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School Board hosts final listening post

BY CORY PORTER | SEPTEMBER 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City School Board held its fourth and final meeting on redesigning the attendance zones of the School District on Monday.

Chris Lynch, the president of the School Board, said at the end of the meeting he would make a list of major issues concerning those in attendance to take to the board meeting to be held today.

The board members began working on redesigning the attendance zones and informing the community in early spring and had their recommendations in May.

These redesigned zones caused “disruptions” for many in the district, school Superintendent Steve Murley said. Murley then began considering other actions the district could take.

Lynch said the three previous meetings, as well as a workshop held last week, have been used to form the basis of the board’s plan, and he noted that it’s “time to wrap up this process.”

During the meeting, many members of the audience expressed frustration with the time the board has taken in the process.

Lynch said he understood them but also emphasized that there was no “silver bullet” to what the board was doing.

He said difficulties arose because “a lot of what we’re talking about here is urban planning.” He also said a “strategic plan is absolutely critical.”

Murley also emphasized the idea that there is no single solution and stressed a hybrid model, explaining the multitiered approach he and the School Board were planning on taking. This would include considering how to better allocate resources and funding by looking more closely at each school’s population and trying to understand what each would need.

Another problem facing some of the district’s schools, especially the less affluent ones, is the funds available to them for such extracurricular activities as field trips, Murley said.

He said schools are forced to make choices between what they can give their students, where other more affluent schools don’t have to make such choices.

Many of these difficulties, Murley said, were coming from the fact that there was a flight of money northward and a growth in population southward, meaning the schools that needed funding the most were having difficulty getting it.

Murley noted that there could be a chance that students lives’ would get disrupted again, as they were earlier this year.

Lynch asked the audience members what they thought were the most pressing issues.

Members of the audience expressed they would like to see the board make progress as well as concrete decisions. This includes taking concrete steps towards an optimal learning environment, letting people know where the money is coming from and how it will be sustained, and deciding on a comprehensive curriculum plan.

Board member Orville Townsend said the board was hoping for more feedback from the public and that there was a strong indication that the members were closing in on their goal.


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