The Davenport Community School District (DCSD) has a way of lighting a fire under people to get involved. Unfortunately, the motivation is many times born of frustration, contempt, and good old-fashioned anger at the modus operandi of the DCSD. This is no less true for Davenport School Board candidate Alan Guard.

Guard got his wake-up call when the parents of Grant and Johnson Elementary schools appealed the DCSD's January 28, 2002, decision to close both schools due to budgetary concerns. The parents found numerous discrepancies in the DCSD's financial reporting, and were able to show the DCSD how it could save the entire projected shortfall of $4 million without closing the two schools. The DCSD has a different agenda, which many critics fear calls for closing all inner-city schools by 2005, and refused to consider the parents' data in any meaningful way. It also ignored the state's guidelines for closing schools, which arguably made the parent's appeal a sure bet. However, the parents lost their appeal when Administrative Law Judge Susan Anderson, Iowa Department of Education, ruled in favor of the DCSD in spite of testimony and documents that specifically showed that the DCSD ignored the guidelines.

But rather than sequester himself to lick his wounds in bitter discord, Guard is positive about the future because he sees himself as an agent of change; he is running in next September's election as a candidate for the Davenport School Board. Guard believes that the problems plaguing the DCSD, which allow for objectionable conduct by the administration and the current board, are systemic. The distinct lack of proper representation can only be resolved through strong board leadership, which means new board leadership with purposeful, goal-oriented board development. His position on how a school board should function is crystal clear and concise.

"You see a lot of the same traits on school boards that you see with corporate boards today. There is too much of a desire for everybody to be friends. I don't believe that is the role of any board. If you look at governance policies for both public and private boards, it shows that boards should have a very healthy skepticism of everything that comes from its CEO. Boards are independent of the CEO. What you see with the current Davenport School Board is that everything Superintendent Jim Blanche wants, he gets. I am not suggesting Blanche is wrong about everything he wants. What I am saying is that the board is not asking enough questions, nor is it digging deep enough into matters, demanding accountability, or even demanding sound data. It is accepting of poor data because members aren't meaningfully examining the information. This makes for a dysfunctional board. These are the same flaws that corporate America has. Board members are too concerned with getting along rather than doing the job they were either elected or appointed to do. Boards are supposed to be the watchdogs for the shareholders and stakeholders of their respective organizations."

It can be argued that Guard is a particularly attractive candidate because of the skill set he brings to the table. He is currently the Budget Manager for the City of Davenport, responsible for the preparation and monitoring of Davenport's $80 million operating and capital improvement budgets. This competency alone provides him with the appropriate professional experience as a school board member because he is familiar with the complexities of governmental accounting. As budget manager, he also participates in contract negotiations with the city's six collective-bargaining units. He serves on several financial committees, including cost containment, financial planning, cost-of-service study, and citizen-based budgeting. He has more than 15 years of budget management experience.

"Fiscal responsibility is my number one goal. The DCSD has a $100 million annual budget, paid with tax dollars. We have a right to know how our money is being spent and whether we are getting what we pay for. We need to find out exactly where we are financially. We need to make sure all building and program costs are accurate. We also must determine where the money is coming from to pay expenses, and how much and from where is our revenue being generated. I am not convinced the current administration knows exactly where we are [financially].

"Second, I want to see minimum job qualifications and descriptions, along with resumes for the CFO, the Superintendent, and the Executive Director for Learning Services, anybody who is a top-level manager. As a board we need to review those and make sure they are acceptable. We need to look at human resources in terms of compensation packages and compare them to other urban areas our size. I am fairly certain the compensation here is out of whack. We need to look closer at our relationships with the unions. We need to establish better communication and possibly implement interest-based bargaining. We are making huge mistakes with our custodial staff. We are cutting back in this area while simultaneously increasing square footage across the board. These buildings are a huge investment, and we need them to be clean and cared for. But we have no benchmarks or measurement standards by which to evaluate the custodial department's effort.

"Typically, wage negotiations consist of consensus for a certain wage level. Recently, a wage level was finally agreed to, but once that was done, Superintendent Blanche simply cut hours. This creates ill will and strained relations between the ranks. I think such relations should be a part of the superintendent's evaluation.

"There are other areas of the budget that we should take a hard look at, too. For example the school district picks up its own garbage. We own garbage trucks and we run the garbage retrieval operation. This most certainly could be done more efficiently by the private sector. The truck maintenance alone is an expensive ordeal. Another example is that we had two human resources directors, yet we spent an additional $30,000 to hire an outside negotiator for wage bargaining. We should have had this area of expertise more than covered with the HR staff we had at the time.

"Third, maintaining neighborhood schools. A long-term goal of mine would be to replace Grant and Johnson with a new school in the middle somewhere. The local-sales-use-tax-option could pay for it. By closing the two schools, that part of the city will decay and I don't think school districts have the right to perpetrate such decline on neighborhoods.

"Fourth, I would like to see more community-wide partnerships. The Historic Preservation Commission wanted to put some of the older school buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, but School Board President Jim Hester shot it down, claiming the board couldn't let the HPC have control of anything, and that it had to fight it and make sure it didn't happen. This is not partnering. We should be establishing more of these types of collective efforts if it means enhancing the education experience in Davenport.

"Finally, the bottom line is making Davenport schools the best in the state. We can do it. But we need to be more imaginative, more efficient, more progressive, and above all, more accountable to the parents, students, and taxpayers. By making education the best, we will solve the problem of declining enrollments. Parents will want to send their children to Davenport schools. The current administration and board have lost all sight of this critical connection. As a school board member, I will work very hard to restore the district's responsiveness to parents, students, teachers, and the other stakeholders."

A fundraiser for Alan Guard will be held Friday evening, July 26, beginning at 5:30pm at the home of Bob and Sharron Solis, 108 East Dover Court, Davenport. All are welcome to enjoy refreshments and learn more about Alan Guard for Davenport School Board.

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