116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Oct. 13, 2021 6:57 pm
Jayne Finch, Krista Burrus, J.P. Claussen, Ruthina Malone and Sheila Pinter are running for three seats on the Iowa City Community School District board. The Gazette did not receive responses from Claussen and Pinter. ► Get to know the other candidates
Name: Jayne Finch
Office sought: Iowa City Community School District board member
Age: 50 (born Nov. 9, 1970)
Occupation: Physician assistant in otolaryngology at Veterans Affairs
Campaign website: jaynefinchforschoolboard.com
Have you held office before? No
Personal bio: I am a native Iowan and UI alumnus, having graduated with a BS in Exercise Science (now Health & Human Physiology) and a MPAS from Iowa’s Physician Assistant Program. I have worked as a physician assistant for 26 years, much of that time in the field of Hematology/Oncology, both at the VA and in private practice. Six years ago I decided to make a change and left Oncology for a position in Otolaryngology at the VA where I continue to work today. My husband and I live in Coralville with our two sons who both attend West High School.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
I am seeking a seat on the ICCSD board of directors because it is the natural next step in my work advocating for equity and improving the learning experience for all of our 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. I first got involved at the district level around four years ago to shift the district’s discipline practices toward a more growth-minded/restorative approach. To this end, I joined the District’s Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) and trained to become a Restorative Justice Circle Facilitator. During my tenure on the committee, I also served on the development team for the Care Assessment Program as well as the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC). Through my involvement with these endeavors, I built relationships with parents, teachers and administrators, and worked effectively with district administration to effect new policies. Many of the changes for which I have been advocating were included in the District’s Social-Emotional-Behavioral Health & Rethinking School Discipline document which was unveiled in July. I am running, in part, to see these changes through and assure they are carried out with fidelity.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
This district is fortunate to have a very strong tradition in public education. Our students have tremendous opportunities, both academically and in extracurricular activities such as athletics and music to name a few. This is all possible because of the support of our dedicated staff and phenomenal community. The problem that remains is equity and access, and we need to strive for continued improvement in this area and nurture every child’s achievement.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
Achievement/opportunity gap: Obviously, the achievement gap is a huge concern and it has only been made worse by pandemic-related learning loss which disproportionately affected our most vulnerable. We need to narrow the gap, but I would go one step further and say that it’s not enough to move the bottom up, we need to elevate all of our students to their highest potential across the board. We definitely don’t want to close the gap by bringing the top down. My number one priority is maintaining quality instruction in the classroom.
Mental health: This was an important issue prior to the pandemic and the past year and a half has only exacerbated it. I would like to see more social-emotional learning and access to mental health support with wider availability of counselors and programs. For example, at City High there is a "NESTT" room, where students experiencing anxiety can go to decompress or meet with an adult for support. I would like to see this and programs like it replicated in the other schools.
Budget: With our highly qualified and dedicated staff, our biggest challenge with the budget issues that loom on the horizon is how to retain them. My top priority is maintaining high quality instruction in the classroom.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
In order for the board to be responsive to the concerns of parents, students, and staff, it is vital to have a large degree of local control.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
Mine is a grassroots campaign that involves stakeholders from all corners of the district, all backgrounds and walks of life. I do not represent any single special interest group or geographic area. I am running to advocate for ALL students. That being said, I will listen with an open and fair mind to understand and, when possible, take action to effect positive change. I am the type of person who likes to get things done.
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?
Yes. I support masking policies in alignment with the CDC and AAP. I think the current policy in place at ICCSD is appropriate.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
This is an important discussion that needs to happen and the Board needs to understand where every penny goes and why. I would first look to the administration for their recommendations as they are the experts. Secondly, an important resource that is often overlooked is input from the building staff. The employees on the front lines often have insight from which creative solutions can arise. I would not be in favor of cutting anything that would affect the quality of or access to instruction in the classroom.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
First, we should resist the temptation to water down the curriculum as we navigate our way through this pandemic. Our students are resilient and will meet any challenges they are presented. Secondly, the curriculum discussion should be expanded to include programs for students who are not college bound. We need instruction in place to enable these students to enter into a well paying career or apprenticeship when they graduate. Kirkwood’s college level courses are a valuable resource, but they have prerequisites, expenses and need for transportation. Our district has a curriculum review process and they rightly prioritized the review of the social studies curriculum following last summer’s racial justice movement.