Build a Better Board

By now, many have heard the rumor that the new ICCSD Board President earned a vote for president by agreeing to vote at the special board meeting to be held Monday, July 21, 2014, in favor of former board member Karla Cook (who applied for the open position) to replace former board member and president, Sally Hoelscher, who resigned following the June 24, 2014, meeting. While I have great respect for Karla Cook, I’d like to think that the rumor is false and no back door deal was cut. After all, we’re not in my home state of Illinois. In my opinion, what the board needs to do now is to consider what is best for the children of the district and build a better board.

Given the recent financial crisis (and past ones as well) where services and programs were cut, including 4th grade orchestra and 7th grade football, now is the time to add someone who has the skills and tenacity to focus on financial side of running a school district. The board needs someone who will ask critical questions of the administration and not be satisfied with the status quo. The recent budget cuts appeared to be a surprise to many, including at least some of the current school board members, and should not have been.

Nine people applied to fill the empty board position, and it is time for the board to build a better board. All of those applicants have strengths; however, two stand out as focusing on finances. First, Phil Hemmingway has consistently reminded the board during its comment period that every dollar counts plus he received 2,936 votes while not taking political contributions, only 105 less than Brian Kirschling who won a seat and spent over $8,500 on his campaign. Second, Brian Richman’s completed application included the following, which are skills the board could benefit from:

“In addition, before moving to Iowa in 2001, I spent 12 years as an investment banker in the public finance sector, advising dozens of cities, states, educational institutions and other municipal agencies and authorities.  In that role, I led the financing of more than $1.6 billion of educational facilities, helping local governing boards understand the benefits, risks and obligations associated with bond issuance.”

Alternatively, the board, which has one employee, could seek someone with experience in management. Orville Townsend, Sr. could possibly fulfill that role. He writes “I was employed by Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services for 42 years and for 25 of those years I supervised the Iowa City area office until my retirement in 2010.

The bottom line is that now is the time to build a stronger better board. What the board needs to do is to engage in some self-evaluation and appoint an individual who will add competencies the board is short on. Some of the applications highlighted the applicants’ educational strengths; however, the board has plenty of educational experts it can call upon. Now is the time to add some new expertise to the board and an individual who will ask critical questions of the superintendent and administration. If the board cannot build a better board by adding needed expertise then a special election should be held.

Link to applications for empty school board seat:

Link to Campaign Disclosure Reports:

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2 Responses to Build a Better Board

  1. Amy says:

    I agree that a strong financial background would be helpful in the coming year for our new Board member. However, I think that the most important characteristic at this particular time is collaborative. Can this new person work with the current Board members in a productive way? Will they be able to debate and compromise or only criticize? Can they find solutions? The biggest hurdle this Board must clear is dysfunction. Then we can start improving the education of our kids and stop bickering.


    • Mary says:

      Amy, thank you for your comment. I agree a functional board is essential to helping achieve what is best for the children of the district. I’ve heard good things about Mr. Townsend and am looking forward to his presence on the board.


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