Campaign Description

Here's what this campaign is about:

Ensuring equal opportunities in curriculum and programming for all students

Providing our students and faculty with safe, healthy, technology-driven learning environments

Committing to our neighborhood schools

Guaranteeing responsible stewardship of public funds

Celebrating the diversity within our district

Engaging parents to become active participants in the schools

Making data-driven decisions with measurable results

Email us at or call 331-6746

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The One About Board Dysfunction

Longtime board member Patti Fields always said to follow and to trust the process.  Over the past four years, I have come to appreciate the power of vigorous debate and discussion leading up to a Board decision.  Sometimes, I have been a YES vote, other times a NO.  The beauty of having seven board members is that the collective decision of the seven members is reflective of the will of the group and is ultimately better than any one individual's opinion.

The difficult thing is to advocate strongly for something you believe in and then find that you have been unable to sway the group's opinion once the vote is taken.  I have been on the short end of some decisions over the past four years and, while it stings a bit, it is important to recognize that the time for dissent or debate is over and the Board needs to collectively move on.  I am disheartened to find by the opinion pieces in this morning's Press-Citizen that two of my board colleagues still don't "get it" and believe their opinion is greater than the collective will of the Board.

Earlier this year, over multiple board work sessions, between January and April, two major decisions were made.  The first, was a hammering out of the exact language to be placed on the ballot for voters to consider this coming Tuesday.  Each board member had the opportunity at multiple open work sessions to make suggestions regarding what projects should be listed in the ballot language.  The addition of wording that includes classrooms for pre-kindergarten, art, music, and science all came from healthy Board discussion throughout those work sessions.  All of those commitments, as well as a comprehensive list of all 20 projects are listed in the ballot language. I am dismayed that the one board member who sat mostly silent through those multiple work sessions is now upset that specific wording regarding career and technical education is not in the ballot language. The time to suggest that wording was before the language was finalized, not months later once the ballots were printed.

The second was the decision to ask voters for permission to issue General Obligation Bonds necessary to fund the full amount of the remaining 20 projects on the ICCSD's 10 year Facility Master Plan. At the January 10th work session HERE, Director Lynch proposed a plan to Bond for a lesser amount to fund the next few years of the Facility Master Plan. I was supportive of this at the time, but before deciding what to do, the Board went to the community on January 12th, 17th, and 19th at three different locations across the district to gather community input.  The overwhelming response was to "finish the plan" and bond for the full amount of $191.5 M.  Here is the summary of those listening posts.  The community input was enough to sway both President Lynch, myself, and other board members, so we decided to go for the full amount rather than multiple smaller bonds and get the plan done right...the first time.  At the Board meeting on April 25 HERE , the Board voted 5-2 to Bond for the full $191.5 Million.  I find it interesting that the two members who were in the minority have spent their summer and are now on the Opinion page of the Press-Citizen advocating against the collective decision of the Board in direct violation of Board policies and the Code of Conduct for Board Members found HERE

Our community deserves better and our students deserve better.  We need board members who understand both their role and the value of collective group decisions. I hope you will join me this Tuesday in voting for the candidates vetted, interviewed, and endorsed by the Press-Citizen, the Gazette, and the Iowa City Education Association.  I also urge you to vote YES in order to both tie the next board to completing the Facility Master Plan and to assist them in moving the conversation about our schools away from the bricks and mortar and toward what happens in the classroom.  Our kids deserve our support and the support of a functional Board. Now go vote.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

On Swift Boating

Swift-boat: verb (informal) to target a public figure with a campaign of personal attacks

The term swift-boating originated after John Kerry's bid for the white house fell short in 2004.  The Political Action Committee called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacked Senator Kerry by smearing him publicly and raising question about his service in Vietnam. This political tactic is frequently utilized by candidates and campaigns who know that they can not compete on job qualifications or the issues and it is shameful.

I am sorry to see a number of local elected party leaders engaging in the same despicable type of behavior targeting Paul Roesler,  one of the three candidates for the special election to fill the board seat vacated by the resignation of Tom Yates in May.  You know who you are so I won't name names because I will likely have to interact with you in the future.  I will gladly point out though, that rather than ask the Board leadership or the Superintendent what it might take to restore confidence and effectiveness to the board team, you have chosen to play party politics with the academic wellbeing of our students and you should be ashamed of yourselves. You clearly don't understand what's at stake here and I'm sorry you didn't think to pick up the phone and give a friendly call to discuss the issues in order to gain a broader understanding before swift-boating Paul.

Service on the school board is a non-partisan elected volunteer position and anyone wishing to seek the office deserves to have the right to be judged on the merit of their understanding of the issues and their ideas as to how to solve them.  They do not deserve to be smeared and viciously attacked in the way that Mr Roesler has been.

As for my colleagues who serve on the board with me, well that's a different matter entirely.  It's not unusual to find oneself in agreement on various issues with certain candidates, but it is considered very poor form to inject oneself as a sitting board member into the campaign of an individual running for board.  I have been made aware of the fact that at least two of my colleagues have directly been involved with one campaign by helping distribute stacks of yard signs, place phone calls, and write emails on behalf of a candidate.

I've always been willing to discuss candidates with individuals asking who is best prepared to do the job or who has a firm grasp of the many issues that face the Board, but I'd never previously think to actually physically campaign for, or endorse, a specific candidate. Based on the activities of my colleagues and other local elected officials, it appears, sadly, that this is the "new normal" in our community.

So, to that end, since the community will be choosing on Tuesday who gets to sit at the table with me for the remainder of my term, I wrote a little something as an endorsement for the only candidate that I feel truly has the tools, knowledge and spinal fortitude to handle the job.  Additionally, in posting this blog, it occurred to me that the blog itself may not be as poorly titled as I thought after I was elected in 2013. Now, however, instead of advocating for myself to become a member of the Board, I am advocating for the entity of the Board itself because the decisions we make are so much larger and longer-lasting than my term.  Our students deserve to have effective and functional board governance and I believe at this time that there is only one candidate that can restore that.


There is a very important election this coming Tuesday.  As you may know, there is a vacant seat on the Iowa City School Board of Directors as a result of Tom Yates' sudden resignation on May 13.  There are three people running for that vacant seat.  All are fine candidates and we should be grateful to all of them being willing to put themselves out there.  One candidate, however, stands out as having a firm grasp of the issues and would be ready to hit the ground running on day one.

Paul Roesler has attended nearly every board and committee meeting over the past three years and truly understands not only the larger issues, but the delicate intricacies underlying them.  Additionally, he clearly understands the time commitment involved, which is significant.  

His campaign platform is focused on passing the GO Bond next year in order to deliver the 10-year Facility Master Plan and recommit our community to the next century of public education and equitable facilities for all students. Additionally, he understands the District Strategic Goals of increasing Reading and Math Proficiency while decreasing the achievement gap that currently exists for our most vulnerable students.  

Paul believes in embracing cultural and socioeconomic diversity in our classrooms in order to prepare our students for life beyond our school hallways. He understands that curricular and extra-curricular equity is critical to the student experience and delivering high achievement.  Perhaps most importantly, Paul is an excellent listener who takes the time to make informed decisions and then respects the product of the Board decision-making process, which is critical to moving our school district forward. 

Finally, Paul is a lifelong resident of our community and, being married to a teacher, has a keen understanding of the needs of educators and has committed himself to valuing teacher and community input over his own personal beliefs.

Please read more about Paul here:

Don't just take my word for some notable endorsements for Paul here:

Eric Johnson:

Cindy Abrams:

Write ups detailing the issues and what's at stake:

Vote at your school district polling place, which you can lookup easily here:

Join me in supporting Paul Roesler this Tuesday, July 19.  EVERY SINGLE vote counts as turnout will likely be low due to the summer timing.  Our community and our students depend on it. 
I would also like to add one more endorsement of Paul from Michael Tilley, who I sometimes agree with and sometimes don't, but I always enjoy the logic he brings to the discussion. Read it HERE 

Last, but not least, I would like to submit, for your reading pleasure the opinion of the Iowa City Council and the mayor of North Liberty who officially contacted the board after the May10 meeting when four votes overturned nearly two years worth of board and community work.  Both letters indicate that the general obligation (GO) bond in 2017, which is needed to finish our 10-year Facility Master Plan, is very much in jeopardy the way things sit now. Students across the district will continue to suffer in cramped, crowded, hot classrooms and Liberty High will remain unfinished for many years to come if we do not get back on track.

Here are the links:
Letter from City of Iowa City
Letter from Mayor Nielsen of North Liberty

SO, on Tuesday: Vote early. Vote often. Sink the swift boat.
...and make sure your friends, neighbors, and coworkers do too as every vote is going to matter.

Monday, June 6, 2016

To Appoint, or Not to Appoint....THAT is the question.

Tomorrow evening, the ICCSD Board of Education will be considering seven applicants who have submitted their names for possible appointment to the board seat vacated by Director Yates last month.  All seven are brave souls to put themselves out there and I am grateful that we have such interest in our community. 

We've received conflicting information as to whether the appointment would be until the November, 2016 general election or the next scheduled school election in September, 2017,  but the Iowa Code regarding the appointment process is pretty clear on the fact that we must try to appoint. The guidance we received from the Director of Elections from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office is to:

"..... advise your Board of their statutory duty to appoint within 30 days.   Provisions in §279.7 that provide for an election if an appointment is not made within 30 days do not give your school board authority to go straight to an election."

In other words, the Board must try, in good faith, to appoint.  If we do not appoint someone by June 12, then by default, we would go to a special election.

There are a few concerns I have with willingly not appointing and intentionally letting the process roll over to special election...  

First, and foremost, is that the Board will have willingly not done what Iowa Code explicitly directs us to do. Dillon's Rule applies to school boards in Iowa and unlike Home Rule, which applies to other elected entities, it does not allow us to chart our own path.  We can only do what we are permitted to do. 

Second, elections cost money.  The best estimate I have seen is approximately $16,000 for the District to hold a special election this summer.  That money comes directly out of our General Fund, which pays for teachers, transportation and student learning.  

Third, there are numerous decisions that must be made by the board over this summer.  With secondary boundaries in flux (yet again), new schools set to be completed within the year, rapid growth in a time of inadequate funding, a general obligation bond campaign on the horizon, and an achievement gap for our minority students that we have vowed to attack, we don't have the luxury of time and an election would hamstring us for another six weeks at minimum. 

Finally, my suspicion is that a school district election held in the summer when people are busy with vacations, summer camps, etc may create low turnout and could be viewed as not being truly representative of the community. Anyone elected would be serving until 2019.  School district elections can be affected by a few hundred votes and when the outcome is to fill only one seat, it may create problems for the credibility of that person and the board as a whole going forward. 

There are seven good people all with individual strengths who have willingly put themselves forth for consideration.  I believe, that in the interest of saving money and time that we need to look no further than this great group of people in order to find our newest member and resume the important work that is currently on hold. 

One final note: It'll take just four votes to appoint, but in my opinion, six would be best. If I were a new appointee, I certainly wouldn't want to come into this board knowing that 1/3 of my colleagues didn't support me.  

To view tomorrow's agenda and to read the applications click HERE

6/7/2017 UPDATE:  Despite conventional wisdom, sometimes things move pretty fast with the Board. This morning we received guidance from the Johnson County Auditor, as well as the Director of Elections for the Iowa Secretary of State that if we appoint tonight, the term will only run until the next General Election (not School Election) ballot in November of 2016.  On the surface, the shorter term (5 months vs 15 as initially thought) isn't an issue with me.  However, the District would be responsible for 50% of the cost for regular precincts where ICCSD voters reside.  That cost to the District is estimated to be approximately $75k.  So, now the dilemma is to appoint and spend $75k in 5 months, or to not appoint and hold a special election in July and spend $16k to do so.  As with many questions the Board has to ponder, there are no good decisions, only varying levels of bad ones.  I suspect we will get to six votes pretty quick

In other words: you can disregard much of what was written in the initial post above. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A State of Minds?

I realize I really need to change the name of this blog, but I have yet to do so.

At any rate, I delivered the following comments today during a House Education subcommittee meeting in Des Moines.  Hope you enjoy.

“A State of Minds”  

Many might remember this slogan from when it was proposed for our license plates by then first-term, Governor Branstad back in 1983.   Back then, the governor wanted to emphasize Iowa’s high literacy rate and education prowess in order to attract businesses from outside of the state to relocate to Iowa.  

That was then, this is now. My, how times have changed.

We are at a crossroads in our state. Iowa stands at the precipice of a future economy that relies on emerging new technologies.  The business growth in the Technology Corridor between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids is a perfect example of this.  We, as a state, have to decide now if we are preparing our future workforce with just the three R’s or with the technology and skills necessary to compete in today’s global economy.  In order to win in Business, we need to win in Education. A highly skilled workforce leads to higher earning potential and a higher standard of living, which is critical to attract new businesses to our state.  Education is the first step in creating a self-perpetuating cycle of prosperity…. It begins in our classrooms…..with our students.  

Our neighboring states, however, are beating us to the punch.  The gap in education spending between Iowa and surrounding states is widening and our kids are paying the price.  We live in a state that ranks 22nd in per capita income, but has plummeted to 35th in per pupil spending. We are currently spending $1612 less per pupil than the national average.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois all fund education ABOVE the national average.  Nebraska and Missouri are BELOW the average, but still ahead of Iowa. Can we really compete for future business if our students aren’t prepared? 

Surprisingly, our teachers have managed to produce amazing results, with too little, for far too long.  What’s the return on investment for education funding?  Lets examine what Iowa students are capable of.  Despite the steady loss of $641 in inflation-adjusted funding since 2008, our students have:

  • 2nd highest ACT composite in the nation
  • 89% graduation rate
  • Steady increases in AP testing and students taking concurrent collegiate classes
  • Statewide voluntary preschool has quadrupled to 21,429 students over the past five years. 
These gains have been made despite a substantial statewide growth of students living in poverty, as well as those for which English isn’t their first language.  This shows that we have the right teachers and the students willing to do the work to succeed.  What we don’t have is the classroom supports and technology to continue to maintain the Iowa standard. 

Setting Education funding as the premier priority for Iowa with an increase in Supplemental State Aid next year of 4% with 6% the following year would be the first steps to reversing Iowa’s quick slide toward the bottom.  It wouldn’t get us to the national average, but it would be a start.  We can’t afford to NOT emphasize education in this state.  What good is a decrease in corporate property tax if we don’t have a highly skilled workforce ready to compete with the rest of the world?

I’ll admit, I didn’t like the slogan “ A State of Minds” back in 1983, but I understand what the governor was trying to emphasize back then.  He was right to tout our strengths.  He was right to let those outside Iowa know about our commitment to education.

But he’s wrong now, and our students of today and workforce of tomorrow will pay the price.  I ask that you do the right thing for our students and for our future economy: Set Supplemental State Aid immediately for FY 2016 and FY 2017 at 4% and 6% respectively.  

Horace Mann said, “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”  Lets make education the top priority for our state once again. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On

Long time, no see folks. It's good to be back.

It's been an incredibly busy year since my last blog post and despite many, many reasons to write about my thoughts on the goings on in the district, I have not done so.  There have been significant challenges we have faced, pitfalls to avoid, and decisions that have kept me up at night. Throughout all of it, I have had many ask if I would ever go back to writing my blog. In fact, the blog title even seems inappropriate now. Simply put, I have not had the energy to do so. My real job, our family calendar and my volunteer commitment to the ICCSD Board leave me completely drained by days end most of the time.

This last 24 hours, though, has me spinning.....

All that I believe in regarding fairness and equity in our classrooms has been dealt a significant blow by one USDA letter regarding the usage of FRL for redistricting purposes.  Was the Diversity Policy that passed in Feb, 2013 perfect?  Not by a long shot.  When the policy got referred to the P&E committee two months ago, I viewed it as an opportunity to tweak the policy, to address valid concerns, and to make it a stronger and better-backed commitment from the Board to combat one of our biggest barriers to student achievement: Poverty.  I firmly believe that we were on track to do so and would have brought a much improved policy back to the Board to consider in the near future. That's all on hold now. 

For me, this isn't about race. This isn't about neighborhood schools.  This isn't even about the various municipal governments.  For me, this is entirely about trying to ensure that every single one of our over 13,000 students receives an excellent education and has a level playing field.  Right now, too many of our kids are at a disadvantage.  I am not okay with that. None of us should be. 

Quite frankly, I am shocked and disappointed that there are people in this community, my community for nearly forty years, who are happy to see that the most meaningful step this district has taken (flawed, though it may have been) toward correcting this inequity was just swept away.  This is a major loss for our students, especially the ones on the wrong side of the achievement gap. No one should be celebrating political points when students are the casualties. we sit, back at square one.  Tabula rasa.  It's time for a gut check.  I am choosing to take this opportunity to focus on what is right and do all that I can to ensure that we improve our student achievement. Whatever happens next, I will continue to use that as my compass. I will continue to advocate for all students.  I will refocus my efforts on finding ways to work with my board colleagues to right the ship. I will keep calm and carry on. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Start of a Longer Journey

For the past four months this campaign process has been a bit like planning a wedding.  There's lots of busy work, lots of meetings. Some things go well, others are a little bumpy.....but overall, you're focused on the invitations, the DJ, the florist, the caterers, etc.  In fact, the whole event becomes a bit of a whirlwind and not surprisingly, most people get swept up in it.  Two days later, the gifts have been opened and most of the guests have gone home (except Aunt Phyllis, she always overstays her welcome).  The crazy thing is that after the cacophany and the excitement, you realize that you just got married and now the hard part begins.

That's pretty much how this feels right now.  It's been a long summer, with a sprint to the finish.  The party's over and now it's time to get to work.  We have so many varied issues facing our district, it's hard to know exactly where to begin.  It won't be easy, but I'm grateful that I've been given this opportunity to help to shape the schools our community deserves.  I want to be able to look back at this moment and recognize it as the time when we decided to move ahead to tackle these challenges and to commit to equity in facilities and programming that would give each student the tools they need to achieve their highest potential.

I've met so many great people throughout this summer and learned so much from each of them.  I am blessed to have so many resources to rely upon to help me really understand an issue and think about it from as many angles as possible.  I couldn't have done it without you.  We need to focus all of that positive energy and excitement away from the campaign and into the schools themselves....of course, I suspect I'm preaching to the choir. 

I've very much enjoyed getting to know the other candidates throughout this race.  After the last month's festivities I'm going through a bit of withdrawal, actually.  This whole experience reminds me of The Real World where nine unlikely strangers decided to run for school board. Thankfully for the most part no one stopped being nice and decided to get real.  Perhaps we'll have to schedule a reunion tour.

I am looking forward to working with Chris, Sally, Jeff, Tuyet, Patti and Marla.  I think we'll make a great team.  We won't agree on everything, but I have a great respect for all of you and I look forward to hopefully earning your respect and trust as well.  Let's collectively roll up our sleeves and get to work.  We have a golden opportunity to dictate our own future and there's a lot of work to do. I'm excited about our chances to ensure that all parts of the district begin to see tangible change and that all decisions are driven by a desire to heal the whole district and help every single student.  

Last, but certainly not least, I wish to thank the 8733 people who voted.  I've written before that my grandfather's greatest fear was apathy of American voters.  While 12% of registered voters doesn't sound that big, it's really quite impressive for a school board election.  By growing the pie, we increased the turnout and reached more people about the issues than ever before.  Record turnout means record interest.  Again, we need to harness that enthusiasm. we go, folks. The party is over, the gifts have been opened and now, because of you.....I've got a lot of thank you notes to write. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been (and Thanks for Your Support)

Over the past four months, I've met a lot of new people, had innumerable conversations, taken part in five forums, multiple interviews, and consumed enough coffee that I'm getting java-scented thank you cards from Juan Valdez. I knew this would be hard on my family, but I didn't realize how hard.  Even the dog has started looking at me like I'm a stranger.  Through it all I've been happy to have a strong support network of old and new friends to rely on, to pep me up, to defend me, to cheer me on, and to believe in me.  I am truly grateful.  I will never be able to repay you all for the countless hours spent on this endeavor.

From the beginning, I promised to run a positive, issues-based campaign. I laid out what issues I believed in and went out with the help of my awesome campaign staff and my good friend and new MBA grad, Amber, and we tackled this seemingly impossible task. I don't know how the journey will  end today, but if nothing else I know I've formed a lot of great relationships.

I believe that we need to take control of this unique moment in our history and focus on our district's long-term future in both facilities and programming. We need to ensure that every child in every neighborhood has an opportunity to achieve their highest potential.  That's what a public school system should be about.  To have the perception that there are good and bad schools does a disservice to our students and our teachers and is unhealthy for our community.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way and the sentiment is district-wide.  The outpouring of support both in sweat equity and in donations to our cause was humbling. We couldn't have run our campaign without all of you.  Win or lose, I am forever grateful.

When the campaign finance reports came out last week, I did a little breakdown:
68% of our contributors gave under $100 with an average of $37.50
32% of our contributors gave over $100 with an average of $135
There were 127 total donors and I have known most of these people for much of my life.
By ZIP code 42% were from 52240, 4% were from 52241, 1% from 52244, 34% from 52245, 14% from 52246, 4% from 52317, 1% from other areas.

You can view all of the candidate reports of income and expenditures by clicking on each candidate's  individual dollar amounts HERE if you don't believe me. It's all public record now anyway.

Some have focused in on the record contributions this year. I think it speaks volumes of our community that collectively $35,000 was donated to help the candidates get the word out.  In our 24/7 media based society that's a tall order. People obviously do care about education and it's future in our district. I think it's a relatively small price to pay to raise awareness of the issues facing our students and teachers.

Speaking of the other candidates, I have a great respect for all of them. I've met nearly all of the spouses and children and I have just as much respect for them.  I know everyone has given it their all and it shows.  The physical, emotional and mental toll is incredibly difficult to deal with and I don't wish it on anyone.  Jim, Jason, Chris, Karla, Sara, Phil, Tuyet and Greg, my hat's off to all of you and whatever happens today, I've enjoyed getting to know you. Believe it or not, we share a common bond now. I think our little "reality show" is going to set an all time record for voter turnout.  No one can ever take that away.  Best of luck to all of you today!

What a long strange trip indeed.....see you at the finish line!

Now, get out there and vote.  Find your polling place HERE

Our community is at a crossroads.  I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work for all of our kids.  I hope you'll join me.