Mid-Prairie Report Card

By James P. Hussey, Ed.D.
Posted 12/9/99

Editor Note: The Mid-Prairie Report Card is expected to be a weekly column written by members of the Board of Education.

Everyone loves kids. With their entire lives in front of them, they …

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Mid-Prairie Report Card


Editor Note: The Mid-Prairie Report Card is expected to be a weekly column written by members of the Board of Education.

Everyone loves kids. With their entire lives in front of them, they represent our hopes, our futures, and our collective dreams. They are the blank slates upon which the experiences and adventure of lifetimes are to be written. We can’t do enough for our children — except, it seems, pay more for their education.

Last April, the voters of the Mid-Prairie Community School District voted down, by a more than two-to- one margin, an instructional support levy that would have provided more support for our schools. Since the vote, as a school board, not only have we cut our budgets and increased our fees to make ends meet, but we have also tried to understand why most of you voted the way you did.

Our conclusion? Whatever your thoughts about how well we were doing, you weren’t convinced that more money would help us do better.

Coming to the voters for more support is a difficult balancing act. If we tell you everything is wonderful, you might rightfully ask, “If you’re so successful already, why do you need more?” On the other hand, if we tell you we’re going down the tubes, you might also figure, “Why should I pour good money after bad?”

In an effort to resolve this conundrum, this week we begin the Mid-prairie “Report Card,” a collective board effort, is not designed to persuade you to vote in a certain way. Instead it is to tell you why we do what we do, and to report how well we’re doing it, in the context of the financial realities we face. Ultimately, we trust that by learning more about our schools, you’ll have enough information to make informed decisions about the level of support they require. If you don’t like what you read, you might also be able to better evaluate the individuals you would like to serve on future boards of education.

As a school district, we have a lot to brag about. We have many more students asking to enroll in our district through the Open Enrollment program than ask to enroll out of it. Those parents’ confidence in our district means thousands of dollars in additional revenue benefit all of our students. This year, our music program was recognized as the equivalent of the “state champion,” and year after year, our students’ scores on standardized tests are the envy of most districts across the nation.

At the same time, there are areas in which we’d like to do better. It’s been several years since we had a National Merit Scholar; this year, Iowa City West had 20. There’s not a reason in the world that our students shouldn’t shine in the same proportions. Teachers right out of college know that Iowa is 34th out of 50 states in what teachers are paid. If you were a first-in-your class-teacher starting your career, where would you begin? This year, as a result of budget cuts, it is very difficult to keep the money to hire a substitute. We pay our cooks $6.44 and teacher’s aides $6.64 and hour. For part-time contingent work in Iowa City, the going wage is up to $3 an hour higher, and rising monthly. Unless you’re a saint (which many of our staff seemingly are), where would you spend your time?

The Report Card will explore issues related to education on the local, state, federal and even international level. Not only do we hope this will be an educational exercise for the public, but also one for board members. We look forward to this initiative, and to your reaction to our efforts.