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Roesler wins Iowa City school board special election

North Liberty majority votes Claussen
Paul Roesler celebrates winning an Iowa City school board seat with wife Brandi Roesler and daughters Jaiden, 12, and Emerson, 9. (contributed photo)

IOWA CITY– Paul Roesler went from a faithful attendee to a member of the Iowa City school board last week. Voters elected him to fill a seat left vacant by former board member Tom Yates, who resigned in May.
In the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Board of Education special election July 19, Roesler emerged victorious with 2,938 votes (51 percent) over opponents J.P. Claussen and Janice Weiner. While Roesler won virtually all Iowa City precincts, Claussen took North Liberty (62 percent), Coralville (73 percent) and Hills (84 percent).
Nearly 6,000 registered voters cast a ballot, making for an 8.64 percent turnout. Of the total, Claussen received 2,612 votes (45 percent) and Weiner received 203 votes (4 percent).
“I think the team that I put together did a pretty good job of getting out there and getting my message read,” said Roesler, 40, an event coordinator at Scheels All Sports in Coralville.
The message? Dedication.
He said his regular attendance to board meetings over the past few years, after helping board member Brian Kirschling with his campaign in 2013, prepared him to join the other members.
“I went the day (Kirschling) got sworn in then stuck around after that,” said Roesler. Now he’ll be sticking around, tentatively, until 2019 when his term will end. His first scheduled meeting as a board member was July 26.
“Paul will fit in great,” said Kirschling. “He already understands the complex issues we are trying to solve and the subtle nuances and intricacies we consider in making decisions.”
“He’ll definitely be ready on day one,” he added.
Roesler said his viewpoints on hot topic district issues, such as a controversial general obligation (GO) bond referendum and boundary decision, were likely what won him the votes.
The referendum, which he hopes to pass next year, would provide funding for the district to improve facilities, but would also result in the contentious closing of Hoover Elementary in 2019, according to the district’s current 10-year facilities master plan.
“In the past, the district has been pretty reactionary to building new schools and letting old facilities fall behind,” said Roesler. He said the facilities master plan would make sure schools were ADA-compliant and with proper air conditioning.
He added his experience working at Scheels taught him a lot about how to be financially responsible, which would benefit the school board.
“Also being in retail, I’ve learned to work with all kinds of customers, which translates into being willing and open to listen to members of the community and board with an open mind and calm demeanor,” he said.
As far as school boundaries go, Roesler is in favor of the original decision to send Kirkwood Elementary students to North Central Junior High and the new Liberty High, both in North Liberty. He plans to work to reverse the geographically-based decision made by the board in May– which would send Kirkwood students to Northwest Junior High and West High– to create more of a socioeconomically-balanced and diverse body of students at North Central and Liberty.
Although transportation to North Liberty by Kirkwood families has been an issue of concern, Roesler pointed out the board is set to discuss ways to overcome that obstacle.
“We’re actually going to start discussing things like activity buses, paid for by the district, to transport students for before or after school activities,” he said. There is also talk about adding some type of loop into the Coralville bus that runs to North Liberty twice daily, as well as conduct off-site parent teacher conferences closer to the Kirkwood community.
Originally from Indiana, Roesler has lived in the Iowa City community for 35 years and has two daughters in the ICCSD– one at Lemme Elementary and the other at South East Junior High. His wife teaches at Twain Elementary.
Roesler said he’d like to find ways to bring back some of the programming eliminated during district budget cuts in 2014, such as fourth grade orchestra and some languages. He also added the decision to not fire teachers but move them to other classrooms should be addressed.
“I’ll look to make sure we’re not forgetting about those teachers and get them back into areas they’re passionate about,” he said. “That benefits not only their enjoyment of their job but the kids as well.”