I didn’t even mind the wait when I arrived at Iowa City High after work Tuesday. I just took my place at the end of a long, snaking line of people waiting to vote.
It was a sight for sore eyes, so many voters showing up to cast their ballot for school board. Let’s do it again next time.
I won’t go so far as to call the district’s nearly 12 percent turnout — a record — a wild success. Clearly, there still is a lot of room to grow.
But it was the pretty good end note to a robust and civil campaign, and it proves that when committed, capable candidates step up to run for school board, it matters. Stakeholders pay attention. Issues are vetted, examined and discussed in ways they rarely otherwise are.
The current school board’s recent decision to close Hoover Elementary doubtless drove much of the turnout, especially on the East side, but every person who participated came out of this election season a little smarter about the issues facing Iowa City schools. They have a clearer picture now about how board decisions will affect not only their families, their children or their alma mater, but the district as a whole. That includes the nine candidates.
They brought rich and varied experiences and opinions to the table. They held the center for thoughtful, considered discussion of what have been some pretty contentious subjects, such as school equity and the district’s diversity policy, and budgeting and spending on facilities. They listened not just to potential voters but also to each other.
When members of The Gazette’s editorial board met with candidates in preparation for our endorsements, I was struck by their civility. Almost to a person, they weren’t just respectful to each other, they were helpful. When Gregg Geerdes wondered out loud whether it would be wasteful to build a multipurpose room at a certain elementary school, incumbent Karla Cook explained for him how such rooms are invaluable during inclement weather and for shuffling large groups of kids around. When Cook and Sara Barron disagreed about whether or not the schools were doing enough to create a welcoming environment for all kids, they did so without crossing swords.
The candidates may have been spurred on by different issues and circumstances, but their motivations were the same: To make the best possible district for our kids. That showed. And the entire district will be the beneficiary of the new ideas and vigorous discussion their candidacies brought about.
Next time, let’s make sure every district is so lucky.
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