Iowa Parents Voice School Concerns in Public Forum

Cedar Rapids, Iowa school officials have hosted a public forum for parents who are seeking answers on closures, boundary changes and various other issues troubling the cash-strapped district.

Pam Griffith, a mother of a girl about to start her fifth grade year at Madison Elementary School, attended the Cedar Rapids school district's enrollment and facilities study forum this week, in an attempt to find out about busing, writes Meredith Hines-Dochterman at the Gazette.

"I like that they've been making the public more aware of the process, so that you can come and ask questions."

Griffith also has a son, an eighth-grader at Roosevelt Middle School, and she wanted to know whether his bus provision would change if he chose to attend another high school.

"They took down my information and said they'd email me," she said.

It's these kinds of questions that officials were exactly after. Residents have had the opportunity to comment on the proposals during school board meetings, but this public forum marked the first time that parents could air their concerns about possible closures and a potential boundary change.

The forum provided a back-and-forth conversation with school administrators, board members and the consultants who completed the enrollment and facility studies.

Jen Kovach, co-president of the Madison Elementary PTA, said:

"I think this has made me more aware of how the decisions for the proposals were made.

"It's made me more knowledgeable about what information the district wants from us."

While Kovach admits that, in the light of possible closures, all parents are going to say that their school is the best and should remain open, Superintendent Dave Benson has been quick to assure them that public input is a crucial part of the enrollment and facility study.

A second forum is set to take place soon at Kennedy High School. This forum would mark the last public session before Benson and his team make their recommendations to the board.

This comes as students, parents, faith leaders, and education advocates across the state of New York launched district branches of the "Student Lobbyist Association," a campaign that supports Governor Cuomo's efforts to save struggling schools and to appoint an Education Commissioner.

This week, Buffalo ReformED, the District Parent Coordinating Council, United Partners for Public Education, parents, students and education advocates met to launch the Buffalo Student Lobbyist Association campaign to put students first.

Samuel Radford, Vice President of the District Parent Coordinating Council, said:

"Governor Cuomo is clearly invested in transforming New York State's schools and giving our children the education they deserve. Our kids are evaluated every-day in the classroom, we should hardly expect any less for their teachers. We need accountability and performance in our schools to ensure our students are receiving a quality education. We thank the Governor for fighting for our students."

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