116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Oct. 22, 2021 9:36 am
Geralyn Jones, Kara Larson, Cara Lausen, Matt Rollinger, Melissa Walker and Rachel Wall are running for three at-large seats on the Linn-Mar Community School District Board. ► Get to know the other school board candidates
Name: Geralyn Jones
Office sought: Linn-Mar Community School Board at-large
Age: 30 (born Aug. 15, 1991)
Occupation: Full-time wife, mother and volunteer
Campaign website: facebook.com/gjonesforlm
Have you held office before? If so, what office did you hold? In due time.
Personal bio: First, I am a wife and a mother grounded in faith. My husband is a lineman and together we have two kiddos that are just entering Linn-Mar. This fall I was able to participate in my first, but not last, women’s group with plans to serve. I have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism business management from Purdue University. With experience throughout the hospitality industry to the management and business owner experience I established in retail, I developed a true passion for public service. Growing up, volunteering was displayed throughout my family. My father and several uncles were volunteer firefighters and EMTs. My mother and several aunts were also volunteer EMTs and expanded efforts through the fire and rescue women’s auxiliary team. Starting at a young age, I was always involved in volunteer opportunities, I especially remember when my family organized our local annual festival. Getting involved, giving back, and serving the community is and always has been my drive.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
Sitting on the school board would be so rewarding and in my opinion one of the most overlooked ways to serve your child’s school. Whether you are a new parent just entering the school district or a seasoned parent going through your final year, MOST, if not ALL, parents want to be involved in their child’s school some how. Oftentimes, this looks like the various volunteer opportunities available at school, chaperoning, or PTO involvement. All of which are super important and crucial to the betterment of building a community! It’s also imperative to have a diverse board that represents the many individuals that are throughout our community.
I am seeking a seat on this board because I was one of those parents who got involved right away when policy was established without any surveying of the parents, teachers, students and/or community involvement. I am seeking a seat on this board because back in March, I attended my first board meeting, I was the only parent in the four chairs allotted for public audience. After getting involved in all the meetings since then and sharing what I learned to our parents in the community, our last school board meeting generated a turn out where it only saw standing room available. I am seeking a seat on the board because parent involvement most certainly should be considered when establishing policy over children and families who come from all walks of life.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
Being a new parent here at Linn-Mar, I have only ever experienced “COVID Linn-Mar.” That being said, everything I have come to know about what we have to offer, especially during a pandemic, is wonderful, and I’m even more excited to be apart of what Linn-Mar represents post-pandemic. You can absolutely tell that among our teachers, they are faced with recent challenges and they are choosing over and over again to put our children, their students, above themselves. As a mom, I am forever grateful for this level of selflessness. Teachers are remarkable individuals and I credit them immensely. As someone who studied elementary education for two years in college, it takes a special individual for this calling. You can tell our students make the most out of every day, whether that’s showing up for class, navigating the virtual challenges or quickly adapting to the changes — this says so much about how resilient our pupils are. As for overall statistical performance in comparison to 2020-2021, we added two beautiful new buildings to our district that are operating very well. However, staffing and volunteering needs significant improvement, employee count has decreased, our elementary enrollments have decreased, our volunteer hours decreased from 22,871 to 5,430, in direct reflection of the volunteers a decrease of 1826 to 181. As an area of improvement, surveying our teachers, staff and on some level the students/parents to bring positive change and community back into our schools.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
The three largest issues I would like to focus on are parent/teacher involvement, transparency and overall accountability/discipline. Addressing these topics has already been a drive of not only myself but other parents as well over the last year. Communication and transparency is a major concern for many parents and more are becoming more vocal about this. By communicating my concerns as a parent thus far, we are lacking parent and teacher involvement on decisions that are being made across the district. We are not experiencing any form of transparency when it come to the data that’s surrounds any decisions or policy being established. Which brings me to accountability and discipline, this last year we have seen first hand the blame game surface in how our school district and board determines policy, protocol, requirements, and recommendations. We need to elect board members that take ownership of their actions and realized that in order to grow forward in a positive influence that we need to be accountable for our actions and display this by leading by example.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
Local control from our school board level should focus on establishing a welcoming and safety learning environment for our children, teachers, staff and guests. This philosophy should apply to when our children walk through the front doors of their school they are welcomed, recognized and have a sense of security and eagerness to learn. That they have all the materials to have a successful learning experience throughout their entire day. That our facilities are substantial when it pertains to the ventilation, air quality, sanitation, and food/beverage. Rather than focusing on individual mitigation measures, we should be asking ourselves what we can do on a board level to impact the district as a whole. How can we ensure we have these measures in place to tackle not only what is affecting us today but how we can prepare for what may affect us in the future. Adding outside pressure on our students such as implementing inconsistent medical practices and/or other outside concerns, all cause disruption in the learning environment for our students.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
First, I will acknowledge their concern. If this concern is something I am able to respond to, then I will give it attention. If this is something I am unable to obtain an answer for, I will direct them to who can better serve them. I have always been one who feels communication is imperative, therefore, establishing that open line of communication and pulling in the community, whether to inform or obtain insight, will not be an issue for me. All members of the district and community can expect me to be their voice and represent them to the best of my ability. Parents, teachers, administrators and students ALL have a voice, and should any come to with a concern, you will receive the appropriate acknowledgment. I vow to always listen first and be on the grounds of our schools throughout our day to day, volunteering at the schools or meeting with parents, teachers, etc., throughout the community for the betterment of our schools and community. I am hopeful that we can re-establish that camaraderie we had here at Linn-Mar. It’s time we grow forward as a community!
Should school districts be allowed to enact a mask requirement for students during the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, what type of masking requirement would you want to see in place?
No. Health care mandates are not the solution given the diversity that is represented in our schools or students specifically mentioned in the question but also for teachers, staff, and other admin. This is and always should be PERSONAL CHOICE. We have to get creative and do what is best for our community. This requires for us to have “out of the box” thinkers who are not afraid to get parents involved and come to an agreement on ways to accommodate all individuals based on their individual needs. By surveying the parents, we would be able to home in on these accommodations and determine the viability. Imagine if we started the year this way, a school district willing to survey the parents and come to a consensus on how to proceed. We could have set the tone as leaders, but instead, we chose to follow. To clarify, by surveying the parents, teachers, etc., allowing them to weigh in on those “gray areas,” would have allowed us to home in on what Linn-Mar’s needs are. As I have stated before, no two individuals are the same. Blanket solutions among a diverse group of individuals has shown to only cause hatred and division among teachers, staff, and parents. How is this serving our children? How is this creating a welcoming and safe learning environment among our schools? How is this building community?
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
I feel this question is not about cutting the districts budget but evaluating what areas are displaying growth and those areas that are no longer serving us and putting our efforts in accordingly. I would revisit the topic of early separation that was recently discussed. I feel that in particular, given the time and reason for early separation are all factors that should have played into this decision which lacked emphasis. We owe our seasoned and experienced teachers this and it breaks my heart we could not have evaluated this more in depth. I am already looking into this for future conversations. I will share that this is worth fighting for and the reason transparency is crucial for a topic such as this. Furthermore, I am limited on what I have access to when it pertains got the school budgets at this time. That being said, my course of action following obtaining a seat on the board would be to sit down with our financial officer and go over the budget in a more in-depth evaluation.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
As of right now, I have only experienced the curriculum through first grade. So far, the school has been responsive to the reading assistance my child needed at the beginning of the year. The benchmark scores at the beginning of the year determine a great starting point and then the future evaluations showcase growth and effectiveness. I feel this was handled wonderfully and we will see how this extra reading help progresses. I am learning about Linn-Mar each and every day, as I mentioned above, I have only been able to see my child’s classroom one time. As a parent and future board member, my eagerness to learn all I can about Linn-Mar is worth mentioning. My first course of action would be to walk the halls of our buildings. My efforts in walking the halls will be to see the facilities, and speak with teachers, staff and students. I want to figure out our strengths and weaknesses so that I can determine how I can best serve our district. In my opinion, in order to have a successful start on the school board, it is important for me to learn all that Linn-Mar has to offer and compliment that with my previous experiences. Think onboarding, if you will.