Iowa school board elections focus on overcoming challenges
On September 10, eight of the largest school districts in Iowa will hold school board elections for a total of 26 seats. These districts are Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Sioux City and Waterloo. Four school board seats are up for election in both Des Moines and Sioux City, while three seats are open in each of the other six districts. With only days left before the election, school board candidates across the state are criticizing incumbents for the slew of challenges confronting Iowa school districts.
In response to budgetary problems, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City school boards have both voted to shut down at least one elementary school in their respective districts. Cedar Rapids, along with Davenport, has also struggled with declining enrollment in recent years. Due to their failure to meet standardized testing benchmarks enacted by the federal No Child Left Behind law, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines and Waterloo are all classified as "Districts in Need of Assistance."
Spotlight: Des Moines Public Schools
The school district with the most students in Iowa, Des Moines, has also experienced the most controversy since last year. In 2012, Superintendent Nancy Sebring resigned after a closed meeting of the district school board which was intended "to evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance or discharge is being considered when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual’s reputation." Shortly after Sebring's resignation, the Des Moines Register alleged that she had "inappropriately used the district’s technology to send and receive sexually explicit messages." On June 27, Sebring sued several district officials on the basis that they had "either individually or working in concert, wrongfully undertook steps to ensure the purely personal and private emails would come to the attention of the Des Moines Register and to the public." The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, on behalf of former board member Graham Gillette, has filed a separate lawsuit against the board to force the district to release the recording of the board's closed session to the public.
- Meredith Hines-Dochterman, The Gazette, "Emails shed light on process leading to Cedar Rapids school closings," May 28, 2012
- Stephen Schmidt, Iowa City Patch, "Iowa City School Board Votes to Close Hoover Elementary School as Part of Facilities Plan," July 24, 2013
- Meryn Fluker, The Gazette, "To keep the doors open, Cedar Rapids school system learns to do more with less," October 28, 2012
- Iowa Department of Education, "Certified Enrollment," accessed September 3, 2013
- Iowa Department of Education, "Education Statistics," accessed September 3, 2013
- Mary Stegmeir, Des Moines Register, "ACLU wants judge to review recording from Nancy Sebring resignation meeting," April 26, 2013
- Jens Manuel Krogstad, Des Moines Register, "Boesen to seek re-election," July 18, 2013
- Kevin Cooney, KCCI News 8, "Sebring names 3 people in lawsuit against DM Schools," June 28, 2013