Civic engagement and plenty of music at Community Rocks! Rally for the School Board Vote

Community Rocks! Rally for the School Board Vote

901 Melrose Ave, Iowa City — Saturday, Aug. 5 at 5 p.m.

Community Rocks! Rally for the School Board Vote — image courtesy of Kelly Garrett

Fun might not be a word usually associated with discussions of education policy or increasing voter turnout, but Rachel Korach Howell and Kelly Garrett wanted to change that. Community Rocks! Rally for the School Board Vote is the result.

“Basically, it’s a free music festival, with a little push for civic involvement,” Howell explained. “It’s a beautiful outdoor venue. People are encouraged to bring picnics, chairs, blankets and whatever else they’d like to bring.”

The evening will also feature opportunities to meet and speak with all six candidates for school board in the Sept. 12 election, as well as discussions of the school bond proposal on the September ballot and other education issues. There will also be information on registering to vote, with registration forms available.

Mixing entertainment with serious issues is natural for Howell and Garrett, since both have theater backgrounds. (Howell has also contributed theater reviews to Little Village on a freelance basis.) The focus on education comes, in part, from Howell’s experience as a parent of students in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD), and her having worked as a paraeducator at the city’s Shimek Elementary School.

“We have really good, progressive candidates running [for the ICCSD board], and I want people to get the chance to interact with them,” Howell said.

Howell almost decided to become a school board candidate this year, and it was while she was considering a run that she started researching voter turnout for local elections in Iowa City.

“It made me really sad,” Howell said. The turnout data showed the stark difference between presidential elections and strictly local ones. “There’s always a much higher percentage of people coming out to vote in presidential elections, even though the president doesn’t have a lot of power over this particular community. It’s the local elections that are really going to affect me and my family and my children and their experience growing up.”

“We want people to vote in local elections, we want people to become civically engaged in our community. Especially this year, because I feel that there’s a fire [for change] this year that’s pretty palpable across the nation, and certainly is in a place like Iowa City that is very progressive by nature.”

Howell and Garrett decided the best way to make civic engagement easier was to make it entertaining. That meant Community Rocks! needed music. Death Valley Welcome Center, Dave Moore and Chase Garret with Emilie Richard will be performing at the four hour-long event. The evening is sponsored by the local nonprofit theater group Fourth Room, which Howell co-founded.

“One of the benefits of having a nonprofit backing us is that it makes any donations we receive tax-deductible,” Howell said. “The donations are strictly to cover the expenses of the event. Anything we receive beyond that will be donated to ICCSD Foundation.”

The ICCSD Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports educational programs in the district.

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