# Patty Link

School board election results thread

Turnout was low in most of Iowa’s school board elections yesterday, but not in Iowa City, where a controversy over a school closure earlier this year helped spark the highest level of voter participation since the 1995 school board races. John Deeth has details and analysis of the results. Many Iowa Democrats will recognize the name of Sarah Swisher, a superdelegate to the DNC who has been Iowa Political Director of the SEIU.

In Des Moines, Margaret Buckton was the only challenger to win one of the four seats up for grabs. As the associate executive director of public policy for the Iowa Association of School Boards, she’s got a lot of relevant experience.

Buckton’s day job is to train school board members and superintendents about how to work with state legislators and advocate for their district, how school finances and budgets work, and how to implement policies such as the new Iowa Core Curriculum, the state’s blueprint for what students should learn while in school.

The three re-elected incumbents in Des Moines were Connie Boesen, Teree Caldwell-Johnson and Patty Link, whom many of you may have seen at Democratic functions. She is married to the campaign consultant Jeff Link.

The Des Moines Register published results for many other central Iowa school districts here. Many Iowa Democrats may know newly-elected West Des Moines school board member Liz Brennan, a Montessori pre-school teacher. Her husband, Scott Brennan, was the previous chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Ankeny voters rejected a bond initiative that would have funded a new elementary school and improvements to a different school. Given the rapid population growth in Ankeny during the past decade, it’s hard to see how the school district can avoid overcrowding if they can’t build a new elementary school.

Share any thoughts about education or school board races in this thread.

Atlantic residents are rightly angry about the strip search of five girls that staff conducted after a student said $100 had gone missing.

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DM school board won't challenge state law on school board elections

The Des Moines school board on Tuesday voted not to waste money and its own attorney’s time on challenging a new state law that requires school board elections to be held only in odd-numbered years beginning in 2009.

It’s a good decision, because the legal challenge almost certainly would have failed.

The board voted earlier this month to implement the new law by shortening the terms of Jon Narcisse and Patty Link by one year. Instead of facing re-election in 2010, three years after they were first elected, they will face voters in 2009.

Although Narcisse has criticized that plan, it’s a lot better than an idea floated earlier in the spring, which would have shortened his term by a year while allowing Link to serve until 2011 before facing re-election.

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Patty Link is a very smart woman

Earlier this year, the state legislature enacted a law changing the rules for school board elections. The goal was to save money by having these elections held every other year, and to have board members elected to four-year terms, rather than three-year terms.

Last night the Des Moines school board voted to deal with the new law by shortening the terms of Patty Link and Jonathan Narcisse by one year. Both were elected to three-year terms in September 2007, but they will now face voters in 2009.

There had been speculation that the board would implement this law by shortening Narcisse’s term to make him face voters in 2009, while lengthening Link’s term so she would be up for re-election in 2011. I thought that was a terrible idea for several reasons, which you can find if you click that link.

Today’s Des Moines Register says Link herself

proposed the idea to shorten both their terms, even though some supporters wanted her to claim four years, she said. “I think it’s the fairest way to do it,” Link said. “It’s confusing to play with the years. I don’t want to have the perception that one board member is favored over another.”

That is exactly right. Narcisse is somewhat of an outsider on the current board, but he was elected by people who wanted an outspoken critic of past school boards and district administrators to represent them.

Narcisse was not happy about last night’s vote. He criticized the “disenfranchisement” of voters who elected him and Link to three-year terms, but it would have sent a far worse message to treat board members unequally. Now that school board elections are to be held only in odd-numbered years, it simply isn’t an option for Narcisse and Link to face the voters in 2010 after three years on the board.

The Des Moines school board also voted 6-1 (with Link opposed) to challenge the new state law in court. I doubt they will be successful, though:

Many groups have been opposed to this new law, including the Iowa Association of School Boards, which has said it wants to get it repealed. The law was advertised this year as a way to cut election costs.

The [Des Moines] district’s legal counsel, Beth Nigut, advised the board that there is a precedent from 1907 that allows the legislature to shorten or even end the terms of elected officials, and warned that a lawsuit’s outcome is uncertain. Board members stated they want to pursue other angles, however, such as the short time frame in which they are expected to make a decision.

The law was passed just in April and all districts must have plans in place by Aug. 1 regarding how to transition to equal number of seats coming up for election every two years.

That doesn’t sound like an unreasonable time frame to me. Most school boards meet twice a month. Three months seems adequate to hold hearings and adopt a final decision on implementing the law.

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Don't even think about it

It would be a terrible mistake for the Des Moines school board to go down the path outlined in the Des Moines Register on Friday:

Fine print in a new statewide election law gives the Des Moines school board the option to cut short controversial member Jon Narcisse’s three-year term, a move he says would be “an assault against democracy.”


Eric Tabor, chief of staff for the Iowa attorney general’s office, said the Legislature has the authority to alter school board terms. Secretary of State Michael Mauro said there was “absolutely, unequivocally, no intent to put any board member in any district in jeopardy.”

Boards are instructed to consider the number of votes board members received in the last election when they decide how to meet the law’s requirements. Patty Link won 4,021 votes and Narcisse 3,029 in September.


Phil Roeder, spokesman for the district, said a few options would comply with the law:

– Shorten Narcisse’s and Link’s terms by one year, with re-election in 2009.

– Decrease Narcisse’s term and increase Link’s by one year, with re-election in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

– Alter the 2008 election terms so that one or two members are elected to one-year terms; Narcisse and Link would then be up for re-election in 2009 and 2011, respectively, or both in 2011.

I don’t care what the law allows them to do–any solution that appears to favor Link (a well-connected and well-liked white woman) over Narcisse (an outspoken critic of district policies who is also the only African American on the board CORRECTION: Teree Caldwell-Johnson, who is African-American, also serves on the Des Moines school board) would be a disaster.

If the goal is to get Narcisse off the board sooner, I doubt making him into a martyr is going to achieve that. He was elected precisely because of his criticism of past leadership on the school board and in the district administration.

I know people involved in the Save & Support Our Schools organization who strongly backed Narcisse’s candidacy. They felt that too many Des Moines school board members had failed to ask tough questions of superintendent Eric Witherspoon over the years. (The current superintendent, Nancy Sebring, seems to be more responsive to community concerns.)

The school board should find a way to implement this new law without appearing to single out Narcisse for punishment.  

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