Living in Society

Back to a Non-partisan School Board

Southwest Corner of Main at Market
Southwest Corner of Main at Market

Voter turnout in yesterday’s Solon school board election dropped from 834 votes in 2013 (18.4 percent of registered voters) to 281 votes (8.18 percent).

What happened? The district is moving on after a 10-year cycle of electing politicized and mostly conservative board members to finding a less political, middle ground focused on doing what’s right for district school children.

2013 was arguably the high water mark for this change when the community rallied around former Solon mayor Rick Jedlicka to ensure his place on the school board.

It is telling that there were virtually no political yard signs for school board candidates on display this year. The change from previous years indicates an emerging lack of interest in political aspects of the school board.

Adam Haluska, a former University of Iowa basketball player, and Jim Hauer, a small business owner, got the most votes, with Hauer edging incumbent Dan Coons by three votes for the second seat on the board. From a talent perspective, the race between the two winners was a tossup. The community voted for the future by electing them both.

There are issues with the school board. They spend money like they have it, but that is a complaint I have about most governmental entities. The bigger problem is how to deal with growth in the district.

Will population continue to move to communities like Solon? For the time being, new families are attracted by the perceived quality of district schools and the proximity to amenities found in nearby Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. A significant amount of new, single family home construction has taken place over the last 25 years. The housing is a bit pricey, but comfortable for a family, and not over priced in the market.

The community is centrally located to enable working in Cedar Rapids or Iowa City. A significant number of people commute to work in the Quad-Cities. It is fair to say there will be incremental growth. Accurate projections—the kind needed to plan infrastructure—are harder to come by.

With the build-out of the new middle school and the performing arts center, the district should reach caesura as the community finds its way. The task of the new school board is to finish the current construction plan and work with the newly hired school superintendent, Davis Eidahl, to set a plan for the future.

Based on yesterday’s voter turnout, most people take the idea there will be progress for granted.

One reply on “Back to a Non-partisan School Board”

I was a bit frustrated with the lack of information about the candidates’ vision(s) for the future of our schools, given the growth that will likely happen in the next several years. I’m sure Haluska is great, but there are a lot of great fathers in our school district. What will he add to the mix? I guess we’ll find out. I had to make my decision based on 2 articles in the Economist, which were paltry at best in terms of information. Despite having two children in the district, I don’t hear much in the parking lot at Lakeview about the performance of the board, controversies or successes. I’m disappointed that so few voters turned out for an election in a critical time when we will be determining not just how to grow but where and why. Just like the city’s comprehensive plan, our district needs a vision for its future beyond “bigger.” There doesn’t seem to be much energy or enthusiasm for this discussion — I’m not sure if there’s anyone to blame, but I hope that the new board candidates do more to connect with families to draw everyone in and generate some pep and investment in articulating a plan for SCSD’s future.


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