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IC school board president resigns

Murley’s contract ok’d, most administrators receive pay raise

IOWA CITY–The community came together on Tuesday, June 24, near the intersection of Sycamore Street and Daniel Place to turn symbolic shovels of dirt for the first new school in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) in more than 20 years. That would have been news enough.
However, it was part of a busy day that ended with the resignation of Sally Hoelscher as school board president.
Hoelscher’s unexpected resignation toward midnight capped the news.
Hoelscher was elected to the school board in 2011, and elected president in September 2013. During her tenure, the board’s work included several high profile items– implementation of a facilities master plan, community engagement on attendance zone restructuring, and a $3.6 million budget cut that impacted popular programming in the school system. She also presided over vocal and diverse input on the public comment process at school board meetings. Hoelscher didn’t say exactly why she resigned.
“I have decided to resign from the ICCSD Board of Directors for personal reasons,” Hoelscher wrote in an email to other board members. “I have been honored to have the opportunity to serve in this way and have cherished the support of many in the community.”
“Dr. Hoelscher’s service on behalf of our district occurred at a time of great progress,” said ICCSD Superintendent Stephen Murley in an email to the Leader. “Her service on the board and her leadership as president were instrumental in this work and is greatly appreciated. While we understand and respect the decision that she has made, her absence from the board will be a significant loss. We wish her the best and sincerely thank her for her service to our community.”
The board must now replace Hoelscher and elect a new president.
“The vacancy must be filled by appointment of the remaining school board directors until the next pending election,” wrote Johnson County Deputy Auditor Kingsley Botchway II in an email. “In other words, unless the ICCSD decides to have a public measure special election or Kirkwood Community College has a ballot issue, then the voters would have to wait until next September (2015) to pick ‘their’ candidate,” Botchway explained.
He added the caveat that if the school board does not appoint someone to the position within 30 days, then the school board secretary is required to call a special election within three days of the board’s failure to fill the vacancy. If an election were held, the likely date would be Tuesday, Aug. 26, with the district absorbing the estimated $10,000 cost, according to the auditor’s office.
The board called a special meeting on Tuesday, July 1, to elect new board officers, to explore options and determine a preferred process for filling the vacancy created by Hoelscher’s resignation.
The entire school board participated in the meeting, with director Chris Lynch on the telephone.
Lynch and director Tuyet Dorau were both nominated to fill the board’s president position until a reorganization meeting planned for September. Lynch garnered four votes, with Dorau and Director Patti Fields voting for Dorau. Lynch immediately took the oath of office.
The board unanimously decided to appoint a new member. The district will take applications through July 14, and plan to make an appointment at a July 21 special meeting.
Last Tuesday’s events also included approval of a three-year agreement with Superintendent Murley, and a raise for most district administrative staff.
For the first time in three years, contract negotiations between Murley and the school board were completed in time for the effective date of July 1. In 2012 and 2013 the contract was not finalized until December.
Terms of the agreement include a base salary of $200,000, annual pay increase negotiations, a $26,000 contribution to a supplemental retirement plan, a vehicle and technology allowance, and other perquisites.
Board member Patti Fields indicated she felt negotiations were rushed this year.
“I am disappointed in our process with this because we had no conversations about it,” said Fields. “I have not ever been through this process before where there was no discussion by the board.” Normally the contract would be placed on an agenda and the person involved would request a closed session for discussion by the parties.
The board approved Murley’s contract in a 4-2 vote with Fields and Director Tuyet Dorau dissenting.
Dorau withheld her consent approval of a personnel action that included salary increases for most administrative staff.
“The last time we met, there was a motion that passed where there was a freeze in central administration salaries, and that is not reflected in the consent item for the personnel, and I would like to know why,” said Dorau.
Murley said he wasn’t clear to whom the freeze would apply, so he had called a separate meeting for clarification. The June 10 meeting was closed to the public in accordance with Iowa open meetings law. The consent item disputed by Dorau reflected discussions at that meeting, which she was unable to attend.
Dorau clarified her intent regarding the salary freeze, noting the increases for administrative staff she sought to exclude, and moved that the board reject the consent item pertaining to salaries. The motion failed on a 2-4 vote with Lynch, Marla Swesey, Brian Kiechsling and Hoelscher voting no. The item was then approved with Lynch abstaining from a vote that included pay for his spouse, who is a para-educator in the district.
The superintendent, two assistant superintendents, the chief human resources and community affairs officer, chief operating officer and chief finance officer had their salaries frozen for the coming fiscal year.
Not included in the wage freeze were salaries of building administrators such as principals and assistant principals.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 8, at 6 p.m.