District’s Fuzzy Math

Guest Column – Cedar Rapids Gazette

District’s Fuzzy Math

At Tuesday, April 8th ICCSD board meeting, school administration unveiled its district budget adjustment summary. Included was a long list of curriculum, sports and other staffing cuts to prevent the district from deficit spending. We’ve all heard about the language elimination to 7th graders, the phasing out of German and elementary orchestra cuts; the general education Para-educator, elimination of library staffing and on and on. One of the only Administration hits was highlighted as being a $100,000.00 savings for not filling the Director of Community Relations position.

This item caught my eye as I have many times commented on this position for many years. As you may or may not remember, the Homebuilding program was eliminated similarly about five (5) years ago to save $60,000.00. I have always argued that the money spent for the Director of Community Relations could have been better used to provide curriculum for our students in the construction field. When the district chose to eliminate this position, I was curious as to how they came up with a $100,000.00 savings since the individuals last published salary was only $73,000.00 a year for a part-time position. Is this the District’s way of rounding to the nearest $100,000.00 or did this position receive $27,000.00 in benefits and perks. And let’s be honest – they haven’t eliminated the position either, just retitled it. The position is now called Coordinator of Community Affairs and is a fulltime position that receives $60,000.00 a year. So, actually it’s only a savings of $13,000.00. And who says the Administration isn’t enduring pain in this budget crisis. We would not need a PR branch of our schools if we maintain our curriculum and provide for the needs of our students.

In the 4/13/14 Press-Citizen, School Board president Sally Hoelscher urges residents to contact their legislator about State Aid: “I think we just have to make as much noise as possible”. As a citizen I have tried to make as much noise as possible for the board to examine the consent agenda which ranges from $2-4 million dollars at each meeting but president Hoelscher has no interest in it. It’s much easier to complain that we’re not getting more money to spend than to closely scrutinize your own spending which you have 100% control over. And let’s not forget what they’ve spent money on: $500,000.00 to an unnamed land developer for a road, $154,000.00 for a contractor’s mistake in the City High Fine Arts addition, $172,000.00 for Administrative parking behind the ESC, $78,000.00 for a test kitchen at the Physical Plant, and millions of dollars for “NO BID” contracts to vendors.

They still have no policy for competitive bidding on service contracts. How many months of Board time and effort was wasted on “Community Comment” at Board meetings when we should have been discussing areas to save money.

Get your own house in order before you gripe about Des Moines!

Phil Hemingway


Nein Equals Zero

Guest Opinion – Press Citizen

Nein Equals Zero

The recent proposed cuts to 7th grade foreign languages and to German completely by the ICCSD Administration go contrary to our community’s will and to what all candidates in the last Board election commented on regarding foreign language curriculum. At the September 3, 2013 ICEA/Press-Citizen forum held at the Coralville Library, moderators Ben Moser, Andy Gahan and Jeff Charis-Carlson posed questions to all nine (9) Board candidates. By happenstance, the sixth question in the debate pertained to Arabic speaking students in our community and the candidate’s view of foreign languages in our schools.

The answers by candidates (in order) were:

Phil Hemingway: cited his extensive overseas work and the importance of languages and YES, did support the teaching of foreign languages.

Sara Barron: Agreed that the Arabic community could assist with providing resources to make teaching Arabic possible.

Brian Kirschling: cited Spanish, French & German and the need to add more languages

Karla Cook: YES, supports foreign language instruction

Jason Lewis: Absolutely; cultural opportunities that are offered.

Tuyet Dorau: She speaks Vietnamese, English and French; adding foreign languages would help the community.

Jim Tate: Yes – will increase cultural diversity

Chris Lynch: Teaching foreign languages will help prepare kids for a global environment

Gregg Geerdes: Yes; The Board needs to ask the community for what it wants.

Asking the community what it wants – that’s a novel idea; one we all wish our Administrators and Board members would follow. As you can see, when running for a Board seat, Tuyet, Brian and Chris are all for even the addition of Arabic to our curriculum with no mention for the need to eliminate languages when we get into a tight situation.

If teaching foreign languages prepared kids for the global environment then, it still does now.

The Administration and Board members need to live up to promises made to our students and our community. The money can be found to maintain these needed courses for all our students. If we can find a million dollars for sports fields, Administrative parking and no-bid service contracts, we can find funding for a continuing comprehensive language curriculum.

District Cuts Curriculum but Pays for Road

Letter to the Editor – Daily Iowan

District Cuts Curriculum but Pays for Road

At a time when district officials are cutting essential curriculum for our students, they are giving handouts to developers.

On November 12, 2013, the ICCSD Board approved work on the South Elementary School Project. As part of the purchase agreement, the District agreed to fund the Daniel Place St extension to the tune of $500,000.00 using SILO/SAVE funds. Half of the money is a direct grant to a yet to be named landowner who stands to profit greatly from the District’s construction of a school adjacent to his property.

The other $250,000.00 is a zero interest loan to be repaid ultimately to the District by the current property owner or new property owner upon the sale of adjoining properties on the North side of Daniel Place St. Nowhere on this document does it mention who the landowner is nor does it firm up the length of the loan more than saying the loan will “ultimately” be repaid.

I have discussed this with several board members who have said they don’t know who owns this property or who is benefitting, yet they approved paying half a million dollars to an unnamed, apparently unknown landowner without any question.

Phil Hemingway