Diane Heldt, CR Gazette –
State regents were discussing when to meet to talk about the University of Northern Iowa’s Malcolm Price Lab School before parents and students had been informed the school was slated to close.
Emails and other communication were released by the state Board of Regents office Tuesday in response to an open records request from The Gazette. They show that on the morning of Feb. 22, regents were discussing when to meet in the next several days to talk about Price Lab School, a research and development school on the UNI campus.
That afternoon and evening, university President Ben Allen held several meetings with Price Lab faculty, staff, parents and students to inform them of his recommendation to close the school June 30. The regents met via telephone Feb. 27 and voted to approve the move.
A board staffer wrote in one Feb. 22 email that plans for the upcoming board meeting regarding Price Lab should “remain confidential until after President Allen’s announcement.”
In many of the emails to the regents office, Price Lab supporters decried what they saw as the speed of the decision and how little public input seemed to be considered.
“This decision was made in such haste!” one person wrote.
In the 76 pages of documents released Tuesday, no board members or staff appeared to respond to any of the constituents who emailed about Price Lab. However, these documents are only a partial response to what was requested; The Gazette is pursuing access to additional emails.
Most of the messages released Tuesday were received by Bob Donley, executive director of the regents office.
About 35 constituent emails or phone calls relayed to board staff via email were released, and only one of those messages supported closing the lab school. Those opposing the closure were from lab school students, graduates or UNI alums who touted their experience and the reputation of the school.
More than one message compared closing the lab school to closing agriculture programs at Iowa State University or University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics at the UI.
“Is the University of Iowa going to shut down the hospital? Seems like a comparable idea across the state institutions,” one person wrote.
Other opponents to the closure called it a “big mistake” and “simply unconscionable.”
Several people urged the regents to delay the vote, to allow more time for public input and discussion.
When Donley was asked by another office staff member on Feb. 25 if a specific email from a lab school employee opposing the closure should be forwarded to the regents, he responded with “NO.”