116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I find it interesting that I am the only Coralville or North Liberty candidate in the Iowa City school board race. Have the previous redistricting battles made this constituency weary?
I am an Iowan by choice. My 14 years as an army physician with time in Korea, Kosovo and Iraq have taught me to value peace and appreciate Midwestern values that seemed antithetical to war zones. It was with some disbelief that I first witnessed the anger, distrust, and frustration at the meetings to guide our children's education.
I have four children attending the district schools and all attended preschool. I believe that preschool for 4-year-olds is necessary to prepare them for the expectations of elementary school. While expanding the state program so that all children can attend free is not an expense that we can afford now, funding for families who cannot otherwise afford preschool is an investment in the future.
As a military officer, I know both the value of comprehensive coordinated plans and the importance of staying skeptical of the same. If the state's blueprint for education reform empowers local schools to solve local problems for their students, great. But if it provides a one-size-fits-all solution, it is likely to be a costly failure.
Rather than the state implementing a comprehensive plan for running schools, they should be focusing on a more effective distribution of state funds. The 0 percent allowable growth enacted this year punishes growing districts like ours. We all need to keep our focus on the objective: the best education possible for students.
In a war zone, I have seen first hand what happens when strong beliefs turn to rancor and priorities shift from betterment for your children to the elevation of your tribe (whether that's Sunnis vs. Shiites or West side vs. East side.)
While training at the Mayo Clinic, the primary value of “the needs of the patient come first” was instilled into me. I would like to make the Iowa City school district's primary value: “The needs of the student come first.”
With that in mind, here are my beliefs:
l A fourth high school in the district is an eventuality. Our current mega school approach is depriving our students of more opportunities than it is affording them.
l Neighborhood schools: Money spent shipping students around is not money spent on better education; it is time lost, environmentally unsound, a poor example to the children who get to inherit our mistakes, and puts schools statistics ahead of the children.
l Administrators need better input and feedback to monitor performance. Testing is only part of the picture. There is no consistent route for information from our front-line soldiers (teachers and students) to provide feedback to their colonels and generals (administrators and school board). The military has several such systems Why not us?
Put students first. Right now, we have the cart before the horse. Together we can change that. Elect me to be your voice.
Jeff Alden, of Coralville, served 14 years as physician in the military, including 14 months in Iraq, and did his psychiatry residency at Mayo Clinic. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
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