At what point do the achievements and momentum of a local school board yield to change many perceive is needed?
The large number of candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot, six candidates for two seats, suggests the time is now.
I’ve heard from all six via email and telephone. My impression is each of them is sincere in their stated goal of making the district as good as it can be for our children. In the Solon School District we have done many things right.
In recent years, Solon built a new high school, a new middle school, and a new intermediate school, all with little controversy. Athletic fields are expansive and the recently finished Solon Center for the Arts is a first class facility.
Compare that to the Iowa City Community School District where its master facilities plan, which I covered for the North Liberty Leader, has been fraught with controversy. Emblematic is the ongoing debate over what to do with Hoover Elementary School. The issue was on the November ballot after many public comments, legal battles, and sundry frustrations. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Oct. 18 the issue is not to be on the ballot two weeks after early voting began. Solon is no Iowa City. Solon did facilities right in a community where there is living memory of people who attended the one-room school house on Highway One.
The main sticking point in the community has to do with the way teachers were treated by administration in the recent contract negotiations.
Word on the street is the administration favors two candidates: Adam Haluska and Jennifer Stahle. Haluska was first elected to the Solon School board in 2015. Stahle is a long-time area resident who is also involved as a volunteer with the schools. Both Haluska and Stahle have qualifications relevant to being a school board member. If I get confirmation from another source I’ll have more to say about the administration’s role in favoring candidates for the board that governs them.
In different ways, each of the four remaining candidates either points to the conflict between the administration and teachers over contract changes as a motivation for running for office, or politely says they would like to improve transparency and/or communication between the groups. Even if Haluska and Stahle are not favored by the administration, the field of candidates appears to divide into two camps: candidates that want to build on progress already made, and one that favors changes in the relationships between administration, teachers and students.
It is difficult to see whether voter turnout will be any different Nov. 5 than in 2017 when about 10 percent of registered voters (498 voters) turned out for the school board election. Views of people with whom I discuss voting for school board have been a mixed bag. Some said they aren’t engaged in the school board election and don’t plan to be. Others would vote if encouraged but don’t know any of the candidates, including the incumbent. There are twenty-somethings, some with young children, for whom voting is something they just don’t do. If candidates rally their constituencies around a get out the vote campaign, any of the six could sway the election results due to what I see as another low turnout election.
I plan a deep dive into the candidates once the Solon Economist publishes its candidate survey results. They ran the article about city council candidates in yesterday’s edition, so we are expecting to see school board next week.
Thanks for reading. To view the series of posts, click on this link to the tag 2019 SSB Election.