Small but dedicated ICCSD forum held Oct. 17

Phil+Hansen+of+Synesi+listens+as+15-20+community+members+express+their+opinions+on+the+inner+workings+of+the+ICCSD+at+a+forum+held+at+City+High+Oct.+17.

Phil Hansen of Synesi listens as 15-20 community members express their opinions on the inner workings of the ICCSD at a forum held at City High Oct. 17.

Eleanor

Phil Hansen of Synesi listens as 15-20 community members express their opinions on the inner workings of the ICCSD at a forum held at City High Oct. 17.

You haven’t been in the Iowa City Community School District for long if you haven’t heard about redistricting controversies. And you haven’t really been in the district if you haven’t been an open forum. The forum held at City High School on Oct. 17 was an opportunities for community members to provide input for a service called Synesi (Greek for knowledge), that is conducting an overall review of operations for the ICCSD – and the meeting was attended by 15-20 of the district’s insiders and most involved.

The hour-and-a-half conversation focused mostly on the physical plant, which is in charge of maintaining the ICCSD’s building and grounds. The vocal members of the audience focused on a lack of competent people working to improve safety in the ICCSD and inefficiencies in supervision and delegation, according to former head of the safety committee and recently elected school board member Bob Porter, among others. Porter also mentioned that schooldude, software that can be used for online requests for and tracking of maintenance, is underutilized and teachers’ use of the program is limited.

Similarly, many in the audience criticized the district’s lack of transparency and said that the district wastes money by refusing to bid out contracts frequently. For example, the approximately ½ million dollar contract with Quality Care for grounds maintenance has not been subjected to competing bids on record in years.

 Julie Van Dyke, who ran for the school board but was not elected, emphasized what she sees as inefficient spending by the district, citing RSP, the consultant used for redistricting as an example. She explained that the ICCSD paid around $100,000 for RSP’s advice, and then redistricted just 10 or 20 students and returned to data from the University of Iowa geography department – what Van Dyke calls a waste. She also criticized the district’s potential plans to close Hills Elementary School.

Synesi has toured five schools and met with principals in the district and will be interviewing each of the current school board members and several former board members, as well as distributing a survey to staff about ICCSD operations in the next week. To weigh in confidentially on the district’s budget and operations, contact Phil Hansen, Synesi’s academic director and the moderator of the Oct. 17 meeting, at [email protected] or 773.329.0599.