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Kirschling concerned with overall "health" of the district

BY SHIANNE GRUSS | SEPTEMBER 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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Although Brian Kirschling remains closely tied to his alma mater, he said he is devoted to providing an equitable learning experience throughout the entire district if elected to the Iowa City School Board on Sep. 10.

“Once upon a time, there were not vast differences between our educational experiences in our schools,” he said. “We’re at a point where decisions made in the next four years will become critical for the next 40 years.”

The 2013 election marks Kirschling’s first attempt at a seat on the board.

Kirschling, 40, is a staff ophthalmologist at theVeterans Affairs Medical Center and a clinical assistant professor in the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

Nine years ago, he became a member — and later president — of the City High Alumni Association in response to what he said he felt was a negative perception of the school.

He now responds to what he said is a falsely perceived notion that the School District is in a good place.

“We have a lot of needs in this district that need to be fixed,” he said. “I think it’s important that we right the ship.”

In February, the board passed what many have called a controversial diversity policy, which aims to distribute socioeconomic levels equally throughout the district.

Data relating to students in the district who are a part of the free- and reduced-lunch program have been considered in the policy.

Kirschling, a supporter of the policy, noted that some schools are seeing 75 to 80 percent of the student population enrolled in the lunch program.

“What I’m anxious for us to be able to do is really start to commit to renovating and adding on to our facilities, building new facilities, and changing the way that we assign students to schools,” he said. “We want to make sure that we don’t have high concentrations of poverty when new facilities come on line.”

The board should also focus on communicating with teachers and parents in order to get a better understanding of what their wants and needs include, he said.

Heather Warner, a former City High English teacher, said parents and teachers are very passionate about the district in moving forward, but she cautioned of its potential downfalls.

“I think that passion is a huge asset for sure, but at the same time can be blinding,” she said. “They forget about the broader changes that need to be made.”

While she likes the idea of more teacher input, she said she would personally like to see more technology in each individual classroom and a reduction in class size.

“I think [Kirschling] would make a great member of the School Board, primarily because I honestly believe that he has the health of the entire district in mind,” Warner said. “He’ll roll up his sleeves and actually work to make these positive changes for the district.”

UI Professor Emeritus Bill Scott, a coworker of Kirschling, said the candidate has been a much-respected member of the VA faculty.

“I don’t think Brian has any favorites,” Scott said. “I think he’s going to do what’s best for the district, and that’s the kind of people we need.”

Echoing Scott’s belief, Kirschling’s mother, Ginny, said her son is not solely concerned with the school he went to or the schools his children go to.

“He believes that every student and every teacher should be on the same playing field,” she said.

The possibility of introducing magnet elementary schools — more hands-on, single-subject oriented facilities — is the most exciting new venture for the district, Kirschling said.

“These schools have merit that can attract people to consider in enrolling in an elementary school that offers something different,” he said.

Kirschling said his experience on the Iowa Optometric Association Board, where at times he reached across the aisle among various opinions and beliefs, will help make him a beneficial member to the board.

“I sincerely believe that schools are a barometer for the health of the community, and if that’s the case, then our community is at a crossroads now,” he said.


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