116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Oct. 20, 2021 1:27 pm, Updated: Oct. 21, 2021 9:14 am
Name: Jennifer Borcherding
Office sought: Cedar Rapids Community School Board director District 3 (incumbent)
Age: 48 (born Nov. 22, 1972)
Occupation: Cedar Rapids Community School District
Campaign website: borcherdingforcrschoolboard.com
Have you held office before? If so, what office did you hold? Yes. Director, District 3, Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education
Personal bio: My name is Jennifer Borcherding. I currently live in the Cedar Rapids Community School District with my husband, two sons and a very tiny dog. I have always pursued work, both professionally and personally, that benefits others. From lobbying against target marketing of alcohol and tobacco to minors, to developing and producing fundraising events that benefit individuals or organizations, providing assistance to others has been my focus. I enjoy employment as Director of Development at a health center that provides service to all regardless of ability to pay.
I am proud to pursue reelection with the recommendations and endorsements from the Iowa State Education Association, Cedar Rapids Education Association, Cedar Rapids Organization of Teacher Associates, Cedar Rapids Education Office Professional Association, Cedar Rapids Maintenance Employees Association, Hawkeye Labor Council AFL/CIo, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette Editorial Board.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
I have always been a willing volunteer. Children are some of the best people in the world. And educators are heroes. This is why I am drawn to running for re-election to the CRCSD Board of Education.
My experience serving on the CRCSD BOE for years, has made me adept at making data based decisions supported by public input, regardless of personal opinions. Leadership grounded in compassion and content knowledge, is a benefit to students, staff, and the community. Being a Director on the Iowa Association of School Boards also allows me to advocate for public education issues at the state level.
Additionally, having been a substitute paraeducator, a substitute teacher and currently having two children in the CRCSD gives me added perspective when promoting policy, procedures and regulations that best support our students, district and community. I am eager to continue contributing to the district with critical thinking skills and equitable oversight. I am looking forward to further supporting the superintendent, the students, the staff, and the community.
Finally, I am seeking reelection because there is a real opportunity for board development and growth. This is exciting! I can offer valuable perspective in this pursuit from my history with both the previous and the current board. There are excellent opportunities for the CRCSD board of directors to evolve in ways that better deliver on an atmosphere for a high achieving district.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
An exciting initiative of CRCSD is the High Reliability Schools framework. Being able to shift into a scale-up mode has been a stabilizing factor for staff and allows for enhanced ownership in defining district success. This initiative is excelling due to the leadership of Noreen Bush. Being one of the seven board members responsible for her as the Superintendent of Schools for CRCSD is one of the best things I have done professionally. Her servant’s heart leadership during a worldwide health pandemic and a natural disaster, has been a guiding factor in maintaining CRCSD. The entire state of Iowa agrees! Noreen Bush has been awarded State Superintendent of the Year!
As the High Reliability Schools framework becomes more integrated, and shared practice with common language becomes more established, the district is experiencing a new area of program audits. Now that CRCSD is able to effectively share processes we are also finding ourselves in the position of being able to provide evaluation of ongoing and new programs, both internal and external. An organized and systematic approach to evaluate programming, including the collection and inclusion of public voice should be, and traditionally has been, included in the process. Clear goal definition and reporting should be evaluated and discussed publicly at the board table. This is an area where the district could do better.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
The underfunding of public education by the State of Iowa is a problem. In the last legislative session, CRCSD identified 4.8% State Supplemental Aid (cost per pupil) break even. The entire state was allotted 2.5%.
Underfunding translated to difficulty providing wage increases. This was devastating.
In the same legislative session Educational Saving Accounts (vouchers) were strongly considered. Vouchers would funnel public tax dollars to support private schools.
Appropriate funding needs to be provided from the State for public schools. I will advocate for public schools through phone calls, meetings, emails and personal interactions. These actions are reflective of both staff and community input on the issues.
Paraeducators deserve more pay. Underfunding from the Federal government for Individuals with Disability in Education Act (IDEA) is a problem. IDEA was promised 60% funding at creation yet averages 12% to 13%. I will continue elevating the issue of promised IDEA funding. This will translate into higher paraeducator pay. My advocacy on this issue is reflective of a staff and public identified and discussed problem.
CRCSD is having difficulty in hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. From my seat at the Board table I will continue to support programs that assist diverse students in pursuing careers in education. I will also continue to support the work of our Equity Team. The focus on diversity, inclusivity and equity is reflective of public request.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
Local leaders are best positioned to make the best decisions benefiting their community. In what way could citizens of Kent, Iowa know more about Cedar Rapids than Cedar Rapids citizens do? Local citizens are elected to local boards as those best able to lead improvements at the local level. Removal of local control is disrespectful to the voters who elected their local officials. This is not how a democracy operates.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
CRCSD's Code of Ethics states that the Board President Speaks on behalf of the board. I do think the Board should have a unified voice on issues based on Board consensus. The President is best positioned to speak on behalf of the board based on having increased access to all board members and the Superintendent. This is how most organizational boards operate.
However, to be reflective of public desire, more flexibility for Board members to speak on behalf of themselves, not on behalf of the board, should be explored.
The current CRCSD Code of Ethics cites Iowa Code as Legal Reference supporting CRCSD's Board Code of Ethics. Yet, this is an issue worthy of further consideration while honoring Iowa law and Board policies and procedures. It is worth investigation to learn if there is a way for more complete conversations between individual board members and the public to occur. A review of the Board Code of Ethics and an agreement on what that can change while remaining legal would be part of this work.
Based on current policy I defer questions and their responses to the board President. I refuse to violate district policy by doing otherwise.
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?
COVID-19 is not a political issue. It is a public health issue.
I'd rather do too much to try to protect students, staff and the community than do too little. As a Board Member I support the Administrative action of requiring masking in our school buildings during school hours.
Research clearly shows that masks mitigate the risk of viral transfer. Since fifty percent of the CRCSD student population are ineligible for vaccination based on age, masking is an effective mitigating measure that protects all. Instead of viewing masking as inconvenient for an individual, wouldn't it be more helpful to view masking as a small but compassionate individual inconvenience that protects us all?
The superintendent of schools bases mitigation measure decisions on peer-reviewed scientific data in collaboration with the Linn County of Public Health and under the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I trust the Superintendent of Schools in using those sources to decide what masking effort will protect the most students and staff. Again, I'd rather support doing too much to protect than not doing enough.
The decision to provide life saving mitigation efforts is also reflective of considerable community requests. Operationally, reducing the number of staff absences due to illness and exposure, benefits not only staff but students. When healthy and supported staff are able to work, students are provided with much needed consistency.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
There is a delicate financial balance happening with many Iowa school districts. However, knowing that funding from the state and federal level could become inconsistent, I strongly encouraged CRCSD to initiate a Request For Proposal (RFP) process to be used to consider community partnership programming. In 2018 an RFP Community Partnership process was developed and adopted. In the RFP process are clearly identified partner goals that align with district mission and vision. The RFP process also identifies clear measures for program evaluation. If forced to cut something I would begin by reviewing data from the RFPs to see if there are partnerships that are not delivering on goals.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
Let’s start with some clarification. CRCSD does not teach Critical Race Theory. No school in Iowa does.
I am concerned the district does not offer enough Career and Technical Education (CTE) exploration through curriculum. However, the curriculum development is underway with deliberate care and focus! CRCSD has recognized the re-emergence of interest and need for CTE programming and curriculum. CRCSD CTE experts collaborate with other educational organizations and content experts to develop curriculum to support CTE programming. The curriculum is evolving in line with programming. The district is addressing the concern.