Education & Schools
Loebsack Encourages Students to Apply for Fall Internships PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Joe Hand   
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 08:31
Washington, D.C – Congressman Dave Loebsack today announced that his office is now accepting applications from Iowa college students to participate in a Congressional internship program in his Washington, D.C., Iowa City or Cedar Rapids offices.  The internship program is open to undergraduate students and recent graduates, regardless of major.

“As a former educator, I have seen the benefits that internships can provide by giving students a firsthand look into the government process,” said Loebsack.  “I encourage all hardworking, motivated students and recent graduates to apply.”

Interns in the Washington, D.C. office will have the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and the federal government by working closely with the legislative, communications and constituent services staff members.  Interns in the Iowa offices will have the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge about how a Congressional office provides constituent services and interacts with members of the community.

Interested candidates should email their cover letter, resume, a short writing sample and a letter of recommendation to LoebsackInternship@mail.house.gov.  Please indicate which location you are applying for in the subject line.

 

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School board member under fire for speaking her mind to taxpayers PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Ben Velderman   
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 08:29
By Ben Velderman
EAGnews.org
WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Do individuals forfeit their First Amendment right to free speech when they become school board members?
The president of the West Hempstead Union Free (New York) school board seems to think so, but the district's official policy on free speech won't be known until board members re-examine their code of ethics in October.
This philosophical debate was sparked by a postcard board member Cynthia DiMiceli sent to the community last spring – at her own expense – explaining why she had voted against the district’s $55.2 million proposed budget for the 2012-13 school year.
The postcard had no discernible effect on the budget’s fate, which breezed through the board and was later ratified by the voters, but it so angered board President Walter Ejnes that he denounced DiMiceli as an “insecure megalomaniac” who generates “unnecessary controversy.”
A tiny handful of community activists are calling on DiMiceli to resign her post. They claim her actions violated the board’s code of ethics, which require members to “abide by all board decisions once they are made and assist in carrying them out effectively,” according to the West Hempstead Herald.
DiMiceli says the Education Establishment is “bullying” her because she dared use her rights as a private citizen to question the direction of the school district.
“Just because I’m a board member, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to speak my piece,” she tells EAGnews.org, adding that her comments represent her views only.
Despite the overheated rhetoric from her critics, DiMiceli is faithfully executing the official duties of her office by working with her fellow board members to lead the district and implement its policies.
This controversy is really about DiMiceli’s decision to ignore the establishment’s sacred teaching that all board members must march in lockstep, so as to present a “unified front” to the community.
The "united front" is believed to be an essential ingredient to a healthy school district. In reality, it's a ploy used by defenders of the status quo to supress criticism and alternative points of view. DiMiceli is standing up to those tired ideas, and is catching plenty of flak for doing so.
'We must change this way of thinking'
DiMiceli decided to run for the school board in 2010, over concerns about the deterioration of the district’s facilities and the overall quality of education being provided to students. She has two children in the district, and witnessed the decline first-hand.
“Everybody can complain, but that’s not my style,” she says. “I wanted to find solutions to fix the problems.”
And the problems are significant.
West Hempstead is located in New York’s Nassau County, which has the highest median property taxes in the nation, according to CBS 880. DiMiceli says her personal property taxes have doubled over the last 15 years.
Despite all the spending, the district’s test scores have mostly stagnated and student enrollment has declined. Taxpayers are paying more and more, but results aren’t improving.
“That’s not logical to me,” she says.
So when school administrators presented the West Hempstead school board with a $55.2 million budget proposal this spring, DiMiceli grew concerned the district wasn’t addressing the structural deficit that’s expected to begin in 2014.
After the board passed the budget 5-2, DiMiceli shared her concerns in a postcard-letter to West Hempstead residents, explaining why she voted ‘no.’
Economic conditions -- decreasing tax revenue, increasing health insurance and retirement costs for employees -- are creating “tremendous challenges for future budgets," DiMiceli wrote.
"Therefore, if we do not spend wisely and make provisions for the future now, our standard of education will drop even further along with the value of our homes.”
She also noted that opposing a school budget is a sure-fire way of getting labeled as anti-public education.
"In my opinion, we must change this way of thinking," DiMiceli wrote. "I feel that in order to improve the quality of education in West Hempstead, we must have the courage to face and admit our deficiencies and work together to find new ways to raise district wide academic achievement.”
The letter – which is clearly identified as representing only DiMiceli’s views – did not urge taxpayers to vote a certain way on the May 15 budget vote. It only raised questions that she believes the community must begin addressing, sooner or later.
'Good board members learn to compromise'
DiMiceli’s letter drew a stinging rebuke from the board president.
In a letter to the West Hempstead Herald, Ejnes wrote that “good board members learn to compromise, and if a decision does not go your way, it is unheard of to go out publicly and undermine the board’s final decision.”
At Ejnes’ urging, the board will revisit its code of ethics in October to determine the course of action if a member violates the policies.
The school board’s attorney has already reviewed the legality of DiMiceli’s actions, but the board has refused to make his findings public.
“If my critics feel that they are right, they should ask the Board of Education why aren’t they releasing the legal opinion of their own attorney?" DiMiCeli wrote in a recent letter to a local news site. “I will leave that up to you to assume the response.”
Despite the controversy her letter has generated, DiMiceli plans to keep pushing the board to share as much information as possible with the public.
“Certain things can’t be discussed publicly, such as contract negotiations or information about a certain student. But everything else should be public."
Information leads to more transparency and more accoutability, key components to ensuring that a school district is being run properly.
"This is a $55 million a year business,” DiMiceli says. “I do what I think is the right thing to do.”
Contact Ben Velderman at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or at (231) 733-4202.

 
Branstad, Reynolds announce upcoming Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Office of Governor Terry Branstad   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:35

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds at their weekly news conference today announced that they will host the Governor’s Bullying Prevention Summit this fall, and encouraged all Iowans to engage on the important issue of bullying prevention.

The summit will be held on Nov. 27, at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, and will feature a number of speakers from Iowa communities who will present their strategies at the summit. Also featured will be state and national experts about how to combat bullying, both offline and online.

Dr. Paul Gausman, superintendent of Sioux City Schools, joined Branstad and Reynolds at the news conference. He will talk about community involvement and efforts his community has taken to combat bullying.

The luncheon speaker will be Rosalind Wiseman, whose book became the basis of the movie, “Mean Girls.”

Registration will begin in September, and further details will be announced as that date gets closer.

“We believe we can, and we must, do more to stand up against bullying in Iowa,” said Branstad. “Iowans have a well-deserved reputation for neighborliness. Let’s leverage that tradition to put an end to bullying because all children deserve to feel safe at school.”

In the most recent Iowa Youth Survey of students in grades six, eight and 11, half of those surveyed reported being bullied in some way, and most youngsters witness the bullying of their peers sooner or later.

“Some people may ask, ‘Why is so much attention being paid to the issue of bullying now?’” said Reynolds. “Awareness is growing that what used to be excused as ‘kids being kids’ is more harmful than previously realized. Additionally, with the added threats from cyber-bullying, we can no longer discount bullying as a normal phase of childhood, or hope someone else will deal with the problem.”

The summit will be paid for with funding from the Iowa Department of Education, registration fees ($30 for adults older than age 22 and $20 for students) and generous support from the private sector.

For more information go to: https://preventbullying.iowa.gov.

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UNI President Allen's retirement announcement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:21
Friday, August 3, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley issued the following comment regarding UNI President Benjamin Allen’s announcement that he will retire by July 2013.

“I was sorry to hear of President Allen’s retirement but I’m glad to celebrate his accomplishments.  He’s an intelligent, upstanding person who’s been dedicated to Iowa, higher education, and science.  The University of Northern Iowa is the smallest of the three state schools, but its reputation has grown and continues to grow, thanks to the leadership of President Allen.”

 
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