Upcoming school board election spells change for Iowa City Community School District

More than half of the seats on the Iowa City School Board are up for grabs this election cycle.


Michael Guhin

The Iowa City Community School District sign is seen on Apr. 29, 2019.

Chloe O'Connor, News Reporter

Four of the seven Iowa City School Board seats will be vacant this election cycle before voters fill out ballots Nov. 5. The filing period for candidacy ended Thursday, and eight candidates have made their bid for a seat at the table.

With half of the school board seats potentially changing hands, the board could change drastically with the coming election. The school board’s role is to “act to establish policies that govern the operation of the Iowa City Community School District,” according to the district’s website.

The seats will be available as a result of the expired terms of board members Paul Roesler, Shawn Eyestone, Lori Roetlin, and Phil Hemingway. School board members are elected at-large by the Iowa City community and serve four-year terms.

Among these candidates is Stephanie Van Housen, who works as an independent support broker and a mobile crisis outreach counselor for the Crisis Center of Johnson County. She applied for candidacy on Sept. 17, two days before the filing deadline. 

Van Housen was a former liaison for homeless in the district but was terminated from this position in 2016. The termination left the Iowa City community divided as to the legality and ethics of this decision, and Van Housen fought for her job with the help of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and the Iowa City Federation of Labor. 

Charlie Eastham is making his second bid for the Iowa City school board. In 2015, Eastham received the Isabel Turner Award from the Iowa City Human Rights Commission, an award earned through work to advance the rights of individuals “to get fair and ethical treatment.” Eastham focuses his efforts on racial and economic justice within the district.

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Lisa Williams, a former attorney with the U.S. Army and a current prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids, will also throw her hat into the ring this election cycle. Williams is closely connected to the Iowa City School District, as her own children going to school in the district. Williams is also married to a high school teacher.

Michael Tilley is also vying for a school board seat and is a first-generation college graduate. He currently works as a science writer and editor for the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy. 

“It’s evident that the district needs substantial improvement in gathering and using data,” Tilley said on his campaign’s Facebook page.

Julie VanDyke, another school board candidate, is a frequent visitor at its forums. In past school board meetings, VanDyke often utilized the public comment arena to critique the school board. 

An outspoken critic of the school board, VanDyke is advocating for better transparency in the school board.

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Matthew Getz is also running, though he has not spoken up about his candidacy.

Two incumbent candidates are also running for re-election this cycle.

Eyestone has lived in North Liberty for nearly two decades and has served on the school board of the Iowa City School District since 2017. 

Eyestone’s website states, “We need programming for all students.” This includes English as a Second Language programming, above-grade level programming such as Advanced Placement options, and programming for students with disabilities.

Roesler was initially elected to the school board in 2016 during a special election. Roesler is a University of Iowa graduate with children attending Iowa City School District schools, and his wife is a teacher in the district.