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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Why on Earth am I Running for School Board?

When I launched this campaign for school board back in May, I knew that I would be asked many, many questions throughout the course of the summer.  Many of those questions I was prepared for.  Others forced me to reexamine my own beliefs.  The question, though, that I most often receive is “Why on Earth are you doing this?”  Hopefully, I can try to answer that here. 

A little background first….
My wife and I are both products of the Iowa City Community School District.  She attended Lucas Elementary. I attended Lemme. We both went to South East and City High.  After receiving my degree in Biology from the University of Iowa, I moved away to the south side of Chicago to attend optometry school.  We then moved to Cleveland OH to complete residency training at the VA Hospital. 

Needless to say, Chicago and Cleveland were eye-opening experiences.   My first patients were from the projects, community clinics, and union health centers.  I had never really seen, let alone been immersed in, that type of poverty.  I had never experienced a community where the public schools are failing.  I had never been exposed to so many different cultures and just assumed that everyone viewed the world through the Iowa City prism (bad vision reference, I know).  

Most importantly I had never really, truly appreciated the community we live in and the strong commitment we have to our schools. After finishing my training, it was an easy decision for my wife and I when we decided to return to Iowa City to start our family.  The weather might be crazy, but hey, at least we knew the schools were good. Right?

When we returned to Iowa City in 2000, we bought our first house on Irving Ave based on proximity to my employment, neighborhood vibe and price.  We knew that there was a relatively new school (Weber) close by, but didn’t really pay any attention to things like test scores or FRL percentages because we just knew that when we had children, the district would ensure that every child, regardless of address would have a shot.

When we did finally start our family, we moved to the NE side of Iowa City to live in a neighborhood that had developed on the exact location where we had camped in the early 90’s. We were pleased to find that the school closest to us (Shimek) was only 1.3 miles away. We were busy raising our son and daughter and dealing with daycare, bills and jobs at UIHC. All was good, even the Hawkeyes were doing well.

Then, around that time, I began to worry about the growing perception that something was wrong in our district, especially at our older schools. I became involved with the City High Alumni Association in an effort to work hard to contribute to my alma mater. After all, my children were going to be students there some day.  That involvement has led to multiple opportunities to be active in bigger district discussions.  I very much enjoyed my time there and am happy that City High remains a vibrant, diverse community.

So why am I running? 
Isn’t it enough to do nearly a decade serving my alma mater?  Aren’t I busy enough seeing patients at the VA Hospital and in Riverside? Am I not busy raising two kids and all the extracurricular activities that go along with that?  You bet I am…..

However, as Iowa City natives, my wife and I remember the time when our district was forward thinking.  When we were once proactive about building schools with an eye toward the future and where growth could and would be.  Most of our elementary schools and especially City and West were once upon a time “out in the middle of a cornfield.”  Iowa schools were consistently ranked among the top 2-3 nationally and our district was tops in the state.   We used to be forward thinking in our educational strategies and Iowa-centric in our philosophies about what type of graduates we wanted to produce.

We’ve had explosive growth (20% in enrollment since 2003) in our district over the past two decades and have, in many ways, become reactive, rather than proactive, about building our schools.   For years there has been a lack of a clear long-term plan for our district and the growth isn’t slowing.

Meanwhile, an achievement gap has been growing between schools, especially at the elementary level.  Suddenly, test scores are the focus and there is the perception that some schools are better to attend than others.  When coupled with the achievement gap between Hispanic and African American students and their Caucasian or Asian classmates, we are failing a good portion of our students. We CAN do better and we OWE every student a fair shot at a great education.

There has also been a growing inequity between the facilities throughout the district.  Equity is not the same as equal, but it does achieve what in healthcare is referred to as the “standard of care.”  Air-conditioning, functioning technology and a safe, clean environment inside and outside of the school should be the standard of care.

As we move ahead with our strategic long-term facility planning, I am excited about the prospect of, once again, having a roadmap to the future for our district.  The RPS vote gives us the ability to start right away on building and renovating.  In short, we can become proactive once again.

The district faces many challenges and critical decisions over the next few years.  These decisions will have a lasting effect on our schools and our community.  I was raised here.  I’m raising my kids here.  I’m going to retire here.  I want to be a part of the critical decision making that is happening right at this moment in time when we try to seize the reigns and move forward. 

We need to build on the strong traditions of the past, but with and eye toward the future. We have to commit to healthy, high-performance, cost-effective 21st century classrooms that will prepare our graduates for any avenue.  We must also try, when possible, to preserve our traditions at our current facilities.

It is easy to get caught focusing on the minutiae of the moment or the hot-button topic of the week in our district.  However, we have to realize that year after year, we continue to produce high-caliber, tech-savvy, critical thinkers that are well prepared for whatever comes next.  THAT should be our focus.

I truly believe that we are judged by how we treat the least among us.  As a public school system we need to double-down on ensuring ALL of our students get an equal opportunity to succeed. We need to make our decisions focused on that goal while being fiscally responsible with the public funds entrusted to the district.

The Iowa City School District gave me all the tools to succeed and the most influential educators in my life were found here.  I very much want to be a part of our unwavering commitment to public education.  There are difficult, exciting decisions ahead that will affect our community for generations to come.  I feel I have the historical background and the clinical skills to fairly and objectively make those decisions in a collegial and civil manner with other members of the board.

If schools are a barometer for community health, then our community is at a crossroads.  Let’s get to work. I hope you’ll join me.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world"  -Mahatma Ghandi


  1. Well said, Brian. I have no doubt that you'd be a great choice for the school board.

  2. Brian- This is exactly why I am involved. Thanks for taking it a step further!

  3. Way to go Brian. I will definitely support you and I would be happy to help in any way that I can.

  4. Dear Candidate for IC School Board

    We are a group of voters. We always vote en bloc. We vote on a single issue (though of course other issues are secondary priorities.)

    Please answer the question honestly. Yes or No.

    Do you support the daily reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in schools?

    Thank you.