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Teachers in Marion and Across Iowa Had Training at Price Lab

It's possible dozens of emails meant for the Board of Regents, prior to the closing of the University of Northern Iowa's Prince Lab, never reached the decision-makers.

Dozens of emails written by the public and aimed at the Iowa Board of Regents prior to the closing of apparently never reached their intended targets.

The emails — almost exclusively pleas from people to keep Price Lab open —were sent in the days following an announcement by President Ben Allen that he intended to close the school. The emails were sent, however, prior to a vote by the regents on whether to go through with the closure.

Those pleas, it appears based on records obtained by Patch under Iowa's open records law, never made it to the regents prior to their Feb. 27 decision to close Price Lab.

Instead, the regents’ executive director, Bob Donley, instructed his staff not to forward at least one letter, and many others apparently never made it past his inbox prior to the vote.

One example: The board’s communications director, Shelia Doyle Koppin, forwarded an email to Donley on behalf of a Price Lab employee urging the regents to hold off on a vote and take more time to consider the matter. The letter was clearly intended for the full board.

"Bob - Should I forward to Regents?" Koppin asks in a note to Donley.

The one word reply from Donley: "NO."

"Thanks. I did not," Koppin responded.

While that email is the only one Donley explicitly decided to keep from the regents, other documents indicate that dozens of letters were never forwarded by his staff.

In one email, dated Feb. 25, Regents Policy and Operations Officer Marcia Brunson tells Donley, "I have received 50 or so inquiries relating to the closure of the Price Lab School. Should they be shared with the board prior to the meeting on Monday?"

A review of the emails Patch obtained shows no response from Donley and no indication that the inquiries were shared with the board.

A day earlier, Brunson had sent a similar email with the subject line, "I have received 40 inquiries as Price Lab school," with no text in the body of the email.

Again, the records show no response from Donley.

One emailer asks “Regents Members” to challenge Allen during a scheduled     phone call about the closing.

"Let your call today simply serve to create an opportunity to ask some important questions before reaching a conclusion," the email said. The author’s name was redacted from the email before it was handed over to Patch.

Again, the records show no signs that the message was forwarded to the regents.

When asked via email and later on Monday during a phone conversation for comment, the regents, through Koppin, did not respond.

To be sure, the regents did receive some feedback. At least five messages that were obtained in the records request were emailed to all of the board members, and no doubt many more were also received that were not covered by the records request.

But many of them, according to a review of the requested records, never made it to the regents despite clearly being intended to be shared.

The open records request filed by Cedar Falls Patch sought email correspondences about Price Lab sent to or from Donley, Regents President Craig Lang and Regents President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter.

"Attached is my letter to you and the Board of Regents in support of keeping Price Lab open," one message addressed to Donley reads. "Please accept my support and read through my letter. I have tried to keep emotions out of this letter because I understand that with business matters there can be no emotions attached. Thank you!"

For comprehensive coverage of the UNI budget cuts, including the planned closure of Price Lab, visit the Cedar Falls Patch topic page. Get notified of the latest on Price Lab and other UNI news by signing up to the Cedar Falls Patch newsletter, and "like" Cedar Falls Patch on Facebook to stay updated and join the conversation.

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