116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Transparency, particularly when it comes to financial issues, is the key goal of the 10 individuals running for the Iowa City school board.
The district recently revealed that it discovered $2 million in bookkeeping errors and that it was fined $25,000 by the Internal Revenue Service for making a late payment on payroll taxes last spring.
“There definitely has to be accountability for errors made,” Tate said.
Details of the district's finances haven't been discussed in a public setting because of “personnel issues.” Jeff Alden said the school board should eliminate that excuse.
“You can't hold people accountable when you don't know what they're doing or you can't know,” Alden said.
Sally Hoelscher agreed, adding that the district budget should be posted on the district website - in a format the public could understand - and open to scrutiny.
“If someone in the community spots an error and brings it to the board, we should embrace that and not be defensive,” she said.
Phil Hemingway called for a state audit in light of the problems, which will come at no cost to the district. As for how the district could be more accurate with its finances, Hemingway said officials need to be smarter with the funding they have.
“It's unacceptable that we send our tax payments late,” he said. “A lawn care maintenance (contract) that's been handed to the same company for 20 years without being competitively bid is unacceptable.”
The hopefuls spoke to a crowd of about 50 people at City High School last night, the first of two forums being held this week by The Gazette and the Districtwide Parents Organization. The event focused on the district's curriculum and finances, with candidates answering questions about test scores, textbooks and program balance.
The second forum - 7 p.m. Thursday at West High School - will focus on redistricting, but the topic was addressed Tuesday as well in connection with audience questions.
Patti Fields, the election's only incumbent, said the concept of a third comprehensive high school is part of the long-term plan, but she said the district hasn't reached the “trigger point” to make it a reality.
“We have a long time, probably, before that happens,” Fields said. “We need to deal with what's happening now.”
That means overcrowding at West High School and students being shifted to City to help balance the numbers. Several candidates recalled when the situation was reversed in the mid-1990s.
Rather than continue to redistrict and shift the student population from one high school to another, Julie VanDyke said the district needs to look at programs for both high schools that will excite students and center their focus on what they're learning, not the name of the school they attend.
“Let's have everybody here by choice because it's the best fit for them,” VanDyke said.
Ten candidates are running for five seats in the Sept. 13 election. Alden, Fields, Hemingway, Hoelscher, Jeff McGinness, Robert Porter, Marla Swesey and James Tate are seeking the four four-year terms available. Karla Cook and VanDyke are running for the one two-year term available.