranged its meeting agenda, putting “Community Comment” near the top of the schedule.
At the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Nov. 22 meeting, Phil Hemingway, a City High parent and one-time board candidate, took five minutes during time allowed for public input to make several suggestions for the district.
Hemingway has been a fixture at meetings for months and a gadfly for the board and school administration; raising direct questions and combing through accounts payable for line item expenditures. He petitioned the state to have the district audited after ICCSD payroll errors and a late tax payment were made this year.
Hemingway has his pet issues, safety is a big one, and, while he hasn’t been the only critic of the district, he has been the most vocal one. Hemingway lost his recent bid for election to the board by 87 votes.
He asked Jeff McGinness, a lawyer at Cedar Rapids law firm, to remove items involving Shive-Hattery, a Midwest architecture and engineering firm, from the board’s consent agenda items.
McGinness works at Simmons-Perrine. The firm’s client list includes Shive-Hattery. McGinness requested removal of one item from the consent agenda at the Nov. 8 meeting and also abstained on a vote relating to a district payment to Shive-Hattery on Nov. 22.
Consent agenda items are voted on as a list, typically approved unanimously.
Hemingway used his time to continue his criticism of one school employee. This led board member Sarah Swisher to ask if there was a way to intervene, when she said personal attacks were made from the public microphone.
Hemingway also suggested an innovative idea for Roosevelt Elementary, the school slated to be closed at the end of the school year and under district review for re-purposing or sale. Hemingway envisioned a “Teddy Roosevelt Innovation Center” with science and math labs.
But ICCSD appears to be continuing on a course of selling off aging edifices and acquiring or constructing new ones, like the new Educational Services Center in the former newspaper building; a fourth high school, the third comprehensive one, to ease an overcrowded West High; and next year’s new school, Norman Borlaug Elementary, Roosevelt’s replacement when it closes at the end of the year.
Borlaug is located on Camp Cardinal Boulevard in Coralville and will open for the 2012-13 school year.
The Roosevelt property is likely to be sold, and will be publicly listed as an opportunity for repurposed real estate. The property was appraised this summer and residential developers may get to subdivide the Greenwood Drive site.
The board also recently approved a design plan for a multi-million dollar City High Fine Arts renovation.
This summer the district bought the former Gannett-owned newsroom that housed the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and sold its own former headquarters, Central Administrative Office, to the University of Iowa.
ICCSD announced an open house for the new Educational Services Center (ESC) at 1725 North Dodge St. in Iowa City, for Thursday, Dec. 1, from 4-6 p.m.
The Nov. 22 meeting was the first meeting at the new headquarters of the ICCSD administration, which will bring several departments under one roof and eliminate rental property for the Technology Services department. Food services will eventually join the rest of the district offices at the North Dodge site.
Request for increase in allowable growth
The district filed a request for an increase in allowable growth through the state’s School Budget Review Committee (SBRC). They asked the SBRC for an additional $2,617,240 to cover a projected enrollment increase of 443 new students.
Third high school study
The district will form a committee to study the necessity of and plans for a third comprehensive high school, the fourth high school together with Tate, City and West High.
Ann Feldmann, ICCSD assistant superintendent, will lead the study group, which will report to Murley and the facilities committee. All current high school and junior high principals, one teacher each from City and West High, and one counselor from each high school will round out the committee.
The next school board meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the ESC. The Jan. 3 meeting was cancelled because of a conflict with the caucuses that night.