Dexter Merschbrock, a parent and Cedar Rapids mail carrier, is running for a seat on the Cedar Rapids school board — the board he says ignored him and other community members who protested approval of a facilities plan that will close eight elementary schools.
Merschbrock, 33, is running for the board’s District 4 seat. It is currently held by Rafael Jacobo, who is running for re-election.
School and city elections are Nov. 5.
When the school board unanimously approved the facilities plan at a January 2018 meeting, public comment was dominated by opposition to the plan, including from Merschbrock, who was one of many who circulated a petition to delay the board’s vote for 90 days. The petition received 600 signatures.
“To see the board take that petition, which I thought was a pretty strong voice from the community, and act like it didn’t even happen and then vote unanimously to pass the plan that night, I thought was unacceptable,” he said.
The plan, spurred by declining enrollment, also calls for rebuilding 10 elementaries and remodeling three.
Merschbrock believes the board should be investigating the 20-year facilities plan more thoroughly, saying the projected cost for the plan has increased by $85 million since board approval. The building primarily will be funded by revenue from the statewide 1 percent SAVE sales tax for school facilities.
“It’s like they’re just thinking about the plaque that’s going to be on the new schools 10 years from now,” he said, “when everyone pats themselves on the back for building a new school.”
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More broadly, Merschbrock said he would work as a board member to build community consensus around the school board’s work.
“I’m not going to rubber-stamp everything,” he said. “But I do want to be building support among the community.”
Merschbrock lives in the attendance zone for Grant Wood Elementary — one of the schools slated for closing — with his wife, Michelle, president of the parent-teacher organization there, and their two young children.
A mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Cedar Rapids since 2015, Merschbrock said his background isn’t typical of a candidate but that his job has given him intimate knowledge of all Cedar Rapids neighborhoods.
“I’m not just making this up because I’m upset about my local school,” he said. “This is a communitywide thing.”
Merschbrock’s opponent, Jacobo, is the only incumbent on the school ballot. Board members serve four-year terms without pay.
“Three of the four candidates who could have run and who voted for this plan chose not to run,” Merschbrock said, referencing Kristin Janssen, John Laverty and Mary Meisterling. “I think that tells you a lot about how comfortable they are that they have the community support behind this plan.”
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