Cedar Rapids school board candidate questionnaires

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For the board that oversees the Cedar Rapids Community School District, three four-year terms are on the ballot. Incumbent Nancy Humbles is running unopposed in District 2, while two are vying for the District 3 seat and three are campaigning for an at-large seat.

All responses come directly from the candidate and have not been edited for space or grammar by The Gazette. We are providing their full unedited responses, so that the public can experience the candidate’s thoughts and stances in full.

Christopher Gehrke
 

District: Cedar Rapids

Age: 37

Educational Background: BS Electrical Engineering Iowa State University

Occupation: Engineer

Questions

Do you have any children enrolled in the school district for the board seat you are seeking?

Yes

Have you held any prior elected offices? If yes, please list them.

No Answer Provided

What other volunteer or community involvement should voters know about? Please explain below.

I'm an Eagle Scout and have been a Boy Scout Leader for almost 20 years. I've also served on the Arthur Elementary PTA.

Are there any issues, personal or professional, in which you have a conflict and may not be able to vote? If yes, please explain.

My wife is a teacher for CRCSD, but previous legal cases throughout the country don't find that a conflict of interest for most items before the board. If a conflict were to arise not only would I abstain from voting but also from discussions with other board members about the topic.

Why are you running for school board?

An involved and connected board that holds not only itself, but the entire district, to high standards of accountability and transparency is greatly needed. There are multiple issues facing our district that will have long-lasting impacts on our students, teachers, neighborhoods and the taxpayers. We need boardmembers that will listen to and engage all stakeholders in order to make sure that what gets done is the best choice, while remembering that the entire point of the district is to educate our youth, while being fiscally responsible with public funds. The board is the ultimate authority as they are the ones who set policy and hire a superintendent to run it.

What are the three largest issues facing the district? What will you do to address them?

1. Budget Our teachers deserve stability year-to-year with our district's budget. We need to put together a solid long-term budget plan that focuses and relies more on what we can control and less on what might happen in Des Moines and Washington D.C. There should be a clear budget priority set by the board, and at the top of that list should be the teachers and paraeducators in the classroom fulfilling the needs of our students.
2. Buildings This is the number one thing the voters in the disctrict have asked me about as I have prepared to run for school board. I don't think the current board has gathered enough raw data and input to be deciding a plan by this December. There are so many variables to consider and, while I think there were a lot of great points that came out of the sub-committee meetings, I think the schedule is aggressive given the magnitude of impact this will have on everyone in our district. Any proposal that a building be closed, merged, or moved should require an in-depth personal look by board members of not only the school and students impacted, but also the neighborhood. We need to be sure to never repeat a situation like the closure of Polk. Arthur Elementary needs to be one building. We have to prioritize Arthur since they have kindergarten and first grade students walking across a city street for lunch, specials, computer lab, library, behavioral issues, medical needs, etc. Even ignoring the safety side of it, the fact that teacher instruction time is lost by these students everyday by having to cross the street, especially in the winter, is wrong. I know people that don't go out for lunch in the winter and we have 5-7 year olds students crossing a street for a school lunch.
3. Student Success We need to hire and retain the absolute best teachers for our students. Teachers, in my opinion, are the greatest common denominator to student success. Highly motivated, trained, passionate and happy teachers can leave lasting positive impact on a student's success not only in the classroom but in life. I want to ensure that all students get the best educational experience. We also need to be realistic with the changing times when it comes to the amount of students in our classrooms that have special learning needs such as 504 plans and IEPs. Classrooms with a high number of students with 504 plans or IEPs, especially at the elementary level, should be looked at for either smaller class sizes or extra paraeducator help so that all students can excel.

If you're forced to cut the school district's budget, where do you look for savings? What would your funding priorities be? Please explain your answer.

We don't need to wait for a budget cut to start looking for savings. I would review the size of our district level staff and how they directly impact student learning. Parents, staff, and principals are your insight into building waste. I would have each school's budget analyzed to look for any vast differences that stick out, both low and high. There might be valid reasons for it, there might be savings to be made, but you won't know without taking the time to look. Facilities work needs to be catagorized and then prioritized, and all non-essential work, like refinishing the cafeteria floor in an103-year-old building, needs to be placed on hold. Likewise, other options should be explored for all scheduled and emergency work. Rather than clean carpets in a building slated for carpet removal/replace in 1-2 years, are there other projects that could be switched around so that we can remove/replace now instead of cleaning something to throw it away? When cutting the budget you look everywhere outside the classroom first. We are here to educate kids and budget cuts won't change that purpose. My priorities start with the day-to-day educational needs of our students and stop at the district offices.

What are the district's strengths? What will you do to support them?

The wide range of courses we offer our high school students is a strength of our district. Foreign languages, cooking, building trades, math, science, history, computer science, etc., we have subjects for every student. High school is a great time to dabble in something new, you never know where you might find your career choice or make lifelong friends. We have some of the best teachers in the country and we need to be sure that we don't lose them to fatigue, other school districts, or new careers. Changes to collective bargaining in Iowa this year put a lot of local control back on school boards. It's up to the board to be engaged with teachers to be sure we are offering competitive benefits that allow us to hire and retain the best of the best.

What areas can the school district improve or change? What will you do to help lead that improvement or change?

"The hiring process needs to be streamlined and stablized. I've talked with people trying to get jobs in our district and too many times they find a great job that just posted yesterday to find out they are already interviewing. That's not the best way to attract the top talent. We need a publicly available documented process including how it can be deviated from. When deviations occur they should be noted in the board agenda and deviation explained to the board and any steps that can be taken to not have a repeat in the future. We need to take better care of our facilities. I think some of our repairs could have been held to a higher standard. It's hard to ask taxpayers to replace something when we're not taking the best care of it to begin with. A building is only as old as it's worst repair job or it's largest deferred maintenance project."

Why should voters elect you and not one of your opponents?

"With five kids in the district attending three different schools and a wife who teaches at a fourth building, I have a lot of insight into student needs at all building levels. I have a huge vested interest in the success of this district. I think that ensuring the education of our youth is one of the most important things a community has to do. I will also do what's best for our students. I'm not looking to be on the school board every other Monday night but everyday for the next four years or until Iowa passes a recall law and the voters decide to change their mind. I'm not afraid to have tough discussions, ask the hard questions, or even answer the hard questions."

How will you communicate with constituents and board members? What should the district do to communicate with those who don't have kids in the district?

"I plan on having an ""open door"" policy. Most constituents would like to be able to have a conversation with their elected officials. I think some of the frustration with transparency in our district is that people want to address the board at board meetings and that's not the best venue for that. The board meeting is a meeting for board business held in public. I would like to see a monthly or bi-weekly event attended by 2-3 board members where constituents have a chance to ask questions and provide feedback, good and bad. The board needs to explore ways, traditional and non-traditional, to reach people who don't have kids in our district. There are resources and feelings that we are missing out on because the day-to-day business might not reach them. We would need to walk through the neighborhoods and talk with people on their own front porches."

How should the district handle long term facility needs? What process do you envision supporting?

We should handle long term facility needs with great responsibility. We need a very comprehensive plan that can provide the most benefits to the most stakeholders. It can't be one-sided and it can't be lacking in clarity when it comes to the benefits. This isn't just one school and neighborhood, it's the entire district that could be affected by these decisions. First and foremost we have to have a process that puts the students needs first while being responsible with public funds. If we focus on these two points, I'm sure all the other stakeholder groups will also see great benefits.

Gary Anhalt
 

District: Cedar Rapids

Age: 70

Educational Background: HS South St. Paul Senior High - BS Winona State College

Occupation: Retired Educator

Questions

Do you have any children enrolled in the school district for the board seat you are seeking?

No

Have you held any prior elected offices? If yes, please list them.

Cedar Rapids Community Schools Director At - Large

What other volunteer or community involvement should voters know about? Please explain below.

Cedar Rapids Recreation Commission - President Cedar Rapids Area Iowa Retired School Personnel Association

Are there any issues, personal or professional, in which you have a conflict and may not be able to vote? If yes, please explain.

No

Why are you running for school board?

I am running for the Cedar Rapids Community School board because I believe that this community truly cares about our great public schools. As someone that has dedicated over 45 years of my life to the Cedar Rapids Public School District, I recognize the strengths of our district, but also realize there are changes that need to be made to ensure we are living up to our vision of Every Learner - Future Ready.

What are the three largest issues facing the district? What will you do to address them?

1. Budget – Insufficient funding from the state unfortunately has forced our board to make cuts to programming, like Elementary Spanish, and increase class sizes. Unfortunately, with the current state deficit, we will continue to struggle to try do more with less. I will continue to lobby our local and state leaders to adequately fund public education. As a Board, we must continue to look at every possible way to maintain programs and in some cases, reduce class size. The classroom teacher is the most important element in successfully meeting our District goals and mission.
2. Success for All Students – As a retired educator, success looks different for each student. For some students, this means pursuing a 4-year college program, others possible a 2- year community college program. For some students, this could mean an apprenticeship or skilled certificate program. We must prepare our students to be “lifelong learners”. I believe in order to meet our District Vision: Every Learner Future – Ready we have to provide multiple pathways to ensure success for all students. I fully support the District’s action plan to accomplish this.
3. Recruiting and Retaining High Quality Staff– The classroom teacher has the greatest impact on student learning. Therefore, it is critical that we have the most qualified and talented educators and professional staff working with our students every day. Unfortunately, due to increasing class sizes, workload, unique needs of students, and local and state mandates, far too many educators are leaving the profession within five year. In addition to these growing challenges, the national attacks by politicians on public school educators is leading to a decrease in young people entering the field of education as a post high school career choice. What can the District do to help? As a District, we must take actions to better support new educators by enhancing our mentoring programs and finding ways to decrease workloads, and offer more support to meet the needs of our students. We can work to increase teacher autonomy and provide resources to allow educator to use their knowledge and skills to make our District Vision a reality.

If you're forced to cut the school district's budget, where do you look for savings? What would your funding priorities be? Please explain your answer.

I do not believe the question is if we are forced to make budget cuts, but when we will have to make budget cuts. When considering the current projected state revenue problems, the idea of adequate funding for public schools in the 2018 legislative session is pretty bleak. As a Board, we asked each department in the district to find ways to implement cuts in their budgets. Unfortunately, after five straight years of inadequate funding, our departments can’t really make further cuts, as they are already really cut down to the “bare bones”. We have asked Administration to find creative ways to save money in order to prevent further staff and programing cuts. One example is as a district we were able to save roughly $400,000 by purchasing online textbook resources to reduce the purchases of quickly outdated and costly printed text books. We have applied and received grants and awards, but it is not possible to build sustainable programs and systems on non–sustainable funding streams.

What are the district's strengths? What will you do to support them?

One of our greatest strengths as a district is our professional staff. Our educators are excellent, dedicated, and hard-working. We need to effectively communicate our vision, Every Learner: Future Ready with our staff. We need to include the educator voice in the implementation of this vision. It is important that we provide the necessary resources and support for educators to apply their knowledge and skills to achieve student success. An additional strength of the district is the expansion of the Iowa Big program, magnet schools, blended learning opportunities, and dual-credit programs. These programs are increasing the pathways for our students to be successful adults. If elected, I will continue to advocate for more opportunities to help our students become future ready.

What areas can the school district improve or change? What will you do to help lead that improvement or change?

"One of our greatest strengths as a district is our professional staff. Our educators are excellent, dedicated, and hard-working. We need to effectively communicate our vision, Every Learner: Future Ready with our staff. We need to include the educator voice in the implementation of this vision. It is important that we provide the necessary resources and support for educators to apply their knowledge and skills to achieve student success. An additional strength of the district is the expansion of the Iowa Big program, magnet schools, blended learning opportunities, and dual-credit programs. These programs are increasing the pathways for our students to be successful adults. If elected, I will continue to advocate for more opportunities to help our students become future ready."

Why should voters elect you and not one of your opponents?

I believe the voters of Cedar Rapids should support me because I have dedicated my career and post career to serving the Cedar Rapids community. During my time as a board member, I have been an advocate of student centered focus and planning for the future. My forty years as an educator for the Cedar Rapids Community School District gives me great insight to understanding the dynamics of the classroom and school. I have made connections at the state and national level that has broaden my understanding of what is happening in education to help inform the decisions I make for what is best for the community of Cedar Rapids. Most importantly, the actions and votes I have taken as a board member, and will continue to take if re-elected, will always be based on what’s best for kids.

How will you communicate with constituents and board members? What should the district do to communicate with those who don't have kids in the district?

"The state of Iowa provides regulations that we must follow as a Board of Directors during our monthly public meetings. Unfortunately, Iowa’s Open Meeting Code limits the scope of what and how we communicate with constituents. Per code rules, we are not able to engage in dialogue with constituents during board meetings. Our monthly Board of Directors public meetings are rebroadcasted on the local channel and can be viewed online, so constituents who are unable to attend the meeting in person can stay informed of our work. I am actively engaged in the work we complete at these meetings. As a board, we need to do a better job of finding ways to effectively communicate with the community. In the past, I started “Chalk Talks” that were public events where constituents could sit down for a conversation with a board member. If re-elected, I will focus greater attention to finding ways to improve communication between constituents and board member. Communication is critical in informing the whole community on the direction, successes, and areas of concern of the District. We recently hired new personnel to provide public information. As a board, we should let them use their professional and personal skills to do their job as we listen, watch, and monitor their work. "

How should the district handle long term facility needs? What process do you envision supporting?

I believe the district past practice for planning long term facility needs was handled poorly. The district waited too long to do a facilities study that it finally did a few years ago. This became a very painful process because the community was not prepared for some drastic changes. I have supported and will continue to support the concept that we more regularly look at our demographics and impact on facilities. Our building and surrounding grounds do not just belong to the school district, but are community facilities. As a Board, we need to work together with the city and other public entities as we plan for the present and future needs of Cedar Rapids. We can’t just look at the expansion of the district and potential new growth, but also how we can support, stabilize, and energize our core neighborhoods. It is extremely important that all citizens of the city, not just those with children currently enrolled in our schools are engaged in the process. We need to ask ourselves, how can this community building be of service to those with no school-aged children? District facilities need to not only serve our children today, but serve our children’s children. We need facilities that meet the needs of educating children in the 21st Century, in order to ensure we have an educated and capable workforce for the years to come.

Jennifer Borcherding
 

District: Cedar Rapids

Age: 44

Educational Background: BA Psychology DePaul University, BA English DePaul University, State of Iowa Board of Educational Examiners Substitute Authorization

Occupation: Substitute Teacher

Questions

Do you have any children enrolled in the school district for the board seat you are seeking?

Yes

Have you held any prior elected offices? If yes, please list them.

No

What other volunteer or community involvement should voters know about? Please explain below.

"2016-Present Trustee on the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation.
2016-2017 PTA Vice-President and Fundraising Chair at Johnson STEAM Academy.
2014-2015 PTA Co-President at Jackson Elementary.
2013-2014 PTA Co-Vice President at Jackson Elementary.
2010-2012 Member Fundraising Committee of Summit Schools.
2009-2015 Board Member of the Cedar Rapids community development, youth empowerment organization Matthew 25."

Are there any issues, personal or professional, in which you have a conflict and may not be able to vote? If yes, please explain.

no

Why are you running for school board?

"My decision to run for the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) Board of Education is the result of years of personal commitment to public education. I feel the information I have gathered from being a parent of children currently enrolled in the school district, from being a substitute teacher in the school district, from holding the position of Trustee on the Cedar Rapids Community School Foundation and from holding PTA executive positions on two different chapters has given me a broad understanding of successful initiatives of the CRCSD. I also understand, and have experience with, areas that could use improvement. I feel my ability to positively collaborate with fellow board members while problem solving and building policy to support visioning will be beneficial to the district. I am also running to become a more active part of a district that values diversity. Diversity encourages innovation not only in schools but also in the community. I am excited to support existing, and help develop new, ways to celebrate diversity. "

What are the three largest issues facing the district? What will you do to address them?

"School bullying is a problem nation-wide. Sadly Cedar Rapids is not immune to this problem. While the CRCSD does have an Anti-Bullying/Harassment policy, I feel the policy may be more effective with focused communication about the policy and an outline of action steps each school will be taking to make anti-bullying a priority. It would be beneficial to have families who have experienced or who are worried about experiencing bullying enter the conversation to locate how information will be best received and actions best developed to reflect student needs. As a board member I will work with families and the district to help develop effective communication and actions about this issue.
Retaining quality teachers and para-educators after the breaking of collective bargaining at the state level is another issue that the district is dealing with. The Cedar Rapids Community School District is, and needs to remain, dedicated to providing teachers and para-educators with robust career opportunities despite no law now requiring it. By providing job securities that retain quality staff, we will have the best long term outcomes of increased staff engagement and increased student achievement. A good school creates informed, engaged citizens. We must work together to support our staff to make sure we have best outcomes for all. As a board member I will actively and vocally advocate for teachers, para-educators and education staff at every opportunity.
The threat of Iowa establishing Education Savings Accounts Schools (ESAs) is another issue the Cedar Rapids Community School District needs to be prepared for. ESAs are Iowa's form education privatization. When education becomes a privatized commodity public money becomes privatized. Fiscal accountability and reporting disappear with privatization. Academic accountability also disappears. ESA funded schools can also deny enrollment based on special need, religion, gender identification and sexual orientation. First ESAs privatize public tax dollars. Then ESAs use those dollars to promote discrimination. This is unacceptable.
ESAs are unhealthy for both community schools and communities at large. As a board member I will address this issue by sharing relevant ESA and privatization research. I will address this issue by using my voice to try to counter the false advertising that is being pushed by ESA proponents. As a Board Member I will work to keep public money public. "

If you're forced to cut the school district's budget, where do you look for savings? What would your funding priorities be? Please explain your answer.

"The budget will be solvent if the legislature adequately funds public education as has been done in the past. However, we can be creative in finding outside sources of funding if needed so as not to negatively impact our most critical need which is adequately staffing and supplying classrooms. Collaborations with businesses and non-profits have been positive and could grow depending on their willingness to be further supportive of public education. These collaborations will help us focus on the “community” aspect of community schools. Additionally any grant monies coming to our general fund from outside resources will increase the district’s spending authority. Above all else we must avoid further cuts to the classroom. We must continue to support students through appropriately staffing schools to keep class-size smaller and manageable. We cannot reduce resources directed to classrooms as the result would be obstructing student achievement. "

What are the district's strengths? What will you do to support them?

"Innovative education opportunities is a district strength. Project Based Learning (PBL) opportunities are an example of this. PBL is most easily described as learning through doing or making. PBL is associated with increased student engagement. I have personally witnessed students take a more active and direct role in educational ownership through learning with a PBL approach. I believe student creativity and problem solving skills developed through hands on learning lays the groundwork for lifelong learning skills. I will continue to support innovative education opportunities by encouraging more work in this area moving forward. Collaboration and teamwork with broad outreach and participation are other district strengths. By utilizing taskforces and teamwork to study issues and develop paths forward the district is inviting input from all influenced by district decisions. This approach allows us to work together collaboratively to problem solve. By purposefully encouraging a diverse group of stakeholders, issues can be understood from fresh and valid viewpoints. I have participated in taskforces composed of a broad mix of stakeholders, such as the Theory of Action Taskforce, and will continue to do so as a BOE member. "

What areas can the school district improve or change? What will you do to help lead that improvement or change?

"Defined and consistent process oriented frameworks needs improvement. The use of common language to better aid data sharing would be beneficial. A lack of continuity from school to school can make relevant data sharing problematic. Having a clearly communicated and defined process oriented frameworks in place overarching each school’s unique culture and climate will be advantageous to guide growth and change. Sharing common language will aid in effective communication. As a board member I will encourage development in this area. The district needs to improve their marketing to highlight many exciting things happening within our school system. Achievements are not being effectively communicated to students, families, and the community. Several areas of innovative curriculum need to be more widely shared. The new Director of Communications, Akwi Nji, has some innovative ideas about how to more effectively share district accomplishments. I support Akwi Nji’s programs and will work with her to further share the groundbreaking initiatives the district is engaged in. Also, as a board member, I will information share by being available to speak at PTA meetings, with community groups and as requested with the press. "

Why should voters elect you and not one of your opponents?

"Having my own children enrolled in the school district makes me personally invested in the district’s success. As both a classroom volunteer and as a substitute teacher I have met many other wonderful CRCSD students. I will strongly advocate for an environment that best enables their student achievement as well. As a substitute teacher in the district I have learned what is successful and what needs to be adjusted for both students and staff to benefit. I will always advocate for teachers and students. I have been endorsed by the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), Cedar Rapids Education Association (CREA) and the Cedar Rapids Organization of Teacher’s Assistants (CROTA). I will work with local businesses and the Hawkeye Area Labor Council (HALC) to help graduate students that are job ready, not just college ready. We have to provide more options for our students. I have been endorsed by the HALC. As a dedicated community volunteer I have learned where areas of cross collaboration can exist to bring value both to the district and to the community. I will work to make these collaborations successful where they support the current district vision. Finally I will fight to keep public money public. I will not support education privatization efforts. "

How will you communicate with constituents and board members? What should the district do to communicate with those who don't have kids in the district?

I will use email and phone to respond to constituent inquiries and ideas. I will work and communicate with board members in a collaborative effort to promote visioning that encourages student achievement. By continuing to invite community stakeholders to participate in group work the district can maintain communication with those who do not have students in the district.By being available to speak at gatherings we can also maintain our relationship with the community at large.

How should the district handle long term facility needs? What process do you envision supporting?

The district should handle long term facility needs by considering all stakeholder concerns including fiscal responsibilities involved in both retro-fitting older facilities and those of building new structures. I support the districts commitment to including all stakeholders involved in this issue by gathering data on options for long term facility needs. Families, staff, and community members have been participating in data gathering initiatives. I trust Cedar Rapidians to support the facilities option that places student academic achievement first. When we do not provide the best environment possible for students to achieve we fail them as teachers, administrators and community members.

Keith J. Westercamp
 

District: Cedar Rapids

Age: 70

Educational Background: B.S. degree from Iowa State University, M.B.A. degree with an emphasis in finance from the University of Iowa and extensive post M.B.A course work in Commercial Real Estate Valuation with an MAI designation. Taught as an adjunct professor in the College of Business at the University of Iowa.

Occupation: Commercial Real Estate Appraiser, Licensed Realtor

Questions

Do you have any children enrolled in the school district for the board seat you are seeking?

All four of our children attended K-12 at Cedar Rapids Schools. Two grand children attend Pierce Elementary.

Have you held any prior elected offices? If yes, please list them.

Yes , I am a member of the Cedar Rapids Community School Board and held the the offices of vice president and president, the district director of Iowa Association of School Boards (ISAB), finance chair of ISAB, and chair of ISAB ISJIT which manages millions of dollars of investment funds, several offices in the Appraisal Institute of Iowa including president, and regional representative of the Appraisal Institute. I volunteer for all of the previously listed offices.

What other volunteer or community involvement should voters know about? Please explain below.

I was room dad at elementary school (12 years), band equipment committee chairperson for ten years, served on building an enrollment study for school district, provide yearly financial support for Reading Is Fun ( approx. $6,000.00 yearly), currently volunteer at grandchildren's school. Volunteer and member of St. Mark's Lutheran Church and church café manager, life member of the University of Iowa Alumni and member of Old Capitol Club, Iowa State University Alumni Life Member and volunteer, Real Estate Advisory Board for University of Northern Iowa College of Business, served on the Chamber Trails Committee, and Chamber of Commerce Waste Management Committee. I have participated in educational lobbying days at the state level and national level. I have been a guest speaker at civic groups and schools about educational issues. I believe that excellent public schools are the cornerstone of a community.

Are there any issues, personal or professional, in which you have a conflict and may not be able to vote? If yes, please explain.

If there is a conflict I will follow Iowa Code and abstain from voting.

Why are you running for school board?

I want to be a part of Cedar Rapids Community School District's educational excellence today and tomorrow.

What are the three largest issues facing the district? What will you do to address them?

I want a quality education for all students in the district so that we can increase the graduation rate. We need to stay ahead of the curve for technology, which I have been stressing for several years. The availability of computers need to be increased in the district for students and staff. This includes software and hardware. We face a budget crisis with lack of funding for items such as mental health intervention, behavioral issues with students, and providing alternatives for students who are not achieving. Money spent for an excellent education for students is a life-long benefit for the community. This can create life long learners which is need in our world today.

If you're forced to cut the school district's budget, where do you look for savings? What would your funding priorities be? Please explain your answer.

Consolidate administrative duties such as shared principals. We need to look at how to cut energy cost through the district and at the same time be more environmental friendly. We must maintain outstanding achievement in the classroom by having an appropriate student staff ratio. Adequate technology support and educational materials in the classrooms are a necessity.

What are the district's strengths? What will you do to support them?

The community support for our district has been outstanding. Examples are the programs sponsored by Zach Johnson and the grants we have received from outside sources. I will encourage the work we have done with other educational districts to advance learning. I will continue to have outstanding attendance at board meetings and events. I will be a voice for the community.

What areas can the school district improve or change? What will you do to help lead that improvement or change?

Technology is an area that needs to be improved. We need to work with the city and county on hot spots. We need to partner with Kirkwood Community College and other colleges and other surrounding school districts to offer and deliver educational programs. Examples are automotive classes that are too expensive to offer at each building. What I have done and will continue to do is support and advocate for programs in the trades and academic world, like the Big Program. These program connect students with education and invigorate students about learning. We have to keep our classrooms evolving to compete on a local, state, national, and international basis.

Why should voters elect you and not one of your opponents?

I have proven leadership, dedication, knowledge, and skills that are required to be today's school board member.

How will you communicate with constituents and board members? What should the district do to communicate with those who don't have kids in the district?

I want to add community input at the school board meetings with focus groups, staff presentations highlighting what is happening at the classroom level, and better boardmanship training ( for example information about open meeting laws), at the meetings. We need to try to be available for community groups as speakers or resources people. We need to always try to be as transparent as possible about district issues. Even though you don't have students in the district we must realize that all members of the community are an important part of the school district's success. We should conduct opinion polls on the district website and other social media to rate community satisfaction and gain new ideas from the community.

How should the district handle long term facility needs? What process do you envision supporting?

We need to involve the community more in this important issue and have people that have experience in development projects. We need to have opinion polls that represent the entire community. We need to consider how instruction will change and building needs will change with online instruction. We need to incorporate some of the Lighthouse work about school leadership. The Lighthouse Study shows that well educated and experienced board members have a major impact on the overall success of a school district. We need to look at each issue separately and have pilot projects before we move forward on major projects. Everyone needs to get all the facts, information, opinions and keep an open mind to make an informed decision.

Theodore Collins
 

District: Cedar Rapids

Age: 18

Educational Background: High School Diploma; current Kirkwood student working on getting a Para-educator certificate

Occupation: Student; Program Specialist for the ScoutReach program of the Hakweye Area Council

Questions

Do you have any children enrolled in the school district for the board seat you are seeking?

No

Have you held any prior elected offices? If yes, please list them.

No

What other volunteer or community involvement should voters know about? Please explain below.

Assistant Scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 33, involved with the Show Choirs at Kennedy High School.

Are there any issues, personal or professional, in which you have a conflict and may not be able to vote? If yes, please explain.

No

Why are you running for school board?

I running for the school board because many of the members of the board has been on it since the 1990's and I feel it time for a change in pace and to put someone new on the board that will bring new ideas to table to help to better our district, especially with ideas on redoing our elementary schools, the master facilities plans and our keeping families in the Cedar Rapids public schools. Finally, there a lot of mistrust between school officials and students, mainly in the middle and high schools were policies are being made that limits students rights and students do not have a voice in policy making process. With me on the board, I would listen to each side of the argument and listen to both students, teachers, parents and community leaders in making sure that everyone voice is being heard.

What are the three largest issues facing the district? What will you do to address them?

I feel the three biggest issues right now is funding, the elementary schools plan and . Right now, the district sill owns multiple different building and properties that the district shut down years ago.Therefore, the district is still sending money into those buildings. I would bring up this issue with the board and to try to sell or lease the properties so the district can use the to help pay for projects or other needs of the district. When it comes to the elementary closing plan, I do believe it something we need to look at deeper because attendance numbers do shows the district hasn't reach it peak since the 1970s. However, the board needs to be careful about how to closed the schools and what the district will do with the buildings afterwards. Otherwise, the building will just sit there, empty wasting up more property dollars and not adding any value to the city. In my option, the buildings could be used for apartments, homeless shelters or business office space. the playgrounds could be turn in local parks. Lastly, student support needs to be a issue with the school officials because the main goal of schools is to teach students and help them to be great citizens when they leave high school. I could help the board and school officials by giving them my feedback and experiences in the school system. Also, I would sit down with students and teachers to come up with ways to help with student support.

If you're forced to cut the school district's budget, where do you look for savings? What would your funding priorities be? Please explain your answer.

I would look to see if the transportation department can make routes more efficient and at the different programs, like world language, auto and family/lifestyle classes and see what can be done differently to reduce cost while providing the same educational program as before. For example, is it necessary to buy new books, is it cheaper to to get online versions only, or one class set of physical books. Priorities would be to support the arts and sports as well of STEM-base classes because the arts and sports bring in money to help support their programs and to help out in other areas of the building. Also, STEM careers are the fasting growing field right now, therefore, the district should be putting money into areas where their is large job market so that students can fell prepared in their next steps after high school.

What are the district's strengths? What will you do to support them?

The district is very good at finding programs and creating deals with students in mind. Examples would be the Johnson STEM and Kenwood Leadership Roosevelt Create Corridor Business Academies also know as magnet schools for K-8 grade, the eight graders in high school, Iowa BIG, Student Built House, and high school students at Kirkwood. I will support these programs because it gives students and parents options on either to have traditional classes/buildings, or specialty classes to meet their needs or careers. I will make it my mission to visit each site and work with the other members of the board and budget office to make there theses programs are well funding.

What areas can the school district improve or change? What will you do to help lead that improvement or change?

Cedar Rapids Community School District is failing because students isn't the main focus, money is. I fell the reason for this is because of the lack of funding the state and federal governments over the past several years. Therefore, this cause larger classes sizes and programs and teachers having to be cut. Although this can't be stop, the district needs to make decisions that are student focus. Therefore, one action I will work with district officials is to have a polling of students, parents, teachers and community members on why they would like to see funding and what can be cut. This polling could then help the budget communities and the board to craft and vote on budget plans that the community wants.

Why should voters elect you and not one of your opponents?

I know I'm just out of high school and haven't earned a degree in education. However, over the past four summers I've work at Howard H. Cherry Scout Reservation, a summer camp just outside of Central City Iowa. Over the past several years I have been in many different positions but I have learn a lot about teaching 2nd-6th grade students. I'm also an Eagle Scout will Troop 33 in Cedar Rapids and I have learn a lot about leadership and working with community leaders in order to accomplish goals. Final, I have a drive and a passion to listen to people and get to know them on a personal level.

How will you communicate with constituents and board members? What should the district do to communicate with those who don't have kids in the district?

I would seat down with constituents either over lunch and take their feedback and do follow ups with them making sure there feedback wasn't lost. I would work with the board members with a mindset that we here for the students and even if I don't agree with an policy but it to help the students, I would support the members of the board that did vote yes and help in the transition process for the policy.

How should the district handle long term facility needs? What process do you envision supporting?

I think its necessary for the district to be looking at the long term needs of if facilities. The district owns building, that were built in the 20's, 30's and 50's and 60's and these building needs to updating. As to the master plan, I would like to see more buildings become more ADA accessible and more energy efficient.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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