116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Six candidates are running for four seats in the Iowa City school board in the Nov. 2 election.
The four make up the majority of the seats on the seven-member board, which serves about 14,900 students in the district. Board positions are four-year unpaid terms.
Incumbents Ruthina Malone and J.P. Claussen are running for second terms. Other candidates vying for the seats are Krista Burrus, Jayne Finch and Sheila Pinter. Pinter did not provide responses to The Gazette for this article.
Only one candidate — Maka Pilcher-Hayek — is running for a seat that will serve for two years. The seat previously was held by Dromi Etsey, who was appointed in 2020 after elected member Paul Roesler resigned to teach.
These are what the candidates say are their priorities:
Burrus, an educational researcher at ACT, says she is running to be an advocate for equity in education. As a parent of two who attend Iowa City schools, Burrus said she has a “vested interest” in the success of the district.
Burrus’ priorities are increasing student achievement, upholding the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, programs that support social-emotional learning and identifying college or career pathways.
She wants to allocate resources to improve learner outcomes and increase the number of students on track for college and career readiness. Part of this is increasing supports for students to help them identify their passions.
Burrus also wants to see an investment in social-emotional learning “to ensure our students leave (the district) well-rounded, life-ready individuals,” she said.
“As resources are finite, it is imperative that we advocate for the allocation of funds in ways that maximize the impact on student outcomes,” Burrus said.
Claussen, an incumbent, wants to continue to make progress on the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, facilities master plan and be an advocate for teachers and staff.
“We had teachers on every return-to-learn committee and worked to ensure they had the resources and training they needed to step into a whole new way of doing their jobs this year,” said Claussen, an educator in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics inpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit.
“Before this crisis, we also had shown concrete evidence of how much we value teachers by adopting the contract elements that were formerly part of collective bargaining into board policy so that any changes will have to be approved by a board majority.,” he said.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan will “ensure all students benefit” from opportunities in the district, Claussen said.
Claussen is also an advocate for the district’s Portrait of a Graduate work, which represents what skills, character traits and social-emotional competencies students should have by graduation to succeed in college, a career and life.
The competencies are adaptability, communication, critical thinking and empathy, be global citizens and have a learner’s mindset.
Finch said she wants to see the district work to decrease the opportunity gap for students, prioritize mental health and advocate for equity.
Finch, a physician assistant at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said the opportunity gap is a “huge concern” made worse by the pandemic. Finch wants to close this gap by elevating “all students to their highest potential.”
More mental health support is needed in Iowa City schools, Finch said. She would like to see an increased focus on social-emotional learning and more availability of school counselors to students.
"My focus is on the whole child and maintaining high quality instruction in the classroom, improving school climate and culture, incorporating more social-emotional learning into the curriculum, and increasing mental health support,“ Finch said.
Malone, an incumbent, is prioritizing hiring and retaining teachers and staff, the facility master plan and the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion work that was begun last year.
The district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan will help improve educational opportunities for all students and hire and retain teachers and teachers of color, Malone said. She wants to continue to explore more ways to address opportunity gaps between students.
Malone, an administrator in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the district could face difficult decisions after federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds — given to school districts to help offset the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic — run out.
“I am proud of the work we have done as a board over the last four years …” Malone said. “There still is work to do to ensure that every student in our district has the ability to achieve their greatest potential, and I hope that the community will entrust me with their support to serve one final term.”
Maka Pilcher Hayek
Pilcher-Hayek said she is committed to equity, seeing students succeed academically, improving student access to mental health supports and completing projects promised in the district’s facilities master plan.
Pilcher-Hayek, a lawyer with Hayek, Moreland, Smith & Bergus in Iowa City, is running to continue being an advocate for public education, she said.
“As Iowa struggles with a pandemic and political division, our community needs to vigorously support our children’s — and society’s — safety net: public education. Running for school board is the next step in my ongoing commitment to working and advocating for public education,” Pilcher-Hayek said.
Pilcher-Hayek wants to continue to implement measures to reduce class sizes and strategies that result in “meaningful participation in and compliance with” Individualized Education Plans, she said.
She is committed to the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan.
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