Nicholas Johnson's Writing on Education Issues

since the September 15, 1998, beginning of his term on the

Iowa City Community School District Board of Directors



Note:  Nicholas Johnson's writing on education issues takes a number of forms, separated below.  There are drafts associated with the Board's fall 1999 retreat and subsequent creation of governance policies following the Carver model.  What follow are memos (mostly from the 1998-1999 year) to fellow Board members regarding the process of the Board itself.  There are then statements regarding action items that come before the Board in regular Board meetings (every other Tuesday evening).  There are "think pieces" that are "works in process" -- often shared with no one except those who find them here on the Web.  Finally, there are "op ed" pieces published in the local newspaper, or other published writing.  Other pages provide links to Nicholas Johnson's writing about education issues before thinking of running for School Board, and to some material from the campaign period. -- NJ, November 24, 1998  Last updated: September 13, 2001
_______________

Although there has been additional writing on K-12 issues since 2001 as well, this Web page has not been updated to contain it.

Here, however, are examples of some of the writing during 2009:

“Roosevelt: Valuing Our Schools,” March 9 (with its extensive additional linked commentaries), http://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2009/03/roosevelt-valuing-our-schools.html;
“Demolition Disaster,” March 10, http://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2009/03/demolition-disaster.html;
“School Boundaries,” March 31, http://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2009/03/school-boundaries.html; and
“Cluster Schools: Potential for IC District?” June 3, http://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2009/06/cluster-schools-potential-for-ic.html.
[N.J., August 9, 2009]


 

Board Governance

NOTE: Although this "Board Governance" sub-section is still useful, there is now another "Governance" Web page you may wish to visit that contains much of this material and more.

Beginning in the Fall of 1999 the Iowa City Community School District Board of Directors has been in the process of rethinking, and rewriting, its governance policies, inspired by the model set forth by John Carver in such books as Boards That Make a Difference and Reinventing Your Board.

The Board has now completed three of the four components Carver envisions: Executive Limitations, Board Governance, and Board-Superintendent Linkage. A Board-adopted Prologue provides an introduction and background of the origins, purpose and scope of those policies, and is probably a good place to begin.

The fourth, and final, component involves what Carver calls "ends" (similar to what might be called the Board's measurable "goals" for the Superintendent and District). The Board has begin with academic ends, and within them "literacy," and within literacy "reading" in producing an illustrative draft document,  "Sample Academic Ends Policy," for administrators, teachers, and other interested stakeholders. It is designed to better communicate what the Board means by "ends" and to encourage community input into the Board's process.

Because the Board already has in place and effect the policies adopted by prior Boards (this link connects to the policies as they existed in October 1998), it has also adopted a "Transition Policy" (contained at the end of the linked document) that explains the relationship between the old (current) and new policies.

Earlier drafts of some of these documents are linked below.

At this point in time the draft documents are primarily of interest only as "legislative history." The primary site for the drafts is the Web page of Board member Dale Shultz. That page, in turn, makes a reference back to documents here along with others located elsewhere.

"Executive Limitations" is a working draft prepared for discussion at a Board retreat scheduled for October 29-30, 1999. It does not, at this point [October 30, 1999], represent Board consensus or deliberation, let alone action. (See above for the official Board text as adopted November 23, 1999.) It is an outgrowth of the Board's exploration of the John Carver principles for Board governance. A prior draft of this document is also available.

"Transition Policies" is a draft document regarding Board policies to be in place prior to the time when the first version of Ends Policies takes effect. It grows out of discussion at the Board retreat of October 29-30, 1999. It does not, at this point [October 30, 1999], represent Board action or policy. (See above for the official Board text as adopted November 23, 1999.)

"Board Governance Policies Prologue" is a draft explanatory document regarding the origins, purposes and scope of the Carver-model governance policies. It grows out of discussion at the Board retreat of October 29-30, 1999. It does not, at this point [November 5, 1999], represent Board action or policy. A copy of the official text, a slightly revised version of this draft, was adopted December 14, 1999 and is available from the District's official Web page.

(Draft Only) "Resolving Disputes and Communication with the School District" (First, working draft of "how to" brochure text for District's stakeholders, December 7, 1999; to be revised for Board consideration January 11, 2000.)  "Communications Passport," January 4, 2000, is revised draft text, and possible color layout, for a School District brochure explaining the most effective ways for stakeholders to become informed about, and communicate with, the ICCSD and its school board.

"The Marad Management Information Reporting System,"  is a 1965 U.S. Maritime Administration publication first posted here January 7, 2000. It describes then-Maritime Administrator Nicholas Johnson's management style at that time. It was discovered, scanned, and posted here as one of a number of models of how the ICCSD School Board may choose to tie its "ends policies" to data, monitoring, and the appearance of charts and graphs.

"H. D. Hoover and 'Ends Policies'" Dr. H. D. Hoover heads the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills program at the University of Iowa. He spoke March 21, 2000, to the Iowa City Community School District Board on the subject of the relationship to test scores in general, and ITBS scores in particular, to the Board's proposed academic "ends policies" for the District. This document is an effort to organize, and present highlights and quotes, from that 1-1/2-hour presentation and question and answer session.

"ICCSD Board Policy Appeals Process"  was adopted by the Board March 28, 2000. The policy is designed to distinguish the Board's responsibility for policy from the Superintendent's responsibility for administration. Although any and all concerns still may be presented to the Board by anyone, the Board will only resolve those involving policy issues.

"Opinion of the Board In re: Superintendent's Tennis Lights Decision," petition denied, April 25, 2000, opinion released May 2, 2000, is the Board's first opinion applying its March 28, 2000, Board Policy Appeals Process (see below). A controversy surrounding local citizens' complaints about the intrusive nature of the tennis court lights at a local high school has been brewing since November 1998. The Board's opinion deals with each of the Petitioner's alleged policy concerns in turn, and contains as appendices each of the relevant documents.

"ICCSD School Board Response to Staff Concerns Regarding Sample Academic Ends Policies" was adopted by the Board April 4, 2000. (It contains links to the original proposals and quotes from Dr. H. D. Hoover's presentation.)

"ICCSD School Board Academic Ends Policy (Literacy)" now contains the May 7 and 8 revisions, and the Board's May 2, 2000, additions to the April 25/29 revision of the original April 7 draft document. It is scheduled for additional discussion at the Board's meeting May 9, 2000. (Both the original, April 7 prior draft, as well as the April 25/29 revised document that was the basis for the May 2 Board discussion are available for comparison.) "ICCSD Board of Directors Ends Policies, Revisions and Status as of May 23, 2000" is the set of drafts following the May 23 regular meeting approval of the prologue, and first reading of policies 2a and 2b. For prior drafts see the Governance Web page.


Board Process

"Board Functions" is a 12-page memo to fellow Board members distributed prior to a Board "retreat" October 12, 1998. The paper proposes that the Board: (1) make more use of the available research and literature in making decisions, (2) clarify and reconceptualize the relationship between Superintendent and Board roles, with the Board concentrating on vision, long-range planning, and policy, (3) create an "oversight information reporting system," (4) establish the position of "ombudsperson," and (5) create a decision making process that is more inclusive and responsive.

"Board Information Management," originally prepared as a proposed agenda item for the October 27, 1998, Board meeting, was scheduled instead for the next Board "retreat" discussion, November 16.  It cites examples of the range of District-relevant education news available from a variety of sources and poses to the Board the question of whether -- and if so, how -- Board members would like to be informed of such items (that is, "information management" as distinguished from "management information").

"Board's Measurable Standards: An Example" is a November 24, 1998, cover memo to the Board, attaching the University of Iowa report, Implementing the Strategic Plan: A third-year report on meeting targets (1998), as an example of another educational institution's efforts to come up with "goals" and "targeted indicators" -- similiar to what was urged on the Board in the "Assessment" section of the "Board Functions" memo, above.  (The UI report is available on the Web: Implementing the Strategic Plan: A Third-Year Report on Meeting Targets 1997-1998 (1999), as are prior years' reports and related documents: University of Iowa/Policy & Procedure/Strategic Planning.)

"Board Process" is a December 6, 1998, e-mail (and letter) to Board members in response to an earlier memo to the Board from President Susan Mims.  I have not taken the liberty of reproducing her memo without her permission (although it may well be a "public document"), but much of the content is clear from my response.  My e-mail deals with (a) parliamentary procedure at Board meetings, (b) the processing of "consent agenda" items, and (c) the process of setting the agenda generally.

"The Marad Management Information Reporting System,"  is a 1965 U.S. Maritime Administration publication first posted here January 7, 2000. It describes then-Maritime Administrator Nicholas Johnson's management style at that time. It was discovered, scanned, and posted here as one of a number of models of how the ICCSD School Board may choose to tie its "ends policies" to data, monitoring, and the appearance of charts and graphs.

"Open Meeting Clarification of May 9, 2000, Statement Regarding District Standards of Honesty" (These are the individual comments of ICCSD School Board member Nicholas Johnson on the occasion of the board's open public deliberations on January 9, 2001. The deliberations involved a statement issued by the Board on May 9, 2000. The January 9 deliberations were held in response to the recommendations of the Johnson County Attorney and his interpretations of the Iowa Open Meetings law and the May 9 meeting. Johnson said, "The Board has taken no action regarding the coach. It has not recommended action be taken by others. In fact, to this day it has never even been informed what action, if any, was taken by the City High Athletic Director, Principal or Superintendent. Neither the statement, nor the closed session, were in my judgment a violation of the Open Meetings law.")


Action Items

"Commercialism in Schools" is, in effect, a dissenting opinion to a proposed Board policy regarding the commercialization of schools.  It was prepared for the October 13, 1998, Board meeting at which the policy was, ultimately, approved.  The statement begins:  "Before formulating a policy I think we need (1) a detailed and current inventory of our own schools' full range of commercialization, (2) a review of what other districts, and education policy folks, have to say on the subject and then (3) formulate policies with sufficiently precise standards to provide guidance to administrators and teachers, and (4) protections for students, consistent with proposed Code 1003.4's recommendation that "School[s] . . . should not become environments wherein students are subjected to manipulation for commercial purposes."

"Sim School District" is an agenda item for the October 27, 1998, regular Board meeting proposing that the Board authorize the development, by stages, of a spreadsheet containing the District's budget items that would enable any interested citizens to play "what if games" with the District budget (as an alternative to simply recommending increased funding for favored programs without addressing where the money is to come from).

"Y2K" is an agenda item for the October 27, 1998, regular Board meeting setting forth some of the potential consequences of the "Year 2000" problem within the School District and requesting a report from the Superintendent on what steps have been taken to minimize possible harm and liability.

"Shared Athletic Agreement Guidelines" is a memo about an agenda item before the Board at its October 27, 1998, meeting.  It deals with a proposed policy regarding the willingness of the District to permit the participation of other-than-District students in District high school athletic programs.  This memo raises additional questions about the proposal and puts arguments for and against it.

"$3000 Galapagos Trip"  is a memo about an agenda item before the Board at its October 27, 1998, meeting.  An administrative regulation limits the cost of a "major field trip" to $50 per student.  This trip is estimated to cost about $3000 per student.  The memo raises the "equity" questions arrising from the inability of many students to afford such a school-sponsored trip and suggests alternative ways of accomplishing the proponents' goals.

"'Casework': Food Service Employees Pay Periods; Payment for Use of School Facilities for School Fundraising Purposes; Employee Dissatisfaction with Health Insurance Administration" represents a first effort, since the rejection of the ombudsperson proposal, to bring citizen petitions to the Board for resolution; it was an "open discussion" item distributed to the Board at its November 24, 1998 meeting.

"Y2K (Computers and Year 2000 Problem), An Update" is a November 24, 1998, covering memo for copies of the IASB's brochure, "Y2K:  Is Your School District Ready for the Millenium?" (much of which is available from the IASB Y2K site), and a follow up to "Y2K"
(above).

"Board's Measurable Standards: An Example" is a November 24, 1998, cover memo to the Board, attaching the University of Iowa report, Implementing the Strategic Plan: A third-year report on meeting targets (1998), as an example of another educational institution's efforts to come up with "goals" and "targeted indicators" -- similiar to what was urged on the Board in the "Assessment" section of the "Board Functions" memo, above.  (The UI report is available on the Web: Implementing the Strategic Plan: A Third-Year Report on Meeting Targets 1997-1998 (1999), as are prior years' reports and related documents: University of Iowa/Policy & Procedure/Strategic Planning.)

"Public's Suggestions for Budget Cuts/Revenue Enhancements" is a compilation and grouping of the dozens of suggestions Nicholas Johnson received in e-mail and other forms regarding proposed cuts in the 1999-2000 ICCSD budget, prepared for a budget "Town Meeting" held by the Board on February 2, 1999.

"School Board Budget Cuts: How I Am Voting and Why" is a statement prepared for the Board -- and any interested member of the public -- for a budget "working session" February 16, 1999; it contains four sections: "Why I Have Written This Statement," "How This Budget-Cutting Process Could Have Been Avoided," "Why I Cannot Support Many of the Proposed Cuts," and "How I Propose to Reduce the Budget."

"All-Day Kindergarten: Sorting Through the Pros and Cons"  On March 9, 1999, the Iowa City Community School District considered a proposal to extend all-day kindergarten to all elementary schools. (Some still have half-day programs.) This document is not a "brief" for or against the proposal. It is, rather, an effort to marshall the community's arguments pro and con as a contribution to the debate -- and an explanation of why this school board member is leaning toward voting the way he is.

"Communications Passport," January 4, 2000, is revised draft text, and possible color layout, for a District brochure explaining the most effective ways for stakeholders to become informed about, and communicate with, the ICCSD and its school board.  "Resolving Disputes and Communication with the School District," December 7, 1999, is the first draft of the brochure text only. The brochure was prepared for Board consideration January 11, 2000. Revised text was prepared for the Board April 11, 2000, "ICCSD 'Communications Passport.'"

"Channel One: A Sense of the Board Statement" (At its regular meeting December 12, 2000, the ICCSD School Board issued a statement regarding the controversial role of Channel One in the District, earlier discussed at its meetings of November 14 and 28. The Board chose to take no action at this time, for a number of reasons detailed in the statement. It also summarizes "The Case for Channel One" and the "Concerns" that have been raised nationally and locally about the propriety of television advertising directed at students while in school.)

"Open Meeting Clarification of May 9, 2000, Statement Regarding District Standards of Honesty" (These are the individual comments of ICCSD School Board member Nicholas Johnson on the occasion of the board's open public deliberations on January 9, 2001. The deliberations involved a statement issued by the Board on May 9, 2000. The January 9 deliberations were held in response to the recommendations of the Johnson County Attorney and his interpretations of the Iowa Open Meetings law and the May 9 meeting. Johnson said, "The Board has taken no action regarding the coach. It has not recommended action be taken by others. In fact, to this day it has never even been informed what action, if any, was taken by the City High Athletic Director, Principal or Superintendent. Neither the statement, nor the closed session, were in my judgment a violation of the Open Meetings law.")
 
 
 


Think Pieces

"Class Size" is an October 26, 1998, version of a working draft that explores some of the alternative ways of producing the educational benefits often attributed to "smaller class size."

"Substitute Teachers" is an October 28, 1999, exploration of possible alternatives to the present use of substitute teachers that might create improved instruction, lower costs, and improved teacher morale.

"Boundaries" is a November 14, 1999, revision of a November 10, 1999, discussion of possible options available to the Board in considering future boundaries around the District's elementary schools. See also, in this connection, the column, "Quick Fixes Are Too Disruptive" in the November 23, 1999, Iowa City Press-Citizen.


Published Articles

NOTE: This is primarily a list of the columns written for the Iowa City Press-Citizen every two weeks during Nicholas Johnson's three-year term on the ICCSD School Board (1998-2001). They are arranged chronologically (most recent at the bottom of the list). The very most current are not always entered in this list promptly, but may be found under "What's New" on the main Web page. Writing on other subjects may be found with links from the "Writing" index page, and the "Recent Publications" listing/links to writing and speeches since 1996.

"Impact of Decisions Should be Considered," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 12, 1998, p. 11A.  This op ed column proposes the notion of "educational impact statements" -- along with the need for a "management information reporting system" for the Johnson County joint governmental group (a subject later put on the agenda of the group's October 28, 1998, meeting).

"Simulation Could Help Us Find Solutions," Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 27, 1998, p. 13A.  The op ed proposes "Sim School District," a spreadsheet requiring program advocates to work with actual budget numbers to find available resources for their proposals, as an alternative to "the board sitting on the same conveyor belt, heading for the same buzz saw that cut them up into little pieces last year."

"Let's Decide What We Want Schools to Do," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 10, 1998, p. 13A.  A mini-book review of Francis Schrag's Back to Basics, and the relationship of "Mac" Bundy's failure to understand Vietnamese culture to the outcome of the war, provide the basis for asking, "Just what are our School District's goals anyway?"

"Remember to Keep Schools in Perspective," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 24, 1998, p. 13A.  At Thanksgiving "as the lawsuits, budget choices, divisiveness and expulsion hearings swirl around the school board . . . I didn't think it would weaken any of us too much to pause and give thanks for the good news about our local schools . . .."

"Board Decisions Need to Reflect Research," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 8, 1998, p. 11A.  "Our school board's decisions need to reflect research.  . . .  Today's Internet just may be the cheapest, fastest and most thorough way to do that.  At least that's what a fifth-grader told me.  And we've begun to take her advice."

"The 'Easy' Explanation of School Finances," Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 22, 1998, p. 11A.  School finance:  If it's true that "we can't print money and we can't run deficits," just where does our money come from?  Part I of a two-part introduction.

"State Law Limits School District Funding," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 5, 1999, p. 11A.  "We have some options for increasing income, but not by much." Part II of a two-part introduction to Iowa's system of school finance and its impact on the Iowa City Community School District.

"It Always Comes Down to Personnel Costs," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 19, 1999, p. 9A. Salaries are 80 percent of the ICCSD budget.  "We contract out $5 million . . . buy $3.5 million worth of supplies . . . Grant Wood AEA . . . gets $2.7 million of . . . state flow-through funds we can't control. . . . But it all (almost) comes down to personnel costs."

"Schools Must Have Priorities and Goals," Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 2, 1999, p. 9A. "No one can make rational budget decisions without some sense of focus, priorities, and measurable goals . . .. Meanwhile, talking about 'budget cuts' is at best irrational, and at worst irresponsible."

"We Can Provide Better, Cheaper Education" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 16, 1999, p. 11A. With declining enrollment and annual budget-cutting sessions, one option is to go on doing what's comfortable -- but with less and less money every year -- and the other is to rethink ways of providing "better education at radically cheaper cost." "Will we . . . 'dream of things that never were and
ask "Why not"?' Or will we freeze in place, terrorized at the prospect of change and the unknown . . ..?"

"Board Looks at Goal-Setting, Long-Range Planning"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 3, 1999, p. 11A. "This evening the school board is beginning its process of goal setting and long range planning. . . . What's most important? What's the most appropriate way to measure and report it? What goals, what measures of improvement, can we realistically hope to attain?"

"School Board Process Was Encouraging"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 16, 1999, p. 11A. A comparison of two examples of the school board's decision making process. Cuts in math support were made with "little in the way of program details, district data or others' research findings." By contrast, the decision to extend all-day kindergarten district wide utilized research findings and community dialogue. It involved rational analysis and choices both as to the substance and the equity arguments.

"Change Offers School District Opportunities"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 30, 1999, p. 11A. With two of the District's top administrators leaving, it offers the Board and community the opportunity to think through possible changes in District governance -- and the qualities it wants in its educational leaders.  Here are some examples of the range of management models potentially available.

"Board Must Think First, Act Later"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 13, 1999, p. 13A. The rush to have a new superintendent in place by September (the last search took a year) prevents the board from walking through the necessary preliminaries: "What are we trying to accomplish -- educationally?  What organizational structure best does that?  What qualities does it require in a superintendent?"

"Offer Your Thoughts on Schools"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 27, 1999, p. 13A. The Iowa City Community School District's superintendent search firm, The Bickert Group, offers the community "a little noticed sleeper they call a 'community audit.' . . . It's an opportunity for every person in this community to contribute to an impartial evaluation of the district's issues or concerns . . . to
present the board itself with a thorough and candid report card from the community."

"Do We Need a Superintendent?"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 11, 1999, p. 13A. The National School Boards Foundation study, Leadership Matters, supports a chorus of school reformers' complaints about school boards: "a growing body of research on governance indicates that improving the effectiveness of boards can have a beneficial effect on public education." And, no, the creative headline writer's title aside, the piece does not argue for the abolition of superintendents!

"Homicide Shouldn't be Our Top Concern"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 25, 1999, p. 13A. No, this op-ed piece does not argue we shouldn't care when our kids are murdered -- the creative headline writer's choice notwithstanding. It's an effort to put in perspective all the threats to children's safety, citing a wide range of troubling statistics to make the point that "in-school homicide is the least of our worries." [emphasis added] (For example, there are 50 percent more homicides of young people every day than occurred in Littleton, Colorado, April 20.) It concludes: "Want a safe place for your kids? Put them in school."

"Board Needs Creative Questions" Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 8, 1999, p. 11A. This op-ed outlines the schedule for reviewing applicants for the school district's superintendent position, the applicants' need for confidentiality, and alternative ways to involve the community in the selection process. It notes "there's nothing to prevent everyone in the community who wants to from submitting proposed interview questions," and urges those questions be "creative" because applicants are likely "to come equipped with well-rehursed answers to most of the conventional questions."

"Give Our Kids and Schools a Fair Chance"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 22, 1999, p. 11A. This column puts the case for increased emphasis on early childhood development as "much more humane, effective, fair -- and efficient" than remedial programs in K-12 schools. Most of what's needed is simple and virtually free; such public expense as is required returns $7.00 later for every $1.00 invested now. Part one of a two-part presentation.

"Kindergarten is Simply Too Late" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 6, 1999, p. 9A. The second of a two-part presentation, this column puts the case for increased emphasis on early childhood development and provides examples of what is now being done in Johnson County, Iowa, and what could be done.

"Everything We Say, Do is a Lesson" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 20, 1999, p. 13A. The concept of a "learning community" is usually applied to much smaller organizations than an entire city. This column proposes the adoption of this "new paradigm" way of thinking about the education of our children -- and ourselves -- with examples.

"We Should All Work Together"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 2, 1999, p. 7A. This Letter to the Editor calls upon the community to welcome the new Superintendent, Lane Plugge, with "our understanding that problems long in brewing cannot be solved immediately by anyone."

"Customer Relations Are a Priority" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 3, 1999, p. 11A. This is the first of a two-part exploration of the role of "customer relations" (or, more properly, "stakeholder relations") for public -- as distinguished from for-profit -- institutions, in this case the Iowa City Community School District. It offers some examples of situations not handled as well as they might have been.

 "Complaints Help Solve Problems" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 17, 1999, p. 13A.This is the second of a two-part exploration of the role of "customer relations" (or, more properly, "stakeholder relations") for public -- as distinguished from for-profit -- institutions, in this case the Iowa City Community School District. It makes reference to the suggestions contained in National Performance Review, Serving the American People: Best Practices in Resolving Customer Complaints (1996).

"What's Been Accomplished? Little"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 31, 1999, p. 13A. Iowa City School Board member Nicholas Johnson offers an apology in this "annual report" detailing his failure to accomplish more during the first year of his three-year term.

"Get Out to the Polls, Vote Today" Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 14, 1999, p. 11A. An op-ed column about the history of school boards, choices in the Iowa City Community School District election that day, problems associated with limiting the number of polling places, and urging a large voter turnout. For the election results, see the page of Johnson County, Iowa, Auditor, Tom Slockett .

"Much is Accomplished with Little"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 28, 1999, p. 13A. Nicholas Johnson visited Bulgaria September 10-19, 1999, at the invitation of the United States Information Agency to speak at conferences and consult with officials and journalists about the ground rules for Bulgarian media's coverage of the country's forthcoming local elections. While there, however, he and his wife, Mary Vasey, also visited schools and education officials to exchange views regarding K-12 education. This column is his effort to share with the Iowa City community some of their insights about Bulgarian education that might be useful locally.

"Board Looks to be More Efficient"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 12, 1999, p. 13A. Among the school district's 1500 volunteers are three departing board members, due thanks from the community. The new board wants to clarify the relative roles of the board and superintendent, and more efficiently free itself to focus on the policies, long-range forecasts and measurable goals that it views as a school board's primary responsibility; but such substantial changes will require patience, support and breathing room from the community.

"We Have Little Time for Thinking, Planning"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 26, 1999, p. 23A. "When any organization's employees are up to their hips in alligators there best be someone, somewhere, functioning as the institutional cerebral cortex."

"School Board Reinventing Itself" Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 9, 1999, p. 13A. At a recent School Board retreat "School board members headed off with two books. They returned with a new set of governance policies." The books were John Carver's, including Reinventing Your Board.

"Quick Fixes Are Too Disruptive" Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 23, 1999, p. 15A. Crowded classrooms are putting pressure on the school board to come up with solutions. It's characterized as a problem of redrawing "boundaries" (around elementary schools). But long-term solutions offer possibilities for educational innovation. And "ironically, the less the community is willing to innovate the greater will be the pain from the changes we will have to make."

"Crowding in the Schools? It Calls for Creative Solutions" Iowa City Gazette, December 1, 1999, p. 4A. Mary Vasey and Nicholas Johnson respond to Gazette reporter Nathan Hill's article about crowding at Iowa City's two high schools, City and West. "We'd like to see more . . . creative, innovative solutions," they say, after providing examples of some.

"Let's Focus Efforts and Resources" Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 7, 1999, p. 13A. "We can't afford two 'shopping mall' high schools. We need focus. Let's make our school district the nation's preeminent writing school district."

"What Values Are We Promoting?" [Part I] Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 21, 1999, p. 11A. "If commercialism has even infested religious holidays, what about schools? School districts are of many minds."

"Commercialism Attacks Schools" [Part II] Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 4, 2000, p. 11A. "It is a bit ironic that this all began with a Paul Revere pizza sign. . . . Now it is the corporations that are coming, right into our schools. In fact, they're already here." (If you are interested in the subject of this, and the preceeding, column you might also be interested in looking at a dissenting opinion from an October 13, 1998, Board meeting entitled "Commercialism in Schools.")

"Should School Boards be Abolished?" (transcript of Nicholas Johnson's remarks during Roy Justice interviews of Russell Edwards, author of How Boards of Education Are Failing Your Children, and Nicholas Johnson, KXIC-AM 800, Iowa City, Iowa, January 5, 2000.)

"Opportunity to Look at Education"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 18, 2000, p. 7A. The op-ed urges Iowans' attendance at the January 24 precinct caucuses, evaluates the presidential candidates' education proposals, and asks, "Is Bush too liberal to get elected to our school board?"

"An Explanation . . . Maybe a Little Late" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 1, 2000, p. 11A. This is Nicholas Johnson's column about his Iowa City Press-Citizen every-other-Tuesday K-12 education columns. "This is a column. It is only a column. . . . I provide the sand, you produce the pearls. Their value is for others to judge."

"'No Standards' is No Option" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 15, 2000, p. 11A. Measurable goals, standards and tests -- including the school board's "ends policies" -- can be  hazardous, but "they're far less serious than the dangers of operating our schools without them. Besides, it's the law" -- now that Iowa, "the 50th state to fall in line" in the standards movement, requires them of school districts.

"A Good Model for Education" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 29, 2000, p. 11A. We can't "copy" the German educational system, but it has a good many lessons for us from free school pre-schools, to abolition of school boards, and an integration of academics and apprenticeships that produces for Germany both global competitiveness and some of the highest academic achievement in the world.

"Let's Celebrate All Our Successes" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 14, 2000, p. 11A. Public education -- nationally and locally -- has a lot of accomplishments of which to be proud. It's not just our local schools' national and state awards, it's also thousands of unrecognized actions every day.

"New Ideas Benefit Schools" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 28, 2000, p. 11A. Demands of the "Information Age" call for K-12 changes. The American School Board Journal has awarded 23 school districts its Magna Awards for innovation, described in this column. "Are we capable of putting others' tested, award-winning innovations in place? Of course. Will we? That remains to be seen."

"Board is Different, Better" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 11, 2000, p. 11A. A conversation between "Roger and me" about school board governance, decision making, and citizen appeals. "Roger, what I think is that you haven't heard a word I said."

"Consistency Works in Education" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 25, 2000, p. 13A. The Pentagon's schools are producing remarkable results -- especially when it comes to closing "the achievement gap." What can we learn from them? For starters, "districts that 'give up and blame the environment' don't do as well as those with the attitude, 'We can teach anybody to learn.'"

"Magnets Offer Real Choice" Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 9, 2000, p. 11A. "Choice can take the form of the vouchers that will weaken public education . . . [or] the magnet schools that will strengthen it." With them "our overcrowding problem vanishes like the morning dew."

"We Get What We Want -- Sports" Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 23, 2000, p. 11A. "Benefits from school sports? Of course. Worth the cost? Don't ask."

"Schools Good but Could be Better" Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 6, 2000, p. 11A. "Why are we so resistant to educational innovations? It's a mystery."

"Iowa Schools Facing Severe Problems" Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 20, 2000, p. 13A. The Iowa State Education Association proposes that "recruitment, retention and respect" are the "3 Rs" that can help Iowa obtain and keep the teachers the state will need to replace the 40 percent soon eligible to retire.

"A Mann to Remember This 4th" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 4, 2000, p. 9A. Educational reformer Horace Mann confronted many of the same challenges that are still with us today.

"Try Running for School Board" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 18, 2000, p. 11A. "No community service could be more rewarding." The filing deadline is August 3, 2000. "What are you waiting for? Do it. Get those nomination papers today."

"How Should We Use Computers?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 1, 2000, p. 11A. "Technology" -- black boxes, screens and cables -- is not the answer to America's educational needs. But teachers' creative use of these electronic teaching assistants just may be."

"Charter Schools Offer Options" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 15, 2000, p. 15A. "Charter schools offer choice. And our first choice is whether they reach this school district at all."

"Schools Must Teach Democracy" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 29, 2000, p. 11A. "'It is difficult to teach democracy in an authoritarian manner.' Our students need some democracy lab time."

"Today is School Board Election Day" Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 12, 2000, p. 13A. School districts like ours don't just happen. Everyone plays a part. School Board members too. "And that's where you come in. Because you pick 'em."

"We Can Direct Coming Changes" Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 26, 2000, p. 9A. Whether overcrowded schools create a "boundaries problem" or "opportunities without boundaries" is up to us. Cedar Rapids' openness to change provides illustrations of the latter.

"Middle Schools Could Help Here" Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 10, 2000, p. 9A. Middle schools: one more innovation that might simultaneously improve the quality of education for our school district while also eliminating the problem of overcrowded schools.

"Take Schools Survey Seriously"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 24, 2000, p. 9A. "There's one thing more important than any other: parental involvement." So take the parent-teacher partnership survey and take it seriously.

"Democracy is an Everyday Task"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 7, 2000, p. 11A. Millions of dollars in soft money and 22,000 lobbyists in Washington aren't the only forces rotting our democracy from the core. There are also the "sub-governments." We need citizen empowerment. "Campaigns, and classrooms, should focus on process, not promises. Without processes that are full all promises are empty."

"Be Thankful for What We Have"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 21, 2000, p. 11A. Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to remind ourselves that "clearly we are the rich relations of the human family." Whether it's the quality of our educational system or other aspects of life within our school district "measured against the realities of human life on Earth we have much more to be thankful for than first imagined."

"Children Targeted by Advertising"  Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 5, 2000, p. 15A. "What we call 'our children' others call 'a $500 billion market.'" In our schools "we can go for even more corporate revenue. Or we can try to create a more commercial-free environment for our students. It's our choice."

"Music Could Lead Us Into Future" Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 19, 2000, p. 11A. "While a few still voice objections to the merits of magnet schools, we are living in what is, for all practical purposes, a magnet school district. What's our core competency? Music is one way of thinking about our future.

"'Shrub' Offers a Look at Bush" Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 2, 2001, p. 9A. "If you haven't lived amongst Texans, Ivins and Dubose provide the next best insight I know into Texas in general and George W. Bush in particular, and it is his education record that is of greatest interest to this column. Those insights alone are well worth the $8.99 price of the book."

"We Have a 'New World Disorder'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 16, 2001, p. 7A. "What are the educational implications of the Internet? No one knows what the Internet is now, let alone what it will become. Except that 'school' now seems to be a verb."

"New Secretary Does What Works" Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 30, 2001, p. 9A. Rod Paige, Secretary of Education in the Bush Administration, has been superintendent "in a textbook district. He's not only read the books, he wrote the plan. His genius has been the ability to get the diverse sprawl called Houston to go along." Within the limits imposed on any U.S. secretary of education "Dr. Roderick Paige brings the potential of great promise."

"More Needed on Iowa Child" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 13, 2001, p. 9A. "Iowa Child's IMAX theaters, teacher training and hotels come and go like a desert mirage. It's hard to imagine any Iowa City banker loaning $300, let alone $300 million, for such an unfinished proposal. 'The devil is in the details.' But at this point in time the question about Iowa Child is: Where the devil are those details?"

"Snow Day Solution"  Iowa City Gazette, February 18, 2001, p. 10A. "Snow day stress is not inevitable. Abandon the 100-year-old Agricultural Age school schedule. Try year round schools."

"Reality: We Just Can't Have It All" Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 27, 2001, p. 7A. "Overcrowded classrooms" can be solved with basic math. Have kindergarten students register by district, not by building, and assign them to identically-sized classes. "Because if you're going to have a cat you're going to have scratches. And if you're going to let students show up willy-nilly at elementary schools you're going to have grossly disparate class sizes."

"Principal Concern for Education" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 13, 2001, p. 9A. National attention is coming to be focused on K-12 administration. Not just the shortage of principals, but their role. If it's instructional leadership that we need perhaps we should be looking for "principal teachers" rather than building managers. As Blackman and Fenwick put it, "The challenge districts face is to encourage the able to be the willing." As Johnson concludes regarding the ICCSD and its search for principals, "No one doubts we have the able."

"Give Back: Serve on School Board" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 27, 2001, p. 9A. "It's a blessing to serve on a school board. And now is the time to decide who will serve. Unwilling to serve? That just increases your obligation to find other folks who will. We're all in this together. We all need to give back to our community. There's no more satisfying way to do that than with school board service."

"We Need Alternative High School" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 10, 2001, p. 9A. "Some students are said to be 'at risk.' But it is we who are equally at risk if we continue to ignore what they are telling us with their words and actions. Our district needs a good alternative high school. It's a need that increases with time."

"Outcome With Scouts is Unclear" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 24, 2001, p. 9A. On April 10 the ICCSD Board held a community forum to discuss the legal and other implications of the Boy Scouts' homophobic policy in light of the school district's anti-discrimination policy, which includes "sexual orientation." "Debates elsewhere about issues of no greater divisiveness can and do lead to decades-long civil wars. Democracy's potential has been powerfully demonstrated in our community once again" by the civility of the discussion of these emotionally-charged issues.

"Special Ed Has Its Special Issues" Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 8, 2001, p. 9A. Our nation's special education programs "represent humanity at its finest." But they "put severe economic and other strains on school districts. Frustrations for administrators, special ed teachers and associates, classroom teachers and parents. Each disabled student is a valued person. Each deserving of the best our society is willing to afford. One of the toughest challenges confronting any civilization is calculating how much that is."

"Learn from Alternative Schools" Iowa City Press-Citizen, May 22, 2001, p. 9A. "The best alternative high schools are among America's most exciting educational success stories. What can traditional high schools borrow from them to the benefit of all?" Here's a start at the list.

 "Swiss Education Runs On Time" Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 5, 2001, p. 9A. "Swiss railroads are a metaphor for everything Swiss, including schools. This commitment to the rational, and attention to detail," has created an educational system that produces excellence in both academics and apprentices. "Virtually everyone not only has an educatiion and a job, but performs at high professional standards. The Swiss are on the right track. And not just with their trains."

 "District Needs an Ombuds" Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 19, 2001, p. 9A. "It's not enough that an institution's policies are wise. It must think about process." How does it go about implementing change, treat its stakeholders, and resolve conflicts? "One of the most common, popular and successful institutions for resolving conflicts is an 'ombuds.' Many progressive school districts have one in place."

 "Home Schooling a Viable Option" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 3, 2001, p. 9A. "There's a reason for public schools. They serve our nation, and most families, very well." But "college admissions officers are taking notice" of the rather extraordinary performance of home schooled students -- many of whom are a full four years ahead of their contemporaries. "Home schooling is a growing movement -- from 15,000 20 years ago to 2 million today -- with increasing opportunities for the few who choose it."

 "Net Programs Aid Test Preparation" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 17, 2001, p. 9A. "There will never be a substitute for a professional, caring teacher. But there can be supplements." Online programs enable individual education plans for every student, tailored to that student's "aptitudes, current interests, and most efficient methods of learning. What Skills Tutor does for standardized tests today other programs could do for an entire curriculum tomorrow."

 "Gay Students Deserve Protection" Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 31, 2001, p. 9A. Human Rights Watch report, Hatred in the Hallways, suggests that "of all the world's human rights abuses among the worst are the violations of the international treaty rights of the 2 million gay and lesbian students in our nation's schools. Apparently protection of their rights involves considerably more than advocacy by the 'politically correct.' School administrators simply have to be concerned."

 "Make Better Use of Channel 11" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 15, 2001, p. 13A. Video cameras, student video production, and full utilization of community access cable channels set aside for educational purposes can make a major contribution to any school district's mission. With TV stations selling in the millions, or even billions, of dollars the ICCSD's cable channel 11 is a woefully underutilized and wasting asset. The column describes current student video production projects and offers a range of programming ideas for the cable channel.

 "Smaller Schools Are Better" Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 28, 2001, p. 9A. Numerous foundations, academics, and government task force reports are concluding that, when it comes to improving the nation's high schools, "smaller is better." Better for safety, better for students' sense of belonging, better for academic achievement and extracurricular participation. They recommend schools of 400 to 600 students -- or, if the larger buildings already exist (as they do locally) -- the concept of "schools within schools." Now that the ICCSD is addressing the Urban Education Network's Redefining High School report, "every district stakeholder needs to participate in planning what will, hopefully, include the benefit of smaller schools."

 "Vote in School Board Election" Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 11, 2001, p. 7A. ("Our under-10-percent turnouts in School Board elections are disgraceful. What kind of message does that send our teachers and students about the importance of democracy? What our School Board does, and how it does it, will have an impact not only on our children but all of us. Go vote."