Iowa City Federation of Labor Endorses Jason T. Lewis for School Board

Jason T. Lewis, candidate for ICCSD Board Directors, has received the endorsement of the Iowa City Federation of Labor for the 2015 election cycle. Jesse Case, president of the Iowa City Federation of Labor, said Wednesday, “Jason will be a great addition to the school board. He brings a voice for working families to the board table and will be a champion for accountability and transparency in the district.”

Lewis had this to say about the news of his endorsement: “I’m honored to have the endorsement of the ICFL. Working families deserve representation at all levels of government and I look forward to being an advocate for labor on the school board. Every worker in our schools—teachers, custodial staff, secretaries and everyone in between—cares for our children and their education. Those workers deserve our thanks and our support.”

Lewis is a parent of a 6th grader at Mark Twain Elementary and a 8th grader at Southeast Jr. High. He has served as the PTO president of Mark Twain Elementary, and has served on several ICCSD committees, including a recent task force that explored the best practices for launching magnet schools in the district. He is the Director of the Writing and Humanities Program at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. In addition, Jason and his wife, Theresa, are licensed foster parents and are advocates for youth throughout the community.

An open letter to the ICCSD: Let’s Improve our Schools Together

Friends,

Greetings at the beginning of another school board election cycle. Yesterday, I officially filed to become a candidate for one of the four 4-year seats available on the ICCSD board. The election will be held on September 8th, and I hope I can earn your support. I wanted to talk bit about who I am as a candidate for your consideration. Before deciding to run again, I did a lot of soul searching. I asked myself what kind of leader I want to be and what I needed to do to succeed in that goal.

I decided to run because I truly want to support students and teachers throughout our community. To do that, I know I need to work well with everyone and I need to be humble. I don’t enter the race believing I have all the answers. The past couple years have been challenging, but I’ve learned a great deal about myself and the role I hope to play in the community.

Losing the election in 2013 was perhaps a better teacher than winning might have been. In the past, there were times I thought I had to know everything to be a good leader. I was mistaken. The key to good leadership is listening, admitting you don’t know everything, and being humble enough to ask for help. I look forward listening to the community, asking questions—sometimes challenging the answers—and working with the board as a strong voice for the students, teachers, and all those who support education in our community.

Over the next several weeks you’ll hear me talk about our district facilities plan and how important it is we see it through as an undivided community. It’s vital we work together, from north to south, east to west, to complete the plan. We must pass a General Obligation bond in 2017 to fund the second portion of the plan. If the bond doesn’t pass a lot of important work will go undone and students throughout the district will bear the burden.

Throughout the campaign season I’ll be out knocking on doors in every municipality to relay this message: I’m a candidate working for the whole district, not just one area.

You’ll hear me talk about an education master plan that will dovetail with the facilities plan and our strategic plan. You’ll hear me talk about providing the best possible education to every student. You’ll hear me praise our schools and call for us to build on our successes. I’ll talk about a 1:1 laptop initiative that will put computers in the hands of our students, and how crucial it is we lead the way, providing the technology our children need to be successful, no matter what path they choose.

You’ll hear me talk of building a better pathway for advocacy for parents of special needs students. My children have each had challenges in the classroom. My daughter has a 504 Plan and my son has an IEP. I know first hand the challenges parents face when working with the schools to meet their child’s needs. I recognize the struggles many parents have and I want to work toward building a system to make advocating for your child easier and more productive.

Finally, you’ll hear me talk about our students, our teachers, and the people who support education in our community and my unwavering support for them. Working closely with teachers at Mark Twain Elementary and at other schools in the district as a PTO president,  a volunteer, and a foster parent showed me what being a educator really means. Each year, teachers enter our classrooms and they commit themselves to taking each student further down the path toward their future. I commit myself to supporting that goal, to being a positive, progressive advocate for providing the best eduction for every student.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community. Let’s improve our schools together.

Sincerely,

Jason

JTL Door Knocking and Event Schedule for 7/9-7/18/15

7/14-15/15
Mann and Lincoln areas
7/15-16/15
Bourlag and Coralville Central areas  
7/17-18/15
Kirkwood and Van Allen areas
7/18 & 20/15
Shimek and Lemme areas
7/20-21/15
Hoover area

More dates to come in late-July/August. Please visit jasontlewisforiccsd.com for up-to-date info.

If you’d like me to stop by your home, call 319.594.9304 or email contact@jasontlewisforiccsd.com.

Enough is enough. Stop playing politics with our children’s future.

Our children are worth more, not less. They are worth every penny the Governor is trying to take from them as well as a chunk of the near-$400 million Des Moines has socked away while telling us there’s no money.

Iowa once ranked number one in per-student funding. Now? 35th. It’s time for a vocal, educated, high-profile community like ours to make its voice heard on this issue and many others that have sold out our children’s chance at the best possible education we can provide. Tell Brandstad, “No more!” Sign this petition and join me throughout the campaign season and onward into the next four years.

One of my goals as a board member is to be part of a growing chorus of caring people from our area and around the state who will no longer stand for watching our children suffer while the Governor plays politics with their future. Will you join me?

Sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/members-of-the-iowa-legislature-call-for-a-special-session-to-restore-school-funding?recruiter=70893465&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

Coffee with the Candidate: Saturday Mornings Throughout Campaign Season

As many Saturdays as I can between now and election day I’m going to have coffee at a different coffee shop in areas throughout the school district. Please feel free to stop by and have a drink, ask a few questions and get to know me a little. I don’t bite, I promise.

Here’s the rough schedule for the next few weeks

  • Saturday, June 27: 1st Ave. Java House from 8:00am until about 9:15am.
  • Saturday, July 11: Mormon Trek Java House, 8:00am until about 9:30am.
  • Saturday, July 18: Press Coffee Co. (2201 E Grantview Dr, Coralville, IA), 8:00am until about 9:30am.
  • Saturday, July 25: High Ground Cafe (301 E Market St, Iowa City), 8:00am until about 9:30am.

Please drop me a line if you plan on stopping by so I know to expect you. I’ll post August dates as the come closer.

What’s on your mind?

I’m curious, folks. I want to be sure I’m listening and learning as I go through the campaign, so I want to give you the opportunity to let me know what concerns you have about the school district? What questions do you have about me or my candidacy? Please use the form below to connect with me. I want to know what you’re thinking so I can be the best representative possible.

I’ll answer these questions as soon as I can and will feature some of them in future blog post.

Jason T. Lewis for ICCSD Announcement Video

This video is the first in a series of videos I’ll create throughout my campaign to explore issues and questions as they come up. I hope you’ll send me questions and comments about the videos themselves or issues you’d like me to consider. I’ll do my best to cover as many as possible.

Family, our community, and the future. Let’s improve our schools together.

Thank you. Jason

Location, Location, Location: let’s move forward with new ideas

A friend asked a question on his Facebook wall regarding the new jr. high and high school boundaries and it got me thinking about what’s wrong with strictly geographic boundaries for schools in the first place. He expressed a concern that I hear pretty often in this regard: Socio-economic balance in our community is a municipality problem, not a schools problem. I agree that our municipal leadership past and present bears a lot of the responsibility and should shoulder a lot of the blame for the socio-economic segregation we have in our community, but the solution won’t come from the Planning and Zoning commissions alone.

The problem with Planning and Zoning committees is the changes that needed to be made there needed to be made 30 or 40 years ago. Now there’s no way to backtrack. It has to be the schools and the city governments working together to fix some stuff that has been allowed to be screwed up for a long, long time.

Does that mean your child should go to a school far away from your home to fix it? No, not necessarily.

In all honesty, geographically based zoning as the single tool used to create socio-economic balance in or schools will always fail. It has failed for decades and it will continue to fail. We need to have new solutions to work in concert with zoning of our schools and our municipalities. Stuff like magnet schools and more focused curricular choices that will allow people choose schools for reasons other than just geography. Our communities are defined by our neighborhood schools and that shouldn’t change, but relying on only one tool to populate our schools has created a system that is segregated along socio-economic lines. That isn’t OK, and it shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

Geography is the shell game. Real estate developers and the other money-making folks who profit from moving the more affluent around need to use geography to get business. In the 50s and 60s, it was the southeast side of Iowa City, neighborhoods like Twain and Wood and Hoover. Now it’s North Liberty, Coralville and other areas where there’s new growth. This is the way it’s always been and it will continue to be that way. But when faced with a system that’s driven by geography, we can fight back against it using geography as our only weapon. We need different tools. And many of the leaders in our municipal and school governing bodies have shown themselves to be adept at say “no” to new ideas, but not very adept and using “no” as a starting point for a more effective yes.

I’m not blaming families and I don’t want anyone to take this as such. Families of every socio-economic background are as much the victims of this system as anyone. Less diverse schools mean less effective learning environments. Our kids are being short-changed because this system has been allowed to perpetuate itself and we have no one to blame but a steady stream of elected officials who have been asleep at the switch for decades.

No matter where you live, we’re all the same at the beginning of every day; we all wake up with the same goals: Try and do the best for our kids. That’s the commonality that connects us all, whether we live in a rented duplex on Taylor Drive or in a brand new home in a new development. The problem actually lies in how we keep trying to solve our problems. Trying to fix socio-economic segregation in our schools and in our community by only moving lines on a map is akin to trying to build a house with only one hammer. It’s just not going to work. You need a whole toolbox full of tools. But for decades our leaders have been trying to get it done with a hammer and nothing else.

We’ve been doing the same things over and over and we continue to fail, we continue to drive wedges through our community and we continue to elect people who are unwilling or unable to make forward-thinking choices and stick by them. We’ve had a lot of great ideas come around and die in committees and during an endless “works sessions” that have provided very few solutions. It’s time for something to change, and since we can’t change the past, we need to change the leaders.

Breaking the law for our students. One Superintendent’s approach.

davenportsuperI read this article this morning from the Davenport school district. Very impressed with this superintendent and the stand he’s prepared to make. It sends a clear message that our students are our most important priority and we should be prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to protect their education. Sometimes you have to break the law to highlight the innate flaws and injustice therein.

What do you think? Would you support this kind of initiative in our school district?

Davenport schools leader vows to break law.