Talks continue on new Iowa City high school, boundary changes

July 24, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – Boundary changes and a new high school.

Those are the big topics on the school board agenda Tuesday night.

At its last meeting, the school board discussed high school boundary changes and received a proposal from Superintendent Lane Plugge to open a high school in the North Liberty area in the fall of 2014.

I’ll have a story in tomorrow’s paper on some of the financial details associated with a new school. A shorter version is available now by clicking here.

Plugge also is expected to provide the board with an update on some preliminary work he’s been doing on possible elementary school boundary changes. He’s asked University of Iowa demographers to divide the district into “building blocks,” Associate Superintendent Jim Behle said Friday. That’s something that has already been done on a smaller scale with the high school boundary scenarios.


Election will bring changes to Iowa City school board

July 20, 2009

IOWA CITY – Some big changes are coming to the Iowa City school board.

The Gazette’s Meredith Hines-Dochterman had a story in today’s newspaper on the intentions of area school board members up for re-election in September.

There are three seats up for election on the seven-member Iowa City school board.  Jan Leff and Tim Krumm said they won’t seek re-election, and Mike Cooper is undecided.

“It’s good to have a change of personnel and a newer way of looking at things,” said Leff, who has served nine years on the board.

Krumm, who is nearing the end of his first three-year term, told Hines-Dochterman he needs to balance work and family responsibilities.

Cooper was unhappy in the spring of 2008 when the board voted to shorten his term by a year to comply with a new state law. When the board was contemplating taking that action, Cooper said  he wouldn’t seek re-election under such a scenario.

“I don’t want to spend half my next year campaigning for an office I was elected to for three years,” he said.

As of 2 p.m. Monday, no one had filed the necessary paperwork to run for the school board, according to the district. Potential candidates have until July 30 to do so.

During the Roosevelt Elementary debate, there was talk of trying to find people to challenge incumbents.

The school district is currently facing a number of major issues – a budget crunch, planning for a third high school, boundary changes – that board members will play a central role in deciding.

The board has indicated it will act soon on addressing the growing enrollment disparity between City High and West High. Board President Toni Cilek has said she thought this board would want to make a decision on that before the Sept. 8 election.

Broad support for changing Iowa City school boundaries, multiple reasons why

June 27, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

(This is an expanded version of the story that is in Saturday’s Gazette. The bottom third, in particular, has information only found here.)

IOWA CITY — At a meeting earlier this year, Iowa City school board member Gayle Klouda joked about when the best time to redraw school boundaries across the district would be.

When school board members aren’t seeking re-election and the superintendent is retiring, she said.

Yet comprehensive boundary changes are exactly what a growing chorus of people wants, from Klouda and other board members to administrators and parents. And no one is expecting it to be painless.

“Tongue in cheek, there is a humorous side to all that,” Klouda said in an interview. “But it’s also true that people are not going to be all of one mind with respect to where those boundaries ought to be put.”

Redistricting, as it is often called, has not occurred in Iowa City in nearly two decades. But it has been the underlying theme to a number of recent issues confronting the district. This includes high school enrollment, the call by some for a third high school, the concentration of low-income students in certain schools and the upcoming closure of Roosevelt Elementary.

“I think the board has heard the issue, and I think we are as close as any board has been since I have been on the board (starting in 2002) to addressing these tough issues,” board President Toni Cilek said of redistricting, adding  that the board is not scared politically to tackle the subject.

Superintendent Lane Plugge said he is not yet preparing a boundary recommendation but has started preliminary work by meeting with demographers from the University of Iowa to see how they can help in adjusting boundaries.

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School board approves new contract for Plugge

June 10, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City school board has extended the contract of Superintendent Lane Plugge by one year with no salary increase.

The board unanimously approved the move late last night after a closed session for Plugge’s annual review, board President Toni Cilek said Wednesday.

Plugge works on a three-year contract, which now runs through June 30, 2012. He will be paid $174,021 for the year that begins July 1, which is what he currently makes, said Jim Pedersen, the district’s human resources director. There were no other changes in Plugge’s contract.

Pluggeand other district administrators asked that their base salaries remain the same next year because of the district’s financial woes. The district has been cutting services and a few employees in an effort to save $6 million over the next two years.

Administrators other than Plugge will see their total packages go up by 1.4 percent to cover increases in benefits they pay, Pedersen said.

Plugge in March asked the teachers union to restructure its existing contract, a request the union denied. That contract calls for teachers to get a 5 percent salary and benefits increase on July 1.

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Iowa City school board votes to close Roosevelt

June 9, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY — After months of impassioned debate, the Iowa City school board voted Tuesday to close Roosevelt Elementary School and to build a new school a few miles to the west.

With a 7-0 vote, the board sided with Superintendent Lane Plugge, who recommended closing the school, and went against strong public opposition to the plan.

Board members said that Roosevelt, which was built in 1931, was too small and had too many deficiencies to keep open and that building a new school would be better financially.

“This facility is not adequate, especially in comparison to what we … have been able to provide to other students in this district,” board member Tim Krumm said.

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School board to discuss school controversy

June 5, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – The Iowa City school board is expected on Tuesday to vote on the controversial proposal to close Roosevelt Elementary School.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Central Administration Office, 509 S. Dubuque St.

Those of you who have sat through the long waits to get to the Roosevelt discussion at previous meetings — on May 12, for example, the school board started talking about Roosevelt at 10 p.m.; I’ve heard from several parents upset about this — will be happy to know this time it is near the top of the agenda.  

To read previous Gazette coverage of the issue, which also affects Horn, Weber and Kirkwood, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

IC schools growing, but at slower rate

May 22, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City school district’s enrollment continues to grow, just not as fast as had been expected, according to a report released Friday.

As Geoffrey Smith, the University of Iowa graduate student who helps calculate the projections, put it, “Our growth has been accelerating, but it’s decelerating.”

Enrollment in all grades is projected to increase by 296 students next school year and an average of 246 students each of the following four years. Compared with last year’s report, the new projections are slightly higher for 2009 but about 100 students per year lower thereafter.

The report covers five years and is updated annually. It only includes resident regular education students and does not count certain special education students or students who open enroll into the district.

Resident student enrollment is 10,833 this year and is projected to hit 12,111 in 2013.

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