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Brief History

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 School District.

The Urban Education Network of Iowa played a major role in the development of the following legislative initiatives:
  School finance plan - 1985-86
  At-Risk funding - 1987
  English as a Second Language - ESL 1991
  Home Schooling - 1990-92
  Career Pathways - 1995
  Special Education Administrative Rules - 1995
  Chapter One - 1990-95
  Open Enrollment - 1990-95
  PPEL fund increase - 1997
  Early Childhood Education, Block Grants K-3 - 1998
  Funding, 0-5 programs - 1998
  School Facilities - 2000
  Supplementary Weighting - 2000
Early 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.

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