By Joshua D. Sabin
The Iowa City school board is in a difficult situation as two critical issues face the community during a time of limited resources: Overcrowding and a lack of equality in students’ family income levels among schools. The board is trying to address the inequality through its proposed diversity plan.
The board’s listening post on Jan. 12 was important. Concerned and impassioned parents, residents, students and teachers shared their opinions. All speakers made some valid points. The unspoken theme among most of them: It’s not what you’re doing that concerns us, it’s how you’re doing it. The board meeting Tuesday was more of it, however, with a formal vote. Board members requesting additional time to gain more information expressed their frustrations; those in favor of moving forward had little to say other than we must act now.
Board members claim misconceptions are widespread. That said, the board must address the following questions:
l As it’s their policy, why doesn’t the board want to correct the confusion first?
l Why have board members pushing the policy recently been so quiet publicly while others have been so vocal? Why are they not out front on their own proposal?
l On such a difficult issue, why is the board operating without a clear plan and schedule to communicate with the community to gain confidence? The lack of a comprehensive plan has caused confusion on who is responsible for writing the plan and receiving public comment as well as a lack of outreach to their educators and parents.
What we are seeing from our public stewards is poor communication, no acceptance of responsibility, disregard for the public trust and finger pointing. A critical component of leading is to clearly communicate a plan and vision, then build the best possible support to achieve and implement that plan and vision. This builds confidence and unity.
The community might know and agree with what the board is trying to accomplish, but the board is floundering terribly on the route to build meaningful policy and move it forward.
This is a clear demonstration of failed leadership of the board, as they are dividing the community further, not working to bring us closer. Thanks in part to committed parents, they have identified the right issues; however, they appear to have little idea how to tackle them. Some members of the board appear to be trying, some members need to try harder, and some members are in over their heads.
Joshua D. Sabin of North Liberty is a parent whose oldest child will attend Penn Elementary School this fall. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org