School Board Recommendations: Tilley, Roseler, Eyestone, and Eastham

We have a local school board election coming up on November 5th.  I’d hoped to write more about this election than I’m going to end up being able to do.  So I want to go ahead and make some quick candidate recommendations.  There are 4 open seats.

The first three are easy.  I’d very much like to see Paul Roesler and Shawn Eyestone returned to the board.  Shawn and Paul have proven themselves to be thoughtful, deliberate and transparent board members, and bringing them back will help ensure some much-needed continuity between the current board and the next.  And, I’d very much like Paul and Shawn to be joined by Michael Tilley, for reasons that I discuss here, and hope to expand on.

My fourth vote and recommendation goes to Charlie Eastham.  I appreciate Charlie’s longstanding work to combat racism and to support minority voices in this community. I think he has great values, and has spent a lot of time attending school board meetings and events over the past several years.  But I do have some reservations.  Charlie hasn’t shown a great understanding of the school budgeting process, and his analysis of how racism and classism affects our district seems much more focused on prejudice than on institutional barriers and segregation. Given that racial and economic integration has been a central focus of my own activism, I find some of Charlie’s statements about building demographics worrisome. But, I know that his heart is in the right place, and I believe he’s capable of learning what he needs to learn to make real contributions to the board.  Above all, I think that his long-standing public allyship has earned him real credibility with a significant number of minority voters, and that’s something that the board can always use more of.

Whatever reservations I have about Charlie, I have bigger ones about the other candidates.  I don’t think that either Julie Van Dyke or Stephanie Van Housen would function very well in the context of the board.  While I agree with both on some issues, their wrongheaded opposition to the 2017 bond and the degree that both seem to be running out of a sense of personal grievance counts them out. I can’t see either as an effective board member.

 Unlike all of the other candidates running, Lisa Williams has virtually no history of public engagement in the District.  She has also been less than forthcoming about where she lands in the recent debate about adding SROs to Iowa City schools, and has received substantial donations from SRO advocates.  She’s obviously professional and articulate, but unless she makes it clear that she doesn’t support adding SROs to schools in the district, I can’t recommend her for the school board.

Author: Eric D. Johnson

I do American Studies (PhD University of Iowa 2012) scholarship, including but not limited to: Race and Genre in American Popular Music, Critical Southern Studies, and African American Memory and History in the Ozarks. I also write about educational policy and politics, focusing on integration and desegregation and the intersection of school and housing policies.

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