Sara Barron for School Board

Equity, excellence, community, and vision

North Corridor Parents Questionnaire

Please introduce yourself:

I live in Iowa City with my wife Melissa, an ICCSD special education teacher, our 11-year old son Liam, and our 9-year-old daughter Mae. Since 2004, I have worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County, where I serve as the Community Relations Director.

How are you connected to the district?

My children attend Grant Wood Elementary. I am active in Grant Wood’s PTO and also attend District Parent organization meetings. I participate on the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan committee and I served on the Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee. Through my work at Big Brothers Big Sisters, I support our school-based mentoring program at Van Allen, Garner, Twain, Lucas, Wood, Horn, Longfellow and Coralville Central. I volunteer as a Big Sister at Lucas Elementary.

What is the one issue that is motivating you to run for school board, given the scrutiny and the negativity that often comes with the job?

I am running for the school board because I care deeply about providing the best possible education to students. I want to advocate for students of every ability, in every area of the district.

DIVERSITY POLICY:

1. Do you support the district’s diversity policy as currently written? If so, what specific measures do you propose the district enact to meet the policy’s requirements? If not, how would you propose to amend the policy?

We have made a commitment to solving our school’s socioeconomic imbalances, especially at the elementary level. I would also like to see greater attention paid to the racial and economic achievement gaps that persist, improving our school climate, and welcoming all families as important partners in their children’s education. If elected, I would like to work with the existing Diversity Policy and make adjustments if needed to meet our goals, as well as advance other policies and practices that can better meet the needs and build on the strengths of all students and families.

2. Do you support redistricting at the elementary level prior to new schools opening? Why or why not?

I do not want any child to be redistricted more than once, so in areas where a new school is going to open, it makes sense to wait until that school opens to redistrict. Other redistricting may be possible sooner in areas not impacted by new schools. We also need to make sure that any redistricting aligns with our secondary capacity/plans for clean feeders.

3. The DP as written includes a capacity clause. It will be necessary to redistrict at the JH level to meet FRL numbers and capacity numbers (particularly before completing additions at SEJH and NCJH as noted in the Facilities Plans). How and when do you think this should happen?

I don’t know. I think this is a great question. I’ll need more information before answering, but any decision I would make would involve a recommendation from the administration, a careful look at the numbers, and the goal of not moving students more than once.

4. What is your position on grandfathering and bootstrapping clauses when redistricting occurs?

I don’t think that grandfathering and bootstrapping have been particularly successful in this district. I understand why a family would want to pursue this option for their children, but from a district perspective, it’s not good policy.

5. What is your plan to best support low income students if they are redistricted into a school without the resources found in Title I schools?

From the Iowa Dept. of Education website:

LEAs target the Title I funds they receive to schools with the highest percentages of children from low-income families. Unless a participating school is operating a schoolwide program, the school must focus Title I services on children who are failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet local academic standards. Schools enrolling at least 40 percent of students from poor families are eligible to use Title I funds for schoolwide programs that serve all children in the school.”

My understanding of this is that if a particular school goes below 40 percent, its students who are not meeting academic standards will still be eligible to receive Title I services. As a board member, I would look to the administration to create a plan that best meets the needs of students who are at risk of falling behind, whether they are low-income or not. The board’s job is to identify this as a priority, but not necessarily to come up with the specific plan that will address it. Once elected, I would make support for struggling students a top priority of mine.

FACILITIES PLAN

1. The SILO/SAVE plan will not provide enough revenue for all the projects on the facilities plan. How will we pay for them?

A general obligation bond may be needed. We will also have to be careful stewards of our money, using careful project management and contract review, etc. The board should request frequent updates from Craig Hansel, CFO to stay apprised of our progress. We also have an allocated fund to help pay for the third comprehensive high school.

2. If we need a GO bond and it is voted down, how will you prioritize the project list?

If we balance the projects in such a way that the entire community is invested in their success, I do not think that a GO bond will fail if it’s needed. Our need for space will be our top priority.

3. Do you support closing Hoover? Why or why not?

I do not think that Hoover needs to be closed in order to have three equal size comprehensive high schools. If elected, I would like to have a more critical discussion of the capacity numbers provided by BLDD. I do not believe that we can use these numbers—which are based on ideals and long-term projections—to make a decision today about the need for land at some indefinite point in the future without more careful review. Even at these ideal numbers, we are still overbuilding our capacity at the high school level under the current plan. I believe that the current board members who passed the overall plan also understand that some adjustments will be needed as our actual enrollment becomes more clear.

4. If Hoover closes, how do you envision using the site?

I have no plan in mind for the land currently occupied by Hoover.

MAGNET SCHOOLS

1. Do you support magnet schools? Why or why not?

Magnet schools could enhance our educational offerings throughout the district. As we work to meet the educational needs of such a variety of students, magnet schools could be a way to reach certain students with differentiated instruction outside of the techniques we are already using. Year-round schools, for example, may prevent against the “summer slide” for students who do not have access to summertime educational enrichment. A Montessori school may create new opportunities for students who work at a different pace or who learn in more experiential ways. A dual-language school could be used to offer a second language to English-only speakers AND to better include Spanish-speaking ELL students and families in a school community.

As we more seriously consider a transition to some magnet programming, we will need to thoughtfully address how these changes could positively or negatively impact families and teachers. Any change we make should be well-supported, sustainable, and in collaboration with our staff, parents, and students.

2. If we have balanced FRL rates at elementary schools in areas with new schools, how will you determine where magnet programs will be established?

Using student achievement data, we should be able to determine which schools would most benefit from enhanced programming such as year-round schools. My main concern is that magnet programming is accessible to students with fewer resources. We could have sister schools located in different halves of the district, or busing for qualified students, or perhaps there are other good ideas that can be provided by parents and staff.

3. How will you determine which students are allowed to go to magnet schools?

We’ll probably need to have some sort of a lottery. If the magnet is being used to draw students based on FRL or student achievement, this will need to be factored into the enrollment system.

4. What kinds of magnet schools (if any) interest you?

Year-round schools have been shown to be effective. Arts schools would be welcome by many. Language immersion, international baccalaureate, Montessori—any of these ideas could be workable. I don’t feel the need to advocate for a specific type of magnet school. I see the role of the board more as facilitating the discussion and the research, then making a decision, rather than coming to the table with their vision firmly in place.

5. Are magnets equitable given your research?

I’m not a fan of the school-within-a-school model, where only some of the students participate in the magnet programming. I am also concerned about all students having true “choice” in what school they attend. We will need to facilitate busing or some other accommodations if families do not have the ability to get a child to a school outside their neighborhood if we want magnets to be equitably accessed. We currently do this for special education programming, and I think it could be extended to magnets if needed.

HIGH SCHOOLS

1. Do you support a third comprehensive high school for the district as noted in the facilities plan or would you prefer another concept? Why?

I support a third comprehensive high school. Our district is at the size now where three comprehensive high schools make sense.

2. What year should we begin work on a third high school and what year should it open?

I would like work on a third high school to begin soon. We will not be able to work toward three balanced high schools and junior high schools until it is open. And while we wait, our high schools will continue to deal with overcrowding. The specific year it opens will depend on the overall construction plan, and I’ll be glad to work with the administration on this.

3. What year should we begin work on an addition at City and what year should it open?

Additional work at City High School will be dictated by enrollment needs. If we need the space, we should add it. Again, the specific timeline for this will depend on a number of other factors, including actual enrollment and the other projects underway.

4. The current facilities plan includes expanding City’s cafeteria and library. West’s cafeteria was built for a capacity of 900 students. How do you propose to address space issues at West?

Again, if we need additional space, we should build it. We can’t address all of our needs simultaneously, but we can prioritize to the best of our ability, and we can make sure that all schools see their needs addressed in a balanced way.

5. Do you support balancing the enrollment at the three comprehensive high schools? Why or why not?

Yes, balanced enrollment is a great goal, and it is the goal of the current facilities plan.

6. What is your plan to address current overcrowding issues at the HS level between now and the time that the new high school is built?

I’ll work with building administrators and physical plant staff to support plans that address overcrowding. Because we are in a catch-up phase with our facilities, it’s going to be inevitable that some solutions are less than ideal along the way. We can only work to do the very best possible, and continue to move forward.

DISTRICT POLITICS

1. Please describe the concerns of North Corridor residents as you understand them.

North Corridor residents share the same concerns as all residents of the ICCSD: a great education for their students, schools with needed resources, and to be heard during decision-making processes.

2. District politics can be challenging at times. Please describe how you will include stakeholders from across the district during your term on the school board. If you are already on the board, please describe your efforts to represent the entire district during your term and the engagement you have had with the entire district.

One of my main goals is to engage with the widest variety of people possible. I can do this be being an active listener and learner, making myself accessible in person, and by phone, email, and social media. I can make sure that I take a careful look at which people I have already heard from, and whose voices may be being left out of discussions. I can build on my many community connections throughout Johnson County to enhance my ability to represent everyone fairly.

3. What role should stakeholders of the district (teachers, students, PTOs, administration) play in forming district policy? As a board member how would you personally seek their input? Current board members, how have you sought input from district stakeholders?

The role of the school board should be to seek input from stakeholders and to facilitate informed discussions about the issues we face. We have to make ourselves available to people by seeking them out at school and in the community. Being an engaged listener is not always easy. But being on the school board is a great privilege, and we should hold ourselves to this very high standard.

Thank you for answering all of our questions!

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