Editor’s note: Nine candidates are seeking three at-large seats on the Iowa City school board in the Sept. 10 school elections. The Gazette Editorial Board invited them to submit a guest column outlining their background, reasons for wanting to serve on the board, and ideas/priorities for the district. Following are columns from four of the candidates; the other five will be published Sunday.
I am a candidate for the Iowa City Community School District’s Board of Education in the election next month for the following reasons.
I believe this election is one of the most important in our district in recent years. The critical issues to be evaluated, discussed, and decided will impact our community for years to come. I also believe I have the experience, knowledge and skill to be a productive part of addressing the significant problems and opportunities facing our schools.
I have already been involved. Two years ago I was elected to serve out the remaining term of a board member who moved away.
My background is in education. I am a retired secondary math teacher. In my 29 years of teaching, methods have changed from pencil and paper calculations to computers. We are now in the position to use smart boards, the Internet and other electronic tools to provide the educational programming that will help meet the needs of a generation of workers whose jobs may not currently exist.
The most important factors in our children’s education are the classroom teacher and the support each student has at home and at school. We are fortunate to have highly educated, dedicated and talented teachers in our district. Teachers are the essential components of the education process. They need to be in the forefront of any changes that we make in the educational programming. I want to make sure that teachers, parents, administrators and community members have the opportunity to provide input into the programming we should offer.
We need to be receptive of alternative ways to provide our instruction. It may be year-round school for some students or a foreign language magnet school or other types of magnet opportunities. We are teaching STEM classes at the secondary level, but could move those opportunities into the elementary schools. With the opening of the Kirkwood Regional Center, we are working toward providing more opportunities in the vocational trades.
We should be open to any and all methods that would help our students become the critical thinkers and innovators that their careers will require in the future. We also have to consider the fact that we are in the middle of curriculum changes such as the Iowa Common Core Standards being instituted statewide.
Being a growing district has both challenges and opportunities. Along with the increased numbers of students will come the tasks of finding spaces for those students in our buildings, hiring teachers and support staff, and deciding upon the curriculum to be taught.
We will need to work to ensure that we are fiscally responsible in our actions. We have set up a mechanism to save some of our spending authority so that we can operate our schools at the level we, as stakeholders in our district, expect.
In order to accomplish all of the tasks the school board has before it, we need to work as a unit. While the members of the school board do not have to agree on all issues, we do need to discuss them in public in a respectful manner. I am committed to furthering that discussion by listening to all sides of a situation and making the best possible decision that I can.
The education of our children is not a political matter. We should be answering only one question as we make decisions that impact our students: Is the action that we take resulting in improvements that are in the best interests of the entire district?
That is the question that I will apply to every issue we consider.
l Comments: email@example.com
Since announcing my candidacy for a position on the school board, I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people throughout our district. The purpose of my campaign is quite simple: I am running for the kids of our district. As a board member, everything I do will start and end with the best interest of our students in mind.
I first became involved in school district activities in 2004 when I became active in school master planning activities. Most recently, I was a leader in the successful One District Yes campaign, which secured the critical SAVE funding for our students.
My wife, Sheri, is a paraeducator at Borlaug Elementary and my two children attend West High School. With my tenure and firsthand knowledge and experience with District activities, I have established goals and strategies that will unify and lead our district forward.
I will advocate for these goals:
l I expect our schools to be the best in Iowa and among the best in the nation.
l All students will be prepared for their future endeavors.
l This is our district and we will move forward together, ensuring the needs of every school and every student are supported.
I have four strategies to deliver our goals:
l Back to basics: Focus on education!
l 21st century classroom: student achievement focused.
l Highly effective board team.
l Execute with excellence: Fiscally responsible operations and facilities master plan.
Having goals and strategies is only a portion of who I am as a candidate. I feel my professional skills and experiences are what set me apart from all candidates and current board members. Every board or team needs a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and skills. I believe my unique skills and capabilities are absolutely required given the challenges we face as a district.
I have been a leader at Procter & Gamble for 21 years, spending most of my time in Operations and Supply Chain Management. High Performance Organizations, Supply Network Design, Master Planning, and Total Quality Management are the cornerstones of my skills.
Having been on a number of site leadership teams and a member of many global teams, I understand how to work effectively as a leader with a wide diversity of people in a global environment. I know how to create a vision, set the priorities, create the plan, and get people energized about the plan to ensure successful implementation.
I also have extensive labor relations experience that will ensure a positive and progressive relationship with our teachers and the Iowa City Education Association. My mechanical engineering background will add diversity to the board, and my project management experience will help ensure we effectively use the $100 million to $250 million investment in our facilities over the next several years.
Our board also needs leaders who can work across school and city boundaries. Living in Coralville and working in Southeast Iowa City, I have a vested interest in the success of our entire district. My One District Yes work demonstrated my ability work collaboratively with others across the entire district. For me, it starts by being proactive, participating, and simply being polite.
We want our schools to be the best in the state and the nation. I know we can work together to make this happen for all our children. It starts with your vote on September 10 and I would appreciate your support.
Please visit www.vote
chrislynch.org for more information.
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
I come from a background that is different from all of the other candidates and current board members. I came to this country as a political refugee and grew up with a single mother who worked three jobs and went to school full time, all while learning English. I was that child who received free and reduced lunch, was in reading recovery and ate government cheese.
Although I never knew the extent of our poverty while growing up, I knew that my family did not have as much money as other families and children around me. All of the other kids seemed to live in houses, while I lived in an apartment at 344 Hawkeye Drive.
I was extremely lucky though. I had a mother who cherished education and I had teachers who made me feel included, worthy, and believed that I was a better student than what my test scores and homework reflected. My teachers realized that I had potential; some even went as far as to figure out how to help me tap that potential:
Patti McTaggart, taught me inclusiveness and compassion.
Jayme Skay taught me I should believe in myself and I was a better student than my test scores reflected. I left his class with a love to read and a passion for education.
Gordon Mixdorf taught me about humility and to not be complacent with the world around me. His teaching methods taught me how to question the world around me, look for hidden influences and keep an open mind.
Tas Anthony taught me not only to question authority, but that it was our civic duty to give back to our community.
My mother and teachers like these helped me realize and become the strong, independent person I am today who critically and creatively analyzes what we are currently doing in our district and thinks outside the box for possible solutions to the issues our district is currently facing and will face in the coming years.
I am aware that the school board cannot solve all issues of the district alone; the board needs input from our faculty, staff and community to address the education needs in our district.
My past affords me the ability to know what it feels like to not only be poor, but to be a person of color who is poor. Most important, my past has taught me firsthand how influential education can be in breaking the cycle of poverty.
A plaque in the Library of Congress says, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” That could not be closer to the truth. I believe education is the true equalizer in society and that is precisely why I feel the call to be a member of the Iowa City Community School Board again.
My voting record for the past four years, skills, and experiences both as an individual and as a current board member, along with my passionate belief in the power of education and the ability of our district to impact the lives of all of its students, makes me the candidate of choice. I believe that together we can and together we will make our district even better than what it is today.
In order to continue to move our district’s educational capabilities to the next level we need to do four things:
l Focus on education and empowering our children, faculty and staff.
l Engage in long-term planning for sustainable growth.
l Embrace and incorporate community input.
l Ensure transparency and good stewardship of taxpayer investment
Together we can and together we will achieve greatness. Please vote for me.
l Comments: email@example.com
My wife and I were both raised in Iowa City and graduated from Iowa City High. After graduating from the University of Iowa, I moved to Chicago to attend optometry school and then on to Cleveland for my residency. I returned to Iowa City in 2000 to accept a clinical faculty position at the University of Iowa. I teach some, but mainly provide eye care for our veterans at the VA Hospital and for patients in Riverside.
I am a father of two children who attend Shimek Elementary School.
As Iowa City natives, my wife and I remember the time when we built schools with an eye toward the future and where growth could and would be.
Iowa schools were consistently highly ranked nationally and our district was tops in the state. We used to be Iowa-centric in our educational strategies and year-after-year we produced students ready to achieve. Only recently has this changed.
We’ve had explosive growth in our district over the past two decades and have, in many ways, been forced to become reactive, rather than proactive, about building our schools. For years there has been a lack of a clear long-term plan for our district and the growth isn’t slowing. In fact, we are projected to add 3,000 more students over the next 10 years. We need new constructions to be ready for this.
Meanwhile, an achievement gap has been growing between schools, especially at the elementary level. Suddenly, test scores are the focus and there is the perception that some schools are more desirable than others. When coupled with the disparity between minority students and their peers, we are failing a good portion of our students. We can do better and we must.
In addition, our older facilities have significant needs. Air-conditioning, functioning technology and a safe, clean environment inside and outside of the school should be the standard of care that we insist upon. Overcrowded schools with temporary mobile classrooms should be the exception, not the norm.
As we move ahead with our strategic long-term facility plan, I am excited about the prospect of, once again, having a road map to the future for our district. The recent Revenue Purpose Statement vote gives us the ability to start right away on building new schools and renovating existing schools. In short, we can become proactive once again.
The district faces many challenges and critical decisions over the next few years. These decisions will have a long-lasting effect on our schools and our entire community. This is a unique moment in time for us. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass.
We need to build on the strong traditions of the past, but with an eye toward the future. We have to commit to healthy, high-performance, cost-effective 21st century classrooms that will prepare our graduates for any avenue. We must also try to preserve our traditions at our current facilities. To accomplish that, we need to turn to our teachers, our parents, and our community leaders to help us move ahead.
I truly believe that we are judged by how we treat those who are less fortunate. As a public school system, we need to double-down on ensuring that every single student gets an opportunity to succeed while being responsible stewards of public funds entrusted to the district.
If schools are a barometer for community health, then our community is at a crossroads. Let’s get to work. I hope you’ll join me.