Superintendents of the seven largest school districts in Iowa gathered
in 1985 to
discuss the value of forming a coalition to address school finance issues
and other legislative concerns. The ideas and discussions stimulated
the formation of The Urban Education Network of Iowa (UEN), "an
informal network to provide support and information to member districts
on issues of mutual concern and priority."
The seven member coalition grew in 1987
when Iowa City became the eighth member district of the network. The
leadership for the UEN rotates among the superintendents, with Dr. William
Lepley, Superintendent of Council Bluffs serving as the first chairperson.
Administrative responsibilities and support came from Dr. James E. Wise,
Director, Board and Community Relations for the Des Moines Public Schools.
The Urban Education Network incorporated
in 1993 as a nonprofit organization. Annual
fees were established, Articles of Incorporation and by-laws written,
mission and goal statements developed and formal operating procedures
established. Dr. Wise, retired administrator from the Des Moines School
District in 1993, was employed as the first executive director. In this
role, Dr. Wise become responsible for defining, developing and implementing
programs; implementing working relationship with other organizations;
and, working closely with the legislature in developing public policy.
Dr. Wise retired in 2006, and Dr. Lew Finch was employed as
Executive Director. Dr. Finch has served 35 years as a public
school superintendent, most recently with the Cedar Rapids Community
Urban Education Network of Iowa played a major role in the development
of the following legislative initiatives:
plan - 1985-86
funding - 1987
as a Second Language - ESL 1991
Education Administrative Rules - 1995
One - 1990-95
increase - 1997
Education, Block Grants K-3 - 1998
0-5 programs - 1998
Weighting - 2000
Childhood Education - 2005
Urban initiatives were introduced in 1995-96 and 1996-97; Uniqueness
of the Urban Students; and, Safety in our Schools and Communities
both emerged as statewide conferences in 1997 and produced successful
collaboration efforts between and among key public agencies. Quality
material, references and videos were produced and widely shared to
assist policy makers, executive leaders and program specialists in
the urban areas of Iowa.
Early Childhood Education and Parent Partnerships was
the 1997-98 program initiative. This comprehensive and collaborative
effort generated great support from many different organizations as
well as the state legislature.
Collaboration between and among the eight member districts
is basic to the UEN. Exchange of information, planning, development
and commitment to common issues and concerns relative to teaching and
learning, policy development and leadership continues as the Urban Education
Network's greatest priority and accomplishment.