By Alecia Brooks
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY-The Iowa City Board of Education approved a $6,800 contract that will help students from three schools become fit and learn about health and wellness during the summer weeks.
On Tuesday all board members – except Michael Shaw, Gayle Klouda and Patti Fields, who were not present – voted to approve the contract that will allow The Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County to provide services for the 21st Century Enrichment Program.
Director of the Neighborhood Centers Susan Freeman-Murdah said the money will be used to purchase equipment, like pedometers, and to pay staff.
The enrichment program is open to 150 students who attend Grant Wood, Horace Mann and Roosevelt Elementary schools. Teachers will work on academic subjects from morning until lunch, and Neighborhood Centers’ staff will run the health and wellness portion after lunch.
“Programming will include health education, information on how to fight childhood obesity, arts and crafts and other fun activities,” Freeman-Murdah said. “It’s really about getting children fit and active.”
The program begins July 11 and ends August 11.
Neighborhood Centers has partnered with the Iowa City School District in previous years and continues to choose the Centers because it’s the best fit.
“We already have a relationship with the targeted students because many of them participate in programming at Neighborhood Centers,” Freeman-Murdah said.
Centers are stationed in the Broadway and Pheasant Ridge neighborhoods, and according to a statement from its website, participants –who are richly diverse – can engage in a range of activities that include book check-out, English classes, technology use and family nights. The 21st Century program will operate at each of the three schools.
In other items:
The board named goals for upcoming meetings.
Board Member Mike Cooper said he would like to begin work on a five-year board plan that includes adding a third high school to reduce overcrowding at West High School and “reenergizing” the Energy Committee. The board also added discussing the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy to their list of upcoming goals.
The last named goal was finalizing a viability study. Among other objectives, the study will consider the potential success of magnet and charter schools that could be offered to Hills’ students because of boundary changes.
The changes are contingent upon the outcome of a districting decision that will designate which students will attend the new Norman Borlaug Elementary School in fall 2012. Superintendent Stephen Murley and other district staff are expected to complete the study.
Hills Elementary parent Julie Van Dyke said a decision that doesn’t properly consider Hills could force students to undergo another boundary change. She also referenced the board’s May 2011 meeting when it considered the possibility of closing Hills Elementary because of high operating costs. The board should consider a boundary model that moves students back into Hills, as it could accommodate high costs, she said.
“You can save a school with one simple move,” she added. “That’s not a small change, that’s not insignificant.”
Rebecca Furlong, administrative representative for the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan Advisory Committee, presented officials with two communication goals: The Iowa City School Board should strive to increase communication by bettering its web and television programming and seek to involve parents from various backgrounds, especially when setting goals for the district and gathering data.
Advisory Committee members believed that more input from the community would provide a better representation of the parents’ interests.
“This is an opportunity to have that engagement which seeks to and validates input from multiple segments of the community,” Superintendent Murley said.
Parents, students, community members and administrators form the committee and propose recommendations to the Board of Education in areas that include harassment or bullying prevention and student learning goals.
The two proposed goals will be addressed by the district’s Communication Committee.
During community comments, City High parent Phil Hemingway also offered two suggestions on how the board can improve. He said Paul Bobek, who moderates meetings and records notes, should not have these dual roles.
“I think Paul’s skills could be better served by just concentrating on the notes,” he said.
According to Hemingway, Bobek’s multi-tasking has caused him to exclude what he considers significant comments and actions, which creates an unclear record.
Hemingway also criticized the board for “last minute document drops.” Specifically, he said the public is not given enough time to review online documents before board meetings.
“We need to respect the people in the community a little bit better and give them more lead time,” he said. “Try to give us more time to absorb the information and review the final drafts.”