By Julia DiGiacomo
The Iowa City School Board elected board member Janet Godwin as its new president on Tuesday night.
The board members also addressed seclusion rooms and meeting the need for substitute teachers, among other items.
The meeting opened with a welcome from Vice President Lori Roetlin and the statement from the resignation of former President Ruthina Malone.
The board members then moved to elect a new president. Board member Phil Hemingway nominated Roetlin, but she declined his offer.
Paul Roesler and Godwin both accepted their nominations. In a 4-3 vote, Godwin was named president.
Godwin joined the School Board after the Sept. 12 election. She is also on the board of the Community Foundation of Johnson County and is a former president of the School District Foundation Board.
The board also allowed time for comments from the public, a notable one from a group of girls from various Iowa City high schools who have founded a group called “Students against Haitian Discrimination.”
They had presented a list of eight demands at a School Board meeting a year ago. They returned to voice their support for a new course dedicated to racial and ethnic studies. Godwin said their presentation was “inspiring.”
Lisa Glenn, the special-education director for the Iowa City schools, delivered a presentation on recent updates to the special-education department and its plans for the future. She specifically spoke about the removal and repurposing of seclusion rooms in the School District.
She defined physical confinement as the confinement of a student in a time-out room or some other enclosure, whether in or outside the classroom, from which the student’s egress is restricted.
“But saying we’re not going to educate your child because they have a behavioral disability that requires them to have a safe space is not something we can, should, or would want to do,” Glenn said.
Glenn said that the implementation of Task Force action plan intended to reduce restraint and seclusion includes regular task force updates, training for de-escalation, investigation of evidence-based alternatives, improved communication, improved reporting, among other items.
The board also discussed an update on the building-substitute program.
“Having a building sub who knows the kids, gets to know the culture of the building, who the kids see as a part of the building, is monumental,” board member J.P Claussen said. “This is a great program. It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time in the district.”
Other areas discussed included the issue of new programs of study in area high schools, an enrollment update, and the extended learning program self-study.