Iowa City school district: A turning point for schools

We are at a turning point in our district. The aspirational goals recently identified for creating equity between our schools will have a lasting impact on our students. As decisions are made in coming years, it is extremely important that we do not sideline our most vulnerable students. If we draw school boundaries that require extensive bussing of low-income kids, for example, we will create barriers to parental and student involvement (not to mention the increased costs of bussing). Yet, if we ignore the critical juncture we have reached in dealing with our district’s achievement gap, we risk doing a grave disservice to the students who most need assistance.

I am always puzzled when I hear staff express disagreement with boundary proposals created for the purpose of equity. We are fortunate to have extremely high quality faculty and staff in the ICCSD. They are a treasure-trove of experience and knowledge. They are the experts on the kids that they teach. Why is it that our experts (teachers, principals, staff, etc.) aren’t more directly involved in decision-making? Involving our teachers and principals to a greater degree would bring more creativity into our toolbox of interventions and would lead to solutions that better suit their specific student population. The needs of our students in different areas of the district are not exactly the same, just as the means to address those needs should not be the same. Finding an appropriate way to tap into the expertise of our experts would improve the process of making decisions.

Increased transparency is also something that would improve our process of decision-making. Not only would this improve our ability to successfully address our achievement gap, it would also decrease the divisiveness in our district. A lack of transparency in communication has contributed to divisiveness because when constituents aren’t fully informed on what is driving decisions they make assumptions and jump to conclusions.

As a social worker at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, I am equipped with skills and knowledge that would be beneficial in addressing these issues in our district. I have twenty years of experience working with children and families. I also have experience with group dynamics and conflict resolution. There would be great benefit to the ICCSD board and school community in reducing conflict and harnessing all of the creative and dedicated people we have at our disposal.

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