Local citizen Jim Tate hopes to bring a new perspective to the Iowa City School Board


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On Tuesday, while many area residents will vote for new Iowa City School District board members, candidate Jim Tate will once again be waiting in anticipation to see if he will get a chance to serve on that board.

After being defeated in the race for School Board in 2011, Tate said he feels that this time around, he is prepared to claim victory and become a member of a board that he has followed closely for many years.

Since his defeat, Tate said, he has attended every board meeting that did not conflict with his work schedule and watched the rest online.

“I’ve been very frequent at the board meetings and observing and really learning about what’s been going on,” he said.

Tate, a forklift operator and a self-described “nonprofessional,” said his current position gives him a unique advantage over the other candidates.

“You’ve had business executives, political coordinators, retired teachers, doctors, lawyers, but you haven’t had somebody who’s out there every day having to work a menial, labor-intensive job,” he said.

That Tate does not have a four-year degree, he said, contributes to his passion concerning vocational education programs in the schools, an issue which he views as of utmost importance.

With recent cuts to the vocational education programs at both City and West High, Tate is running on a platform to bring back these programs, while hoping to improve upon the experiential aspect of them as well.

“With only 82 percent of our students going to higher education, I think we’re failing those 18 percent that aren’t by not offering some of the better vocational courses,” he said.

Tate said he would like to see partnerships with local trade unions established so that students have the opportunity to earn certification hours while working on modules such as carpentry and electrical work. By doing so, he said, high-school students can be better prepared to enter the workforce following graduation.

Tate has started talking to the Teamsters Local 238 union, carpenters, and electricians so that they can be brought in as instructors for students.

Citing the lack of air conditioning in many elementary schools, Tate said he is also focused on addressing the issue of the lack of adequate facilities.

The current School Board is looking at construction issues, too, through the new Facilities Master Plan.

At a cost of about $250 million, the plan includes introducing three new elementary schools — including two in Iowa City proper — and a 1,500-student new high school in the district’s fast-growing north corridor. Renovations and additions at existing schools, including historic preservation projects at Longfellow and Mann, are also planned.

Another pressing issue in the district is the new district-wide diversity policy to more evenly distribute students based on the free- and reduced-lunch program, while looking into the option of adding some magnet schools to the district.

“We need to investigate and talk to the public about what type of magnet schools would be best for Iowa City, and investigate how those are operated and get them put in place,” School Board Vice President Karla Cook told The Daily Iowan in a Sept. 3 interview.

Tate’s wife of 13 years, Lily, said she fully supports his decision to re-seek a seat on the Board.

“I’d like to see a different perspective and see where that can take the board,” she said. “It’s a passion for him. It really means something to him, and to see that spark when he talks about it is great, because he really wants to do something for the kids — that’s really who he’s doing it for.”

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