After more than 15 years on the Davenport School Board President Ralph Johanson is ready to step back.
“I decided I’ve been at it a while, and there are probably people with new and better ideas. Frankly, we probably need a change,” he said. “I always look forward to the change anyways.”
The Sept. 19 deadline to file candidate papers came and went, and Johanson didn’t turn in signatures or documents. While he said he’s proud of what he, the board and the district have accomplished, he said he’d “been at it a while,” and that there were people with new ideas who deserved a chance on the board. There are 14 candidates, including two incumbents, vying for four seats this year.
“Almost everything is due to so many people,” Johanson said. “It isn’t me, certainly. But whether it’s the board or a combination of the board and the administration, it’s always a team.”
The Davenport School Board had a rough year: The district received citations for disproportionality and violating individualized education plans, Davenport became the largest district in the state to ever receive conditional accreditation, the district was ordered to cut $13 million from its general fund in two years and the recent sale of the Lincoln School property for $30,000 incited community outrage.
Still, Johanson said he, his boards and the district accomplished a lot while he was there.
“When I think about that, I think there are certainly some real challenges of being on the board, and some of those are just horrible,” he said. “But the graduations are great. I think all of our employees -- the teachers, the staff, the administrators -- we have so many great people and students in the district. We have a great community.”
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Of note, for Johanson, was creating Mid-City High, an alternative school, drawing awareness to the need for equal per-pupil funding in Iowa and fostering career and technical readiness programs, amongst others.
“Again, there were board members with vision that saw some need for that. That’s a great thing,” he said. “I think there are so many great things going on. Certainly we have some challenges, but we have the opportunity to work with some great people and great organizations at the state level.”
Even Davenport’s recent challenges, Johanson said, were being addressed and would make the district “greater than we are.”
“Looking forward, when we did some projections ... I think the financial issues will be resolved in a timely manner,” he said. “I think the board members should look forward to a great opportunity to serve students and their constituents. There will be challenges, but I think everything is in place to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
For the incoming board members, Johanson said he’d pass along the same lesson former board member Patt Zamora tried to instill in him and his fellow directors.
“It’s all about the kids. It’s really that simple,” he said.