Axios Des Moines

Picture of the Des Moines skyline with DSM written across it.

January 26, 2023

🚲 Hey, Thursday. On this day in 2006, Waukee was announced as a RAGBRAI overnight town for the first time ever.

⛅️ Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high near 20°.

🎂 Happy birthday to our Axios Des Moines member Katie Bolinger!

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 826 words, a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: A super search conundrum

Superintendent Tom Ahart

Former superintendent Tom Ahart announcing his resignation in 2022. Photo courtesy of DMPS

The Des Moines school board is considering if it should share the names of three superintendent finalists or keep it to one during its search.

  • DMPS plans to start the search and hiring process soon.

The intrigue: The board is facing a double-edged sword: If they require final candidates' names be disclosed, they could lose applicants who don't want their employer to know they're job hunting.

  • But on the other hand, students and parents don't get full knowledge of the candidates.

State of play: Alton Frailey, a consultant advising the search, warned board members they should only name one final candidate.

  • During a board meeting, Frailey said other districts had "top candidates" withdraw their applications because they didn't want to be publicly named.

What they're saying: Some school board members are concerned that if it's opened up and the public's perceived favorite isn't picked, it could be a "rocky start" for the new hire, board member Jenna Knox said.

The other side: Board member Kelli Soyer said she wants a process that shows "some sort of transparency" rather than just sharing a single name.

Flashback: School board president Terree Caldwell-Johnson said three final candidates' names were shared and an open house was held during the last search.

  • Former superintendent Tom Ahart was picked back in 2013.

Between the lines: The job market is tighter than ever for superintendents.

  • Between 2015-20, all but six of the country's 20 largest school districts reported superintendent turnover, according to education consulting group ERS.

What's next: The board is waiting for advice from legal counsel on disclosure requirements before reconvening on the issue.

📣 Shoutout: Should the school board share the final three candidates' names? Take our poll.

2. Police's return to DSM schools is brief

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Police returned to help monitor most of Des Moines' high schools earlier this week due to concerns about possible gang retaliation following a shooting Monday that left two teenagers dead, Police Sgt. Paul Parizek tells Axios.

  • Their presence resulted in a quick, no-injury response to a separate incident Tuesday when a student brought a gun into East High School, he says.

Yes, but: The extra monitoring was provided at the district's request and is completed, with no plans to resume in-school patrols, per Parizek.

Catch up fast: The Monday shooting occurred downtown at "Starts Right Here," an education and monitoring program for at-risk youth that is separate from, but works closely with, the district.

  • Rashad Carr, 16, and Gionni Dameron, 18, were killed.
  • Will Keeps, the group's founder, was shot during the incident and remains hospitalized, per police.

Flashback: DMPS terminated its 22-year-old school resource officer (SRO) program in 2021 due to concerns about how police presence in schools fuels arrest rates and disproportionally affects students of color.

Of note: Preston Walls, 18, the alleged shooter, is charged with murder and remains in the Polk County Jail on a $2.5 million bond.

  • A handgun with the capacity to shoot 31 rounds was confiscated near a vehicle where Walls was apprehended shortly after the shooting, police said.

Read more

3. Supervisors, Johnston oppose Granger annexation

A photo of farm land in Granger.

Granger's annexation request consists mostly of farmgrounds like these that are adjacent to its city limits. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Granger's plan to annex about 1,725 acres near Johnston appears to be an effort to block other development, Polk County Supervisor Bob Brownell warned this week.

Why it matters: Improper land grabs can stymie overall community development and place unnecessary pressure on taxpayers.

What's happening: Granger wants to annex areas that are several miles east of its current city limits.

  • Johnston city officials and Polk supervisors are asking Granger to drop about half of the area it's requesting.

Zoom in: There's concern that Granger would be unable to provide services like sewers to much of the area.

  • The annexation could also derail the state's agreements with Johnston for a $10 million Highway 141 safety improvement project, Bob Rice, the county’s public works director, told supervisors Tuesday.

The other side: All property owners in the area have voluntarily agreed to be annexed, Granger Mayor Tony James tells Axios.

  • Grimes officials are confident they can provide services to the area, he says.

Of note: Annexations are ultimately decided by Iowa's City Development Board and objections from other local governments are given consideration.

What's next: Granger City Council's public hearing on the annexation is tonight at 6pm in the Granger Community Center.

Go deeper: Review maps and read Johnston City Council's letter this week to Granger officials objecting to the annexation

4. The Ear: Catch up on the news

Illustration of a tin-can phone with one end covered in a wrapper with "The Ear" printed on it, and lightning bolts coming out of it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🦌 The number of out-of-state deer hunters would increase up to 25% — from 6k to 7.5k — under a bill that's advancing in the Iowa Senate. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A contractor died at Adventureland after he slipped on ice and was crushed by a steel beam he was carrying while building the new Flying Viking ride. (KCCI)

🏠 Des Moines launched a new "Improving Our Neighborhoods" initiative yesterday with $3.5 million in assistance for exterior repairs for low-income homeowners. (Press release)

Now hiring: New job openings

🔥 Hot and fresh local job listings.

  1. SAP Integration Consultant, Director at PWC.
  2. Total Rewards Executive Assistant at Wells Fargo.
  3. Business Manager at Hearst Television.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

5. 👁 Where's Jason?

A photo in Des Moines.

Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

📫 Hit reply and correctly identify where Jason is in the DSM-metro to be added to a drawing for some free Axios swag.

  • Look for the answer — and a story about this spot — in tomorrow's newsletter.

👋 Thanks for reading our newsletter. If this was sent to you, subscribe for free here.

This newsletter was edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Lucia Maher.