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East Mills board debates school mural issue

Posted at 10:47 PM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 23:47:42-04

Tonight a battle over a painting in Mills County, Iowa went to another level.  Supporters of keeping a mural in place at an elementary school, believe it represents important history.  But opponents say it's time for East Mills to fully embrace being the Wolverines and bid goodbye to the Blackhawks.

Reporter Maya Saenz with the new developments. 

For the first portion of Monday night's school board meeting, parents, staff, alumni and community members spoke passionately for nearly 45 minutes on the mural and whether or not to keep it. Ultimately the board decided to put the mural discussion on the back burner. 

A mural can depict history and showcase the future. That was the discussion at Monday night's East Mills school board meeting. 

"What concerns me is that there are 10 years of East Mills students who have been deprived to develop the level of passion that the alumni has." 
 "Some of our great grandparents went to the four schools so it's bringing together unity in this community, in this school district."

Rich Erb, whose father painted the mural wants it to stay.  "My father painted this mural with the help of one of another artist, who was one of his students. I 'd like to see it preserved to show the kids how NIshna Valley and East Mills came to be East Mills."

Erb and a handful of others, who say the mural has too much history to be painted over, chipped in to hire a lawyer. Their lawyer says the district can't dispose of the mural due to a piece of legislation that protects an artist's right to their work, regardless of who owns it. "You can't destroy it, you can't cover it up, and you can't defile it in any way."

One of the two painters passed away, but the other hasn't and attended the meeting. "It's enduring and touching to hear people speak so passionately about preserving art and saving history."

Others, including Superintendent Paul Crogan say having a mural without including East Mills or its mascot doesn't make the current school or its alumni feel included. "If we do some things and change the murals, and make it an East Mills mural and it brings together five communities, if we had a painting that would do that and solve all of our problems, it would be a very wise investment for this district."

Crogan says they will take their time in going over the Vera Act, which preserves the artist's right to their work before making any type of decision.