Letters to the editor: Community letters speak out on the Iowa City school district bond

Little Village has received many letters about the Iowa City school district bond question that will be on the Sept. 12 ballot. Here is a compilation of the letters we have received.

Previously published letters:

Letters to the editor: Head-to-head on the ICCSD bond referendum

Photo by Jordan Sellergren

Jordison: If not now, when?

The whole process of facilities equity in our public schools started with a committee formed by the ICCSD in 1999. There was one representative from each school in the district on the committee. Nothing substantial came out of that committee, and nothing had been done in the previous decades to develop any kind of a long-range plan for our district. Since that time, a Facilities Master Plan (FMP) was finally developed by a committee representing all of the municipalities in our district with input from hundreds if not thousands of parents, staff, and community members. 

The magnitude of this plan touches or will touch every corner of our district and every school. Since many students in our district are here for the full K-12 experience, they will see the changes in three different buildings as they progress through the system. There will be renovations, additions, and new construction.

The fact that the first half of the FMP projects have been finished or are in progress without being tied to bond language should be proof that our school board and administration are following the plan. All the projects have come in under budget and on time.

Ask the school communities of Twain, Penn, Lucas, Coralville Central, Alexander, new Hoover, Liberty, City High, West High, Weber, Van Allen and Hills about their projects. Go look at Longfellow in progress this year. Ask them if the school board and administration can be trusted.

Are we really willing to say no to Mann, Lincoln, Northwest, South East, North Central, Coralville Kirkwood, Lemme, Shimek, Borlaug, Garner, Grant Wood, Wickham and Horn? Are we willing to say no to all of the high schools with projects to finish in the next phase? Are we willing to say no to a new elementary in the north?

Some are saying that we need a redo, a new plan, lots of smaller plans. This is what we have been doing for decades and little if anything has gotten done especially in our older schools. We have been kicking the can down the road, stalling, and living with facilities inequities while one committee after another failed to make progress. No plan will ever be perfect, no plan will ever satisfy every want and/or need, and no plan will be the final solution to every facility need in our district.

The kindergartners who started in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 as well as the ones who started in 2006 and are currently seniors have not had many of the FMP benefits our current and future students will have. The time is now — actually well past now — to invest in our district facilities for our students, our staff, and our community.

Jean Jordison

Johnson: Students and teachers need adequate, accessible and climate-controlled classrooms

In his Aug. 22, 2017 Press-Citizen guest opinion, Jeff Cox stated that he has reservations about supporting the Iowa City Community School District’s bond proposal in part because of “two ticking financial time bombs facing K-12 education in Johnson County.”

First, he stated that “When a developer receives [Tax Increment Financing], the property tax on the growth in value of the property does not go to the schools, but back into the development itself. That means that our schools cannot benefit from the full value of the growth in property tax assessments.”

Actually, according to the ICCSD, “TIF has little negative impact on the ICCSD budget spending authority” because state funding makes up much of the forgone property value resulting from TIF and district taxpayers offset the rest.

The ICCSD has told voters that bond passage will increase property tax rates by $0.98. After rollbacks and homestead credits, that means property owners will pay an additional $4.25 per month on a home assessed at $100,000, assuming zero percent growth in the district’s tax base.

Accordingly, even if TIF results in zero percent growth in our district’s tax base, that $4.25 per month we pay for the bond will not increase.

Over the last 15 years, the percentage of the ICCSD’s total tax base qualifying for TIF has ranged from as low as 6.75 percent in 2003-2004 to as high as 10.27 percent in 2008-2009, with an average of 8.58 percent. During the same time, the district’s total tax base has grown by an average of 4.62 percent per year. If the district’s total tax base continues to grow at this rate, the bond’s tax rate impact could be halved in only seven years.

Next, Cox stated that Governor Branstad’s 2013 commercial property tax cuts “will shred our school budgets, leaving us with facilities and staff we cannot afford.” Prior to 2013, commercial properties in Iowa were taxed at 100 percent of their assessed values. (In comparison, residential properties were — and still are — taxed at closer to 54 percent of their assessed values.) After Branstad’s tax reform, commercial properties are now taxed at 90 percent of their assessed values. The district already accounted for the 2013 commercial property tax reform when it determined the bond’s tax rate impact. In other words, the 2013 tax reform will not increase the amount ICCSD property owners pay for the bond beyond the rates the ICCSD had already disclosed.

Finally, Cox implies that if the bond passes, the district will not have sufficient funds for teacher salaries. The state provides supplemental state aid — the primary funding source for teacher salaries — on a per pupil basis. The ICCSD grows by almost 300 students per year. While the amount the state gives per pupil may not increase by as much as we would like each year, the total amount the district receives continues to increase along with our enrollment, allowing additional funds to staff our schools. 

The Iowa City Education Association (the teacher’s union) has endorsed the bond proposal, indicating area teachers do not believe the bond will hurt them or their salaries. Further, for those who do not believe our district prioritizes our high-quality teachers, please consider the district’s actions this year when the Iowa Legislature gutted collective bargaining. Unlike many Iowa school districts, the ICCSD board of education and Superintendent Murley rapidly negotiated and finalized teacher contracts with the ICEA to ensure teachers bargained from a position of strength before reforms took effect.

Our students and teachers need adequate, accessible and climate-controlled classrooms. They deserve our support. Please join me in voting YES for the ICCSD bond proposal Sept. 12.

Amy Johnson is a North Liberty resident and ICCSD parent

Carty: The right plan at the right time

On Aug. 21, I cast my YES vote to support the ICCSD by passing the General Obligation bond. I urge you to support it with your vote, too.
I have proudly worked at nearly every Iowa City Farmers’ Market this season on behalf of One Community. One Bond. People have asked great questions, leading to insightful conversations. The prevailing question, though, has been this: “Why would anyone vote no?” Bluntly, there isn’t a good reason.
The Facilities Master Plan is the right plan at the right time. Is it perfect? No. But, every project in the plan has been delivered on time and on budget. The bond allows us to finish the remaining projects across the district.
Passing the bond is our opportunity to support our schools. Recently, the state and federal government have not prioritized public education. That is unacceptable. The fact is, students are currently succeeding in classrooms, auditoriums and playing fields despite sub-standard facilities that don’t match our community’s commitment to education. Imagine the potential that can be achieved when students and teachers don’t have to divert time to address leaking windows, falling ceiling tiles or overheated classrooms.
This isn’t about my kids that will attend New Hoover Elementary. Or about my wife, who teaches at Grant Wood Elementary. It’s about us, as one community, standing up for what is right. We have a unique opportunity to come together in support of something that will make a lasting impact for all students.
Join me by voting YES to support our future, our community, and our students.
Tim Carty, Director of Member Services for the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce

Former Iowa City mayors: The Sept. 12 bond referendum is the most important juncture in our community’s recent history

As former mayors of the City of Iowa City, we write in support of the public school bond referendum going before the voters on Sept. 12.

For years the city council has prioritized the strengthening and protection of our established neighborhoods. The reason is simple: any local government that neglects its core puts the entire community at risk.

The City of Iowa City has made and continues to make important investments in its established neighborhoods — park upgrades, street and sidewalk improvements, revitalization of housing stock and much more. The ongoing attention to these neighborhoods makes them more vital, which benefits our downtown and helps the university and other employers attract individuals and families.

As important as these neighborhood measures are, they cannot succeed unless our public schools are also strong. Neighborhoods influence schools, and schools influence neighborhoods.

The ICCSD Facilities Master Plan is a comprehensive, 10-year mission to address decades of unmet maintenance, overcrowding and rapid population growth. Already, in Iowa City alone, the FMP has undertaken significant projects at Twain, Lucas, Horn and Longfellow, elementary schools located in important yet vulnerable neighborhoods. It also brought us the first new elementary schools constructed east of the river since 1970, Alexander and new Hoover.

Funding the FMP’s remaining 20 districtwide projects was always contingent on bonding. For Iowa City, passage of the bond means: a complete remodeling of Mann and Lincoln; significant work at Lemme, Shimek, Wood and Alexander; and upgrades and expansions at South East as well as City, West and Tate. The remaining projects are for schools located elsewhere in the district and are no less important for the students and communities they serve.

Recognizing the importance of completing the remaining projects on the FMP, the city council voted unanimously this summer to endorse the bond measure. Perhaps even more compelling, leaders from across the district have united to volunteer on the One Community-One Bond committee to advocate for the bond’s passage. Labor unions and the chamber of commerce support the bond. Republicans and Democrats support the bond.

Community leaders who often oppose each other on local issues share a common vision when it comes to our public schools: that the Sept. 12 bond referendum is the most important juncture in our community’s recent history.

We represent a combined 68 years of service on the city council. We know how essential strong public schools are for our neighborhoods, our economic health, and our community strength. We will vote YES on Sept. 12 so that our school buildings reflect the excellent teaching and learning that occurs within them.

If you agree, you owe it to your community to cast your vote. There is simply too much at stake.

Matt Hayek, Regenia Bailey, Ross Wilburn, Ernie Lehman, Naomi Novick, Bill Ambrisco, and John Balmer all served as mayors of Iowa City between 1980 and 2015.

Iowa City Education Association: Vote yes to send a powerful message of unity and support for our schools and our students

The Iowa City Education Association (ICEA) Executive Board and Building Representative Council voted unanimously to support and vote YES on the General Obligation Bond. The ICEA urges our community to continue to show their strong commitment to public schools, to equitable and accessible learning environments and to our students — past, present and future — by voting YES on Sept. 12.

Being a public school teacher is a noble, beautiful calling. We teachers believe every day is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people. We pour our heart and our soul into helping every student that comes through our doors. We believe that every student in every building from every walk of life matters. That is the beauty of public schools: we take everyone, no questions asked, and teach them with love, compassion and help them reach their full potential.

Because of these values and practices, public schools do have special needs for our learning facilities. Unfortunately, public schools are mostly at the mercy of the Iowa Legislature for the funding to meet these needs. The woefully inadequate funding of public schools over the last five years has made our learning environments that much more challenging as our class sizes have increased and we have relied on temporary classrooms to meet the demands of our growing student population. Far too many of our students endure classrooms that register 90 degrees in August, windows that fail to keep snow and wind out in January, and temporary classrooms that fail to offer any protection from severe weather in April.

Fortunately, in spite of the actions of the state, local communities can unite and make a difference. The time for unity is now. This is the moment for our community to invest in the schools in all regions of our District. This is our opportunity to say YES to equitable, accessible classrooms.  Every student in our District will benefit from the passage of this bond.  It is time for all of us to come together and speak with one voice for the future of our District and community.  Now is the time to show every student that they matter to us.

The Iowa City Education Association (ICEA), representing nearly 700 teachers in the Iowa City School District, is the voice of educators in our community. We urge you to send a powerful message of unity and support for our schools and our students by voting YES on Sept. 12.

Robin Fields, ICEA Vice President, City High School
Mitch Gross, ICEA Co-President, West High School
Brady Shutt, ICEA Co-President, Liberty High School

Codd: Approving the bond will mean helping all students and schools in our district

When my son, Dashiell, passed away at 5 years old from cancer it became my mission to champion causes related to the well-being of all children. I’m ardently dedicated to using my voice and vote for this. And, I’m very particular about where I attach my name. 

So after thorough research, I’m speaking up to encourage our community to approve the G.O. Bond because it will mean helping all students and schools throughout our district. 

Adequate and equitable classrooms are critical. District buildings have aged while updates have not kept pace. Simultaneously, we’re experiencing a growth of almost 300 students per year, and more space is needed. This combination requires that we take action.
Some who oppose the bond say it doesn’t address all needs. But it does affect all areas of the district to enrich learning environments for our students. 

Failure will only mean our problems continue. Delay increases the costs of construction. More importantly, our kids will continue to endure sweltering classrooms in buildings that lack air conditioning or be educated in modular, temporary classrooms.

After speaking to school board candidates Ruthina Malone and Janet Godwin they believe, as I, that our kids and teachers require these enhancements. Ruthina’s passion and integrity along with Janet’s commitment and knowledge will strengthen the educational system. I feel confident they will bring positive, long-term improvements for the success of all ICCSD children.

On Sept. 12 I’m voting YES for the bond and these two candidates. I hope you will too.

Pamela Codd lives in Iowa City, having moved here with her husband and children in 2007 from Los Angeles where she worked in the film and television industry. She advocates to bring increased funding and awareness to childhood issues on the state, national and international levels.


Former Hills Elementary Principle: Let’s put aside our differences and vote yes to support our schools

As the long-time principal of Hills Elementary school, I watched for many years as the school district took a less planned approach to addressing facility needs. Where there was rapid growth, a new school was built or renovated. This frequently left our older schools forgotten. My school, Hills, was often considered later in the thinking process because it seemed, it was small and not deemed worthy of attention.
The ICCSD’s 10-year Facility Master Plan is designed to be a comprehensive approach to improving all of our schools and, with four years down and six years yet to go, it’s time that we put aside our differences and vote YES for our kids and for our teachers. Hills Elementary school has already benefitted with renovations from the Facility Master Plan and the families of Hills will continue to benefit from the bond-dependent work yet to be done at Northwest Junior High and West High over the next three years.  With bond passage, all of our elementary schools will be air conditioned and ADA accessible by 2019, with junior highs finished by 2020 and high schools completed by 2021. These are not options but necessities.
The Hills community is thriving. The school is growing and has the highest enrollment in many years with over 200 students, nearly double what it was just four years ago. The future is bright in Hills and with the ICCSD’s new Weighted Resource Program which ensures smaller class sizes and more focused instruction, great things are happening for our kids. If the school continues to grow as anticipated, there may even be the need for additional space at Hills, however none of that will happen until other school projects are completed and that takes passage of the bond. A vote YES on Sept. 12 ensures that we can continue to focus on teaching our students and plan for the future of all our neighborhood schools, including Hills Elementary. 
Join me in supporting all of our schools, all of our students and all of our teachers by voting YES.
John Marshall retired principal at Hills Elementary


Kirschling: The bond will continue transforming our schools into healthy, equitable learning spaces

The opening of Liberty High on Aug. 12 [was] an exciting time for our community. The 10-year Facility Master Plan has started transforming our schools into healthy, equitable learning spaces that we can be proud to send all of our children to. The plan’s commitment to our historic older schools and neighborhoods while addressing explosive, historic growth is a carefully balanced ballet of pressing needs, project management and funding. We have committed to art and music while adding air conditioning and ADA accessibility. We have added classrooms, while increasing energy efficiency and decreasing our carbon footprint. All projects have been completed on time and under budget, but there is still much to do.

Looking back over the past four years, there has also been a transformation occurring inside the classroom. The achievement gap affecting our most vulnerable students has existed for far too long in our schools. We, as a community, can not afford to give up on any student and should remain focused on helping every one of them achieve their greatest potential. Here’s how we’ve begun chipping away at that gap:

  • The Strategic Plan targets raising reading and math scores while specifically decreasing the achievement gap and improving culture and climate for all students. This is now the compass for all district initiatives and professional development for our teachers.
  • Creating a comprehensive District Equity Plan.
  • Disaggregating student data in order to truly understand where to focus additional resources and programs to improve student achievement.
  • Implementing Weighted Resource Allocation to provide smaller class sizes and more supports in our schools with the largest opportunity gaps. This program is working so well that additional classroom space is now needed at some of our schools in order to keep each individual class size smaller.
  • Our commitment to our Healthy Kids School Based Health and Wellness Clinics provides free medical care to the children of Johnson County.
  • Solving transportation issues for neighborhoods and families lacking the means to get to school. Kids who aren’t in school aren’t learning.
  • Preschool program expansion because kids never get a second chance at a good start.
  • Support for English Language Learners. Our non-English speaking population has increased 400 percent over the past four years.
  • More instructional time per day in our elementary schools in order to increase proficiency in reading and math.
  • 1:1 computer to student ratio at the high school level to help all students become technology and computer proficient.
  • Little Hawk and Trojan Time at City and West provide additional instructional time during the day for students needing additional help.
  • Advocating for affordable housing and responsible growth across our multiple municipal partners.
  • Implicit bias training for staff as requested by our own incredible student population so that they can feel safe and supported at school.
  • Programs like iJag and AVID have been extremely successful at providing support for at-risk students in our secondary and elementary schools respectively.
  • Codifying in Board Policy our commitment to all students with the Board Equity Statement and a careful review of all district policies to ensure alignment.

In 2013, I proposed that our schools were a barometer for the health of our community and that we were at a critical crossroads. By supporting the bond this September, we can take that final step toward a healthier future together as one community that supports public education in a time when there is vast uncertainty in our state and nation.  We can do this and we owe it to our students to double down on their future.  I may be ending my term on the board, but I’m still fired up about our commitment to education.  Let’s get to work, folks. It starts with your vote.

Brian Kirschling is a member of the Iowa City Community School Board. This column represents his personal opinion and not necessarily that of the board.

Reynolds: We must move forward with progress

Please vote YES on Sept. 12 to approve funds for a plan that improves learning spaces for all students in the  Iowa City Community School District. This plan will add space where needed and will impact literally every building throughout the school district. Growth in our district — along with building needs that must be addressed (as basic as handicap accessibility issues, and air conditioning) — have left our schools with urgent needs. A child’s learning environment should not depend on zip code or on the age of his or her school. Join me in approving this bond measure and in supporting candidates such as Ruthina Malone and Janet Godwin, progressive candidates who are ready to move forward in this district. This district grows by 200-300 students per year. We must move forward with progress.
Molly Reynolds, Iowa City 

Nelson: Our kids are worth it

The Iowa City Community School District is growing and we need more space. In addition, our older schools desperately need accessibility and air conditioning updates. I urge residents to vote YES on Sept. 12, to approve the funds needed to provide equitable classrooms and to finish Liberty High School. Some who oppose the bond vote also oppose urban sprawl. This is a legitimate concern, but the school district has absolutely no control over this issue. The students are here, the needs exist. Support our students — and the need for adequate and equitable learning spaces — by voting in favor of this measure. Of the 10 largest school districts in Iowa, the Iowa City School District (fifth largest) has the lowest property tax rate. Our kids are worth it. No student should have to learn in a temporary “mobile” classroom for several years in a row. No student should have to use ice packs and water bottles in a sweltering classroom, while trying to learn. No student should be unable to hear the teacher due to blowing fans. Please vote YES, and also consider casting your ballot for Shawn Eyestone, Ruthina Malone and Janet Godwin.

Jacqueline Nelson, North Liberty

Kennedy: We must invest in our students

I encourage people in the Iowa City School District to vote YES on Sept. 12 on the bond to build, remodel and expand schools in the Iowa City Community School District. Much of the plan has already been carried out, under budget, and on time. But voter approval is needed to continue work to provide adequate climate control, handicap accessibility and additional space. The bond helps finance a new North Liberty elementary school; completes plans for Liberty High School; renovates, air conditions and makes accessible Mann Elementary School; adds air conditioning to the high schools and junior high schools and much more. Details about the plan can be found here.
Our community is blessed to have a great education system; I think we take for granted that it will always remain that way. We must invest in our students, not just the students who live in a particular neighborhood or who represent a specific demographic, but all our students. To ensure exceptional schools, we need to make sure our system works for everyone. I will support the bond and forward-thinking candidates such as Ruthina Malone and Janet Godwin on Sept. 12 and hope other citizens do the same.

LaShonda Kennedy, Coralville

Willging: Vote yes one behalf of our kids

As a parent of children who passed through Lucas, SE Junior High and City High, I am astounded our community is debating the necessity for the Sept. 12 bond vote. Have opponents set foot in our schools? We have handicapped inaccessible buildings, 27 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. We have brick oven schools without air conditioning, where walking down a hallway breaks a sweat even when outdoor temperatures are below 80.

This is not the community we chose to move to 20 years ago, largely because we believed the ICCSD had a commitment to outstanding education for all. Sadly, I am not sure I would repeat that choice today.

The U.S. Secretary of Education is supporting private schools and gutting public funding, while refusing to denounce discrimination against LGBTQ youth. Our state legislature repeatedly under-prioritizes and underfunds education, and recently stripped teacher bargaining rights. Yet, our community is fighting about investing in equitable education for all?

Regardless of claims from the “vote no” crowd, this is not a referendum on the superintendent or school board. Neither entity will lose anything if the bond fails. The same is not true for our students, too many of whom attend school in cramped rooms with 30+ children, in un-air conditioned spaces; others are placed in temporary buildings for consecutive years, until they’re permanent fixtures of the school. Vote YES Sept. 12. Then please fight against inequity in our state and national education policies. All of our kids deserve better.

Dawn Willging, Iowa City

Young: Vote no on this bond and say yes to an inclusive community-supported school district

I recently met a lovely lady in Iowa City. As we talked about ourselves, it became apparent she has lived a full life of education and advocacy, the things most dear to my heart. She is a mother of children with special needs. We met in a nursing home, where she was visiting her adult daughter-in-law with mental illness, and I was doing the same with my parents, who also have mental illness and intellectual disabilities. 

She told me stories from the 1970s and 80s, back when Iowa City was a much smaller town. She talked about her work trying to get the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) and Grant Wood Area Education Agency (GWAEA) to test for dyslexia, the most common educational disability that affects children’s ability to read and write. Forty years ago she was told by school officials that since the educational protocol used to teach children with dyslexia wasn’t scientifically proven, her son would not receive any specific help for his learning disability while at school.  She had to seek specialized help on her own, which she did. 

When I told her that now, in 2017, ICCSD and Grant Wood AEA doesn’t even test for dyslexia, let alone provide the long-time proven educational techniques needed to overcome it, she shook her head in disbelief. It is still up to the parents to figure out why their child is struggling to read and write, and to get help outside the very school district tasked with providing educational support. 

We talked about how her son was treated in ICCSD schools back in the day, and compared that to the seclusion boxes used for distressed children now in school, she was again dismayed. She assumed the practice of locking children in closets was long abolished. I told her unfortunately, not in ICCSD. 

Then we talked about her advocacy for children using crutches and wheelchairs. I told her about the current problems with the district spending huge amounts of money on new playgrounds that are not ADA compliant.

“How can that possibly be, that’s a federal law!” she cried.

I replied, “It is a law that no one currently in power cares about. They are fighting to do just the bare minimum for all children with special needs of any kind. There is no such thing as being a 21st Century Learning Environment for children who need trauma-informed supports, specialized learning instruction, sensory rich environments, vocational training or just plain-old common-sense bus rides to school.” 

As we parted, I reflected on the current state of things in the ICCSD school district. The confirmed problems with LGBTQ students feeling afraid to attend, the confirmed culture of retaliation against staff and parents, the repeated state and federal special education violations. It feels so overwhelmingly hopeless at times. 

The reality is children who are considered “lesser than” have always been neglected in public schools. It has always been a fight to get those in power to consider the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves. The biggest shame of it all is that in 2017, ICCSD district administrators and school board members who have the ability to change this, have chosen not to. 

ICCSD leads the nation in top academic achievement. For those with athletic and academic gifts we provide college level facilities to play and learn in. It is a most excellent time to be talented and smart in our school district. Not so much for children who are homeless and struggle with where they will sleep tonight and the children in special education. The upcoming $191 million school bond vote is a magnification of the glaring differences between the district haves and have nots. Bigger, better athletic fields, new technologies and opportunities for music and arts abound in the bond, yet not one penny is being spent on desperately needed vocational training for those who need to be able to earn a living wage the day they graduate high school. Not a penny of bond money is being used to provide humane alternatives to currently used seclusion boxes for distressed children. There are no expanded classrooms for children with learning disabilities, and no wheelchair-friendly playgrounds are in the plans. Only those who already have all the advantages will benefit from our financial largess.

I have a very hard time listening to those who repeatedly say, “But we spent 10 years creating this plan. We have worked for four years deciding which projects to do!” like somehow the mere fact it has taken time, automatically means the proposed bond is sacrosanct. 

It isn’t. 

It is actually heart-breaking to realize that educated adults in this day and age, have spent so much time focused on the elite, with absolutely no thought given to those most desperately in need. 

The proposed record-setting $191 million bond not only provides nothing for many of our children, it also ties our hands so that in the future, if by some miraculous act we do get adults in power who want to be inclusive and do the right thing for all children, there will be no financial resources to do so. 

Our children deserve better, and so do we. Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty citizens deserve to live in a place with not only high honors for the academically gifted and high-end facilities for the athletically talented, we are worthy of a school district with the highest honors for special education, vocational training and humane treatment of staff, parents and children. That is what we should be funding, not this sad, expensive excuse for continued neglect. Vote NO on this bond and say YES to an inclusive community-supported school district that provides facilities for all students to learn and grow.

Heather Young, Iowa City

Ross: We can’t afford to let our students and teachers down

As a long time elementary classroom teacher and reading recovery teacher in the Iowa City School District, I had the opportunity to work in several different buildings. I can attest to the huge disparities between our schools as well as to the negative impact that can have on students and teachers. I am referring to things such as no air conditioning, lack of accessibility for all and adequate space in the building to accommodate the best programming for all of our students. 
I applaud the district for taking the initiative in 2013 to thoughtfully create a comprehensive 10-year facility master plan that addresses many of these inequities. An impressive list of renovation and construction projects has been completed over the past four year — apparently on time and under budget. I enthusiastically support the long-term facility master plan as opposed to the patch, patch, patch process that has often been the case previously. I will be voting for the general obligation bond this September in order that this more comprehensive proactive plan can continue rather than constantly trying to play catch up. With updated facilities, more energy and resources can be focused on the important teaching/learning inside the classroom.
Join me in voting YES for our students and teachers on Sept. 12. They need our help. We can’t afford to let them down.
You can find out more about the bond at:
Nancy Ross, Coralville

Redmond: Help make a difference for all

I am writing in support of the G.O. Bond. I am both a teacher and parent in the ICCSD.

I teach at Coralville Central and our school received its upgrades during the 2015-16 school year. These upgrades included, but were not limited to, safety components and safe entrances, new air conditioning, new flooring, ceilings, paint, windows throughout the whole school and an elevator making our school ADA-compliant. Classrooms received new book shelves, storage closets, student desks and technology.

I wish you all could have been at our school when we opened the doors at the ice cream social. You would have heard squeals of delight from the kids and genuine awestruck comments from adults at how new and fresh and put-together and professional our school looked.

If you could have been here on the actual first day of school, you would have seen learning happening from day one instead of kids and teachers sweltering in the heat and trying to stay cool.

I want all schools to experience what Coralville Central experienced. I want my daughter and her friends and kids they don’t even know from different schools to feel like their school matters. The GO Bond is not asking for the moon. Supporting healthy and safe learning environments should be a priority for our community. I am willing to pay more in property tax to support education.

If you are undecided, I urge you to talk to teachers and students who have received the upgrades. Ask them if it’s made a difference. Then vote YES, to help make a difference for all.

Devin Redmond, teacher librarian at Coralville Central, parent of a Mann student

West High Graduate: The bond is an investment in the education of our students

I owe a lot to ICCSD schools. For the past 13 years, I have had the opportunity to work with students and teachers who have made me proud to live in Iowa City. However, I have also seen infrastructure inadequacies in the district since I was 5 years old. Our community has the opportunity to directly resolve these issues and improve every school in the district by voting for the general obligation bond on Sept. 12. The bond is not a blank check for the school board or administration. Rather, it will fund the second half of the district’s facility master plan, which is a crucial investment in the education of every student in our community. We cannot postpone these facility upgrades. The learning environments for students throughout the district have already been disrupted. At Weber, I bundled up in sub-zero temperatures to use a bathroom because my “temporary” classroom did not have one. During my last two years at West High, school was dismissed early more times due to the lack of air conditioning rather than snow. Our community must step up. Voting for the bond will make our schools truly accessible to those with disabilities, keep our arts and athletic facilities competitive with the rest of the state and suitably prepare for our rapidly growing population. I want the K-12 experience to be better for my sister and all current and future students in the district. I encourage everyone to go to the polls on Sept. 12. Our students, teachers and community deserve better.

Michael Moonjely, West High graduate

Principals’ Perspective: Master plan ensures equitable facilities for all

As principals of the three comprehensive high schools in the Iowa City Community School District, we are sometimes portrayed as rivals, but we are united by one ideal: our commitment to providing high quality educational experiences to all students in the District. The Iowa City Community School District’s 10-year Facilities Master Plan (FMP) is key for ensuring equitable educational experiences for all. We are connected to every student within our community, whether it is the kindergartener aspiring to be a Little Hawk, the eighth grade student preparing to enter the Trojan line-up or the North Liberty youngster now excited to become a Lightning Bolt.
The FMP is designed to bring innovative learning environments to all district buildings, address the rapid student growth taking place across the community and improve the structure and amenities of the district’s older buildings. Every child’s learning experience should be unique to him or her, and the quality of this experience should not be dictated by the bricks and mortar encompassing the educational space.
One of the over-arching goals of the FMP is to ensure equitable facilities for each of our three comprehensive high schools and we stand behind this commitment. It wasn’t so very long ago that we felt that our school communities were forced to compete with each other for modest additions and improvements. However, with the FMP, we are no longer in this position. The district is committed to providing every student an education that enables them to thrive and equip each graduate with the individualized tools needed to succeed in the student’s chosen future endeavors.
Committing to the FMP was easy, once we all were able to see how comprehensive it was and what it will bring to our schools. Paying for it is another thing. The District has outlined how SAVE dollars, which come from the one cent sales tax, and a voter approved general obligation bond (GO Bond) will allow the District to complete this vision. It is also important to note that the FMP covers all schools in the Iowa City Community School District. Every elementary classroom will be transformed into a 21st century learning environment. This commitment is on display in the recent completed renovations of Coralville Central, Lucas, Penn, and Twain Elementary Schools. We are excited to know that all of the students in our feeder schools will have had equitable learning opportunities as a result of the FMP.
Here are the major projects in our buildings that will be covered by these funds.
City High School
City High will be 100 percent air conditioned and will finally get a competition gymnasium that is the equivalent of other schools in our conference. A new modern cafeteria will be added to improve students’ dining experience, and the space vacated by the old one will allow us to return vocational and technical learning to City High.
Liberty High School
Liberty High will complete its outdoor athletic facilities, including a football/track stadium, baseball field, softball field, soccer field and tennis courts. Twenty additional classrooms will also be added to raise capacity to 1,500 students, which will make it on par with both City and West High.

West High School
West High will renovate all of the classrooms housed in the original, 50-year-old part of the building. This includes providing energy efficient heating and cooling throughout the entire building and installing new windows that will allow natural light to flow in, while keeping the elements, like rain and snow, out.
When the work of the FMP is concluded, all three high schools will have equitable facilities, including climate-controlled classrooms, renovated cafeterias and new gym spaces. We know there will always be friendly competition between our high schools as we strive to bring outstanding programming to our school communities. However, with the FMP, we will no longer have to compete for inefficient funding to improve our schools.
John Bacon, City High School Principal
Scott Kibby, Liberty High School Principal
Gregg Shoultz, West High School Principal