The Iowa Department of Education received requests from four schools to join one of two activities conferences that had denied them membership.
It soon became clear that the mediation team would need to widen its usual scope regarding the number of current conference affiliations to review. The Department's charge to the mediation team was to not feel constrained to limit its mediation to the Petitioners.
The recommendation of the mediation team addressed reduction of travel distances and fairly sought to meet competitive needs of all affected schools. The mediation team's recommendation was not approved by all affected schools, but was met with approval from the Petitioners. In the interest of fairness to all members of the impacted conferences, the Department scheduled a hearing for March 28, at which several schools appeared and presented their opinions regarding the recommendation of the mediation team.
Absent proof that the mediation team failed to consider one or more of the factors in the rules and absent proof that the mediation team was biased, prejudiced, or predisposed, the Department is to implement the team's recommendation. No school argued here that the team failed to mediate in good faith, diligently, and in accordance with the rules. Many schools disagreed with the recommendation, but all acknowledged that the Chapter 37 process was carried out with fidelity.
The Department's decision gives the Petitioner schools memberships into appropriate conferences and is the least disruptive to the other affected schools. This decision is effective with the 2013-14 school year. All schools are reminded of rule 37.7's four year "stay put" provision. That is, absent consensual decision of a conference, these conference realignments are binding on Petitioners and on all members of the conferences listed below for a four-year period, through the end of the 2016-2017 school year.