The man who will take over the leadership of the troubled Iowa Association of School Boards says it’s a challenge he looks forward to. Thomas Downs was selected by the I.A.S.B. board to become its new executive director this past weekend.
Downs is retiring from his superintendent’s job in the Southeast Polk School District, and says this was a chance to stay in education. He says he’s spent his entire career working in schools and says the last 13 years as superintendent he has worked closely with school boards and elected officials and felt this was another good career opportunity that came along.
Downs’ predecessor was fired by the board and called to testify before the legislature after questions arose about the organization’s spending. Downs says restoring faith in the organization is his top priority.
Downs says that was one of the things he discussed with everyone during the interview process and says questions of trust and credibility will be “job one” on the first day he takes over. Down says he will bring respect back to the I.A.S.B.
“We’re gonna work to bring transparency to the organization, we’re gonna work to make sure everything is above board,” Downs says, “credibility and trust is something that can be established by behavior, and I’m gonna model that and expect nothing but that from all the people involved in the organization.”
Downs is coming into the job from a suburban Des Moines district that has seen tremendous growth, while many districts in the state are seeing enrollment declines. He says his past experience in Wisconsin let him deal with issues of declining enrollment.
He says the biggest challenges for declining districts are providing services for kids and still being able to afford to pay the bills and handle the challenges of lost revenue. Downs says regardless of growth or decline, every district in the state is facing lost revenue issues from a variety of sources.
Downs will take over at I.A.S.B. after his contract with Southeast Polk expires in July. I.A.S.B. is a private, nonprofit association that represents Iowa’s 359 school districts, 10 area education agencies and 15 community colleges.