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, August 31, 2013

Small Schools Anonymous

Hi, my name is Brian and my children attend a small school. That school is Shimek.

Shimek elementary only has about 200 students which makes it one of the smallest schools in the district.   Only 91 of those students live within one mile of the school.   If it weren't for the fact that Shimek serves the entire area reaching out to Newport Road and there are no other alternatives that are nearby, I'm sure Shimek would be targeted frequently for closure.

Traditionally, Lincoln enrolls about 250 students.  93 of those students live within one mile of the school. Like Shimek, it serves an area that really doesn't have another alternative facility within a reasonable distance.  I know that Lincoln has been mentioned at times in sentences that end with closure, but for the life of me, I can't imagine what alternative facility those 93 students who live near Lincoln would attend.

Then there's Hills.  108 students attend Hills.  39 live within one mile.  There is no alternative to Hills Elementary school in the immediate area.  Hills is the only school for roughly a 7 mile radius.  Their community has taken exciting steps to address infrastructure needs and is poised for growth.  That school serves a large area. I think that to consider closing Hills would be extremely short-sighted.  Remember, 20 years ago Penn was the only school in North Liberty.

Which brings me to Mann.  Mann has about 250 students enrolled each year over the past decade.  105 live within one mile of the school. After the anticipated renovations that are part of the Strategic Facility Plan approved by the Board in July, it is projected that Mann will be able to house over 400 students. Mann serves the historic GooseTown neighborhood and, like Lincoln, doesn't really have a nearby walkable alternative.

I want to share these thoughts because as we move toward new, larger,  more peripherally-located and cost-efficient schools as part of addressing our district's explosive growth over the previous and coming decade, we must still recognize that there is intrinsic value to maintaining a small school when and where there are no other alternatives.  Although larger schools are more cost efficient to operate, the true test of a neighborhood school is its sense of community.  Being able to walk in as a parent and have the principal and the school secretary able to recognize you by face and know where your children are at is comforting.  There is no dollar value that can reflect that.

Exciting changes are about to occur with our district-wide facelift.  Let's ensure that we don't lose track of our roots.

Hi, my name is Brian and my children attend a small school....


  1. -This post on potential neighborhood school closures is missing discussion of Hoover. Following the same structure as your comments on other specific school, can you add comment for Hoover?
    -What is your definition of "walkable alternative" when considering elementary school children?

    1. Thanks for your comment icparent. To address the first part of your question, this particular blogpost is not about school closures. It's about a commitment to our smaller schools and the unique role they serve in our district. Our smallest schools enroll 250 or less students. Hoover enrolls approx 360 at this time. If you're interested in what criteria I think should be applied to determining if a school closure should occur, please read The BIG Question blog post from July 22. In that post, I lay out 7 criteria that I feel must be satisfied to consider a school closure. If they aren't satisfied, then I can't support it. But to say a school should never be considered for closure, I find disingenuous and unrealistic.

      As for the second part of your question, Iowa state law defines a walkable school distance as 2 miles with no uncontrolled high traffic intersections. In my mind, I consider 1.5 miles to be a more realistic distance, but I'll defer to state law. In my area, many children walk or bike 1.5 miles across a bridge over I-80 with no sidewalk to get to Shimek.

      On another note, if we could get more programs similar to the Walking School Bus program at Garner where adult chaperones act as "drivers" of the bus and walk a group of kids to school, we would have much less traffic, healthier children and more community involvement, which is the perfect trifecta.

  2. Thank you for your reply. I apologize that I was unable to reply sooner.
    I read your post as a comment on school closure because each example mentioned school closure.
    I should have been more direct with my question. I read the post above hoping to glean an understanding of how you would view Hoover using similar criteria. I am unclear on your actual position regarding the closure of Hoover. I've read your "7 criteria" to determine when a school closure should occur. I've read your questionnaire responses, I've attended forums and I've talked with residents about what they think your position regarding Hoover might be. At this point I don't want to guess what your position is or assume that my interpretation of your 7 criteria matches your interpretation.
    Given your statements that a decision regarding Hoover was already made so the board should forward with it, it appears that your 7 criteria will conveniently be applied only to schools that are not Hoover. Disappointing and misleading.

  3. Should have added--- Candidate responses to issues I find important are largely similar, so the Hoover issue has become a distinguishing factor, as it true for many voters. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for your comments, icparent.

    Since I was not on the Board during the Facility Master Plan recommendation and subsequent vote on July 23, I was not part of the decision to close any school. Should the discussion occur again in the future, if those seven criteria are not met, I can not support it.

    I am the only candidate that has given the issue enough critical thought as a current parent and potential board member to develop clear cut criteria. People know precisely where I stand and what criteria would have to be applied in the future for me whether it's Hoover or any other school.

    I feel I have been honest and the criteria are fair on all accounts.

    I am sorry if that is somehow misleading.

    Kind regards,