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Redistricting panel meets with planners

BY MITCHELL SCHMIDT | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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The Iowa City School District’s redistricting committee engaged in an interactive PowerPoint presentation by its hired consultants at the committee’s first meeting on Wednesday night.

In the presentation, “Visualizing Success: Planning for the Future,” representatives from RSP and Associates, a professional consulting firm based out of Olathe, Kan., discussed the demographics of the district while committee members used a clicker polling system to respond to questions — a system that will be present at all five meetings.

While the firm plans to help formulate new School District boundaries, Mark Porter, RSP education planner, emphasized that the the committee and public will do the bulk of decision making.

“You are the experts in this area,” Porter said to the 35-member committee. “You live here and have kids here.”

Almost every member of the committee has a child in the School District.

With the consultants, the committee’s task involves evaluating school boundary options by following four boundary criteria. The equally important guidelines are demographic considerations like the number of free and reduced lunch numbers, fiscal considerations, keeping neighborhoods intact, and enrollment and proper building use.

Wednesday’s meeting marked the first of five among the RSP planners, the School District, and the board-appointed committee. The meetings will span four months, after which the committee will present two to three scenarios to the school board, who will make a decision in March 2010.

The School District hired RSP and Associates for $100,000 and the firm has been working with the district for about two months, said superintendent Lane Plugge.

Prior to the final decision, the board will have little influence on the committee’s decisions.

Public opinion will be equally important to committee input, School District officials said. Public insight is welcome at two public forums on Jan. 28 and 29. Residents can also fill out a survey on the School District website before Nov. 30, and officials will conduct a random phone sample.

Assistant Superintendent Ann Feldmann said it’s critical to gather input.

“We want as many people as possible involved,” she said.

RSP principal planner Robert Schwarz agreed, noting these decisions are important and will have long-term effects.

“You’re really affecting future generations of students,” he said.


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