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Barron running for IC School Board

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | AUGUST 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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An Iowa City resident who has worked with various needy families throughout within the local area through her employment with a local chapter of a child-development organization now wants to transition her efforts in a similar fashion to the Iowa City School Board.

Sara Barron has worked alongside Iowa City’s Big Brothers, Big Sisters during the past eight years, all while volunteering in the classrooms of her own children who attend Wood Elementary, with the District Parent Organization, and the Wood Parent-Teacher Organization. 

In recent months, Barron has also collaborated with the Facilities Master Planning Steering Committee, which continues to mull a future plans for enhancing district facilities.

The committee is made up of representatives from city councils, the district, Davenport-based BLDD Architects, and teachers.

Barron’s campaign centers on the notion that the district is on the verge of great opportunity and growth in the community.

With more students coming in, she says, there are more to be accounted for, and it is important that each child s advocated for.

“There is a temptation in this community to see issues as ‘either-or issues’ and if we want good long-term solutions to our problems, we need to think about making decisions that can benefit all of our students,” she said.

With the recent decision to close the 59-year-old Hoover Elementary, 2200 E. Court St., Barron said it’s important to save and maintain neighborhood schools, as they have played a critical role in her personal life.

Barron’s children attend Wood, just three blocks from their home.

“It is really important for the School District to put schools in neighborhoods and recognize the value of those schools,” she said. “The School District needs to be very careful to invest in smart community development and invest in schools that are going to provide a range of public facilities and opportunities to our neighborhoods and our communities.”

Despite strong support for the neighborhood-school concept, Barron maintains a sense of openness for developing new facilities on the fringes of the community.

In her eyes, she said that although current fringe schools, such as Borlaug Elementary, do not currently have housing developments surrounding them, the eventual time will come when they do, and she said she has hopes for these developments.

“I would really like to see the cities work with the School District to make sure that the houses contain a range of affordable housing options, so that that can continue to be a vital neighborhood that is accessible to all of the families in our school district,” she said. “That’s not, unfortunately, something that has happened up to this point, but it is something that we can strongly advocate for in the future.”

Barron said there is room for improvement in various areas of the district such as the racial achievement gap, economic imbalances, better inclusion for special education students, and resources for academically successful students.

“We have a community that is willing to invest in public education in a way that we can accomplish all of those things, and if we work together, we can have some really great outcomes,” she said.

She said that is most definitely a strength she sees in this district, in not just parents but in the whole community.  She said the community understands the importance of public schools, and that support will continue to benefit the district.

Barron’s wife, Melissa Barron, said she fully supports her wife’s decision to run and she has a lot of skills and knowledge to offer.

Because of her wife’s work in their children’s schools and in Big Brothers Big Sisters, Melissa said Sara developed a good look at the big picture, not just one particular school.

Although Superintendent Steve Murley declined to comment on any Barron’s platform or that of any particular candidate, he said that incoming board members should expect to work on an in-depth look at master planning for facilities in the district as far as which need renovations and remodeling.

They should also be aware of the teaching alternatives the district is considering comparable to charter or magnet schools, he said, as well as the district’s new diversity policy that was set in February.

Board member Sarah Swisher, the lone board member who agreed to comment on Barron, said although she has publicly endorsed two candidates for the upcoming November election, she remains unsure as to who the third choice will be.

Swisher said one positive of Barron’s standing comes in working with many district families, which she said has translated into the creation of several connections.

However, citing original diversity policy discussions involving Barron, Swisher said she said she questions Barron’s stance on the long-controversial policy.

Additionally, as a member of the gay community, as a candidate, Barron faces an additional obstacle, Swisher said.

“She has very smart people who have endorsed her that will provide her with the campaign knowledge she needs,” she said. 

And although most of the Iowa City community embraces the gay community, Swisher said she believes some people are not still quite there.


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