116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Jennifer Downes, Michelle Emmel and Matthew Johnson are running for the District 3 seat on the Clear Creek Amana Community School District Board. The Gazette has not yet received responses from Johnson. ► Get to know the other school board candidates
Name: Jennifer Downes
Office sought: Clear Creek Amana Community School Board District 3
Age: 43 (born Sept. 29, 1978)
Campaign website: facebook.com/Jennifer-Downes-for-CCA-School-Board-105112501946114
Have you held office before? If so, what office did you hold? No
Personal bio: I was born and raised in Northwest Iowa. I have lived in Johnson County since 1996, and have been a Clear Creek Amana district resident for 19 years. I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2000 with degrees in Communications/Sports, Health, and Recreation Studies. I have worked at the Iowa City Press-Citizen and Marriott International, ultimately leading to owning and operating my own business, Clear Creek Kitchen. My husband, Chris, is a 3rd generation CCA alum. We have three sons, Jack, Lincoln, and Flynn, attending CCA High School, CCA Middle School, and CCE. I have been volunteering and serving on committees in the district for almost 12 years, dedicating a lot of time and energy for the benefit of our students and educators. Some of my efforts worthy of mention are; CCE PTG Fundraising Chair, CCA Booster Club, Building and Facilities Committee member, Classroom Volunteer, YSF Volunteer, Youth Basketball Coach, and CCAHS Baseball Booster.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
I am running for school board because Clear Creek Amana needs fresh, focused leadership. Leadership free of divisiveness, special interest group influence, and political leanings. Our children need a strong advocate that uses critical thinking, common sense, and logic in making decisions for their education and overall safety. There has been a nationwide shift in our school boards to politicization, which is causing increased interruptions in our children's education.
Our family has deep roots in the district. My children are 4th generation CCA students. Their great grandfather and grandfather also served on the CCA School Board. I want to continue the lineage of leadership, while passing on the priorities and morals that have been instilled in our children for generations.
The CCA district has many upcoming, high-stakes decisions. I feel compelled to sensibly represent my district when working on these decisions. Choosing a superintendent is vital; a leader who will be invested, consistent, strong, and an advocate for parents. students, educators. Dealing with growth and reducing class size at CCA is critical. Restoring parental freedom is very important to me. Finally, thinking out of the box when addressing the urgency of staffing shortages.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
I think our district does a phenomenal job oﬀering a well-rounded education. Kids have an array of options to explore during their time at CCA. Our arts and athletic programs have outstanding participation. The addition of our Agriculture and FFA programs are a point of pride in our community. CCA has enthusiastic teachers who leave a positive impact on their pupils. We have excellent teacher retention, with many of our teachers being alumni. I would like to ensure that our athletic facilities and coaching staﬀ are keeping up with other 4A programs. It is extremely important that our Clippers stay active and we need to have adequate and appropriate amount of staﬀ based on our participation numbers. Our athletic facilities should be equally maintained and safe for all participants across the district.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
Growth: CCA has a vast geographic footprint. We need to focus on optimizing the growth and enhancements to each location. Expansion endeavors should include the input of all constituents and cities in our district.
Finding Leadership: With an interim superintendent, we need to focus on finding permanency in this position. We need a leader who will hold middle ground when advocating for students, parents, and educators. Our school board should also show superior leadership, we've had a lot of vacancies in these positions as we currently have two appointees as members of the board. It is important to seek out dedicated, strong leaders in these positions.
Addressing staff shortages: COVID has presented not only educational challenges for our district, but it has severely affected our workforces. We need to work diligently filling positions, especially in areas of transportation and food service.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
Since public education is an endeavor entered into by parents, students, community members, and educators, the school board should be a liaison between those entities. The board should draft strong written policy that reflects the needs of the district in regards to education and student safety. The schools should have a clear and concise curriculum which is communicated at length to parents.
The arm of the school/school board should not extend beyond district issues.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
As my children become more independent, I will be able to dedicate my time as a member of the board. I will be steadfast in my focus on true issues facing our district. I want to be a direct line from parents, educators, and students to the school board and administration. As a long time parent in the district, I know how important response is when your child has an issue at school, I want provide a foundation of trust that CCA families know that I am in their corner.
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?
Mask mandates should only be required at the district level if the infection rate is a threat to the health of the students and staff.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
If cuts are necessary, scrutinization of any positions that are not supportive of day to day operations of students or teachers should be considered.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
Our school system should be providing a quality, fact-based, objective approach to education. Our board members, educators, and curriculum should be free from political influence. It is the school’s responsibility to create a comfortable, inclusive environment for all children, free of favoritism or bias.
Our curriculum should not rob parents of the opportunity in raising their kids as they see fit. Critical Race Theory (CRT) should not be included in our curriculum as it is currently unlawful in the state of Iowa due to the passing of House File 802. Parents should address social issues at home, fostering an environment of empathy and understanding. Personal choice should be awarded to parents when it relates to religion, sexual education, gender identification, mask mandates, and vaccines. I believe strongly in personal choice for all parents in our district.
School/parent transparency is key, parents and educators need to establish trust, becoming teammates during the tenure of the student. When in conflict, parents, board members, and educators need to set superior examples in their actions. The adults in our community must be willing to set the standard we expect the children to follow.