Tough choices for Linn-Mar voters

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In a school district dealing with the challenges of rapid growth, voters face the challenge of filling three at-large Linn-Mar school board seats from a high-quality pool of candidates.

Our editorial board sat down with five of those candidates: Bob Anderson, Linn-Mar’s retired longtime high school vocal music instructor; Bob Gabel, a program manager at Rockwell Collins; Cara Lausen, an office manager at a Cedar Rapids startup business; John Sauer, a retired school superintendent, and Rachel Wall, a stay-at-home mom and volunteer in the district. A sixth candidate, Derek Jensen, declined our invitation.

All five candidates we met with support the $80 million bond issue also on the Sept. 12 ballot funding two new intermediate schools combining fifth and sixth-graders, upgrades to three aging elementary schools, Wilkins, Bowman Woods and Indian Creek, and a new elementary school. They each agreed the public should have ample chances to weigh in on the potential repurposing of one of the older elementary schools as a new elementary school goes online.

We found the candidates we interviewed to be highly knowledgeable on issues, engaged and enthusiastic about serving the Linn-Mar district. Toss an issue to the group, and a thoughtful, civil discussion would follow. Each candidates has clear strengths that would make them a positive addition to the school board.

“I think the people running for the board show great passion,” Gabel said during our session. We agree.

Unfortunately, we, like the voters, have to choose. We see Anderson, Lausen and Wall as the best picks.

Lausen got involved in the district when her child’s principal at Bowman Woods Elementary was part of dramatic, abrupt administrative shuffle. She started going to board meetings and eventually decided she couldn’t remain on the sidelines.

“I need to be on board so I don’t just have to sit here and listen to what other people are saying,” Lausen said. She subsequently joined the district’s diversity committee, where she worked for more inclusive district policies. She served on the facilities committee, which crafted the bond issue proposal.

Anderson was strongest when the subject turned to the need for greater transparency. We asked the candidates about the district’s previous closed-door superintendent search and wondered whether a future search might be more open.

Anderson agreed the last search left some members of the district community feeling left out of the process. He expressed support for, at the very least, disclosing the names of a small group of finalists to the public.

“I think it’s the process. It’s got to have some transparency,” Anderson said.

Wall impressed us with her strong commitment to support the district’s teachers in the wake of the state Legislature’s decision to gut collective bargaining rights for public employees. She contends uncertainty has raised anxiety.

“I think it’s really, really important that we as a district stand behind our teachers. They are the foundation of Linn-Mar,” Wall said.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

The Gazette editorial board invited the six Linn-Mar candidates to submit a guest essay. One candidate, Derek Jensen, declined.

Follow the links below to read what the candidates wrote:

Bob Anderson

Bob Gabel

Cara Lausen

John Sauer

Rachel Wall

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