116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Oct. 13, 2021 7:49 pm, Updated: Oct. 21, 2021 4:55 pm
Joshua Bates, Shaun Kukuzke and Lindsey Staebler are running for the at-large seat on the Clear Creek Amana Community School District board. The Gazette did not receive responses from Staebler. ► Get to know the other candidates
Name: Joshua Bates
Office sought: Clear Creek Amana Community School District board at-large
Age: 36 (born May 11, 1985)
Occupation: Senior software engineer at Collins Aerospace
Campaign website: facebook.com/groups/bates4cca
Have you held office before?
I have not held nor have I run for public office before. I’m not a politician, and I admit that campaigning for public office is a little outside my usual comfort zone. But I saw a need in our district for school board candidates that would be dedicated and willing to put in the work to further improve public education in our district — to continue the progress we have already made.
Personal bio: I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I then earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, SD. I am now a Senior Test Software Engineer working in the Environmental Effects Qualification and Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory at Collins Aerospace. My wife and I have a first-grader at North Bend Elementary and a younger daughter that we plan to enroll in the district as a student when she’s old enough. We have lived in the CCA district for almost 10 years.
I was a volunteer during the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign; I did some in-person canvassing, a lot of late-night texting, and was a precinct captain for the 2020 caucus. I have experience in my career as an instructor, a technical leader of small teams, and as a technical presenter.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
When our son was about to start kindergarten in the district, we had started to develop some relationships with folks in the district. They invited us to a school board meeting in June 2020, where I quickly realized there is work to be done in the district to foster inclusion, safety, and equity. Since then my wife and I have alternated attending meetings and sessions (both virtually and in-person) as the district grapples with racism, COVID, and transitions of growth. I decided as this election approached, this was a great opportunity where I could step up and help this district be a great place for all of our kids to grow up with an excellent, equitable, and safe public education.
I have a firm set of core principles, values, and convictions, but I am also continuously learning more and more about our district, and hearing from parents and students in the district, and I hope to bring the viewpoint of a parent of young children to the board as we grow, improve, and move forward.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
I believe a great many things are going well, including our student achievement scores, and the dedication of our amazing teachers and staff at CCA. Their perseverance and flexibility in the face of covid was incredible and we celebrate their hard work. Our special education program is sought after regionally, driving open enrollment as parents seek CCA admission for their children. On a personal note, our child has had caring teachers, engaged administrators, and excellent counselor support as he grows academically and socially. I feel confident sending my son to a CCA school. I want that great experience for every parent in the district.
Please read my response to the “three largest issues facing the school district” question for an answer to the second part of this question.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
The largest issues I see are: school staffing shortages, expanding student opportunities along with space, and continuing to improve our DEI&C in the district.
Our schools being short staffed has been a challenge for a while now, but after covid, the staffing shortfall has gotten even worse, and workload for teachers and staff has increased. This staffing shortage will need to be addressed as we work to build a new elementary school, expand the high school, and continue growing as a district. The school board and district administration need to support staff during a historically high period of attrition and burnout. We also need to hire additional high-quality staff by providing great pay, benefits/PTO, and an improved work environment.
We are a rapidly growing district, and with that comes a myriad of challenges. Not only do we need to expand physical space — as is planned with the new elementary school — but vocational, STEM, and arts opportunities during and outside the school day. Extracurriculars should be accessible to all students regardless of income, as many extracurricular activities come with various extra costs to the student.
With the growth of our district we have seen an increase in diversity, and with that, the continued need to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion not only with student and staff policy updates and our new position of director of DEI&C, but also with curricula oriented toward racial and social justice.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
Well, we certainly should have as much local control at the school board level as we had before the last state legislative session’s changes. We were operating just fine without the state meddling directly in our district’s policies, some of which changed policies literally overnight for our schools. That’s not the community-driven, democratically elected school board I’m used to.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
I will certainly have my contact information available to folks who live in the district and am willing to listen to their ideas, concerns, questions, and opinions. I will respond in kind. I tend to communicate directly and sincerely. During this campaign I have been holding listening sessions outdoors at several parks around the district. I have also recently toured most of the district’s schools as well and was able to meet with several staff and administrators to get more familiar with all parts of the district.
I plan on continuing outreach to staff, students, and parents, as I believe there is a lot to learn from many folks throughout the community, and one board member cannot know every concern, consideration, or impact that something may have on the district. We may sometimes agree to disagree, but all have experiences and expertise to contribute to the conversation.
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?
In order to be able to have ALL kids in school, and be able to keep school open and staffed, it is critical that universal mask wearing be implemented as a policy, just as we did last year.
This is for the health of our students, teachers, staff, and community at large.
Students have a right to a safe school.
Teachers and staff have a right to a safe workplace.
Disabled and immunocompromised students have a right to a safe school, “reasonable modifications” by the school, and “the most integrated setting possible,” under Title II of the ADA, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
This means the school has a legal obligation to implement this policy, regardless of parents’ feelings.
Once transmission rates are way down and vaccination rates are way up, this policy could be revisited.
When I toured the schools recently, I saw kids and teachers working hard and thriving in an in-school environment. But our district is also short-staffed, and having staff out sick will not help this. I would like us all to do what we can to help keep students and staff safely in school. Universal masking is but one part of how we can do that.
This policy is based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others. There are several peer-reviewed studies that show the effectiveness of mask requirements on the spread of covid.
This policy should be non-controversial. This can’t be a single-issue election — there’s so much else for us to work on as a district.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
In a lot of ways, making cuts to a growing school district’s budget can create a downward spiral in academic success as teachers’ and staffs’ salaries and benefits are either cut, or staffing itself is cut, or programming is reduced. All of these will lead to lower academic outcomes for students, and just a lower quality public educational experience for our children.
Of course we should always look for inefficiencies in the budget; but cuts should not increase class size or cut programming.
If we were looking at a budget shortfall, as a growing district, we should be looking to further sources of funding, both short- and long-term, to cover the shortfall. Recently we have received money via bonds, ESSER, and adjusting TIF — these are all potential options. The state of Iowa has a $1.24 billion budget surplus for FY2021, perhaps education would be a good use of some of that tax money.
Ultimately, we as a society at large should be funding our educational systems fully from pre-K through postsecondary, including day care, after-school, and vocational programs.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
We should continue to expand curricula pertaining to racial and social justice, LGBTQ studies, and multilingual education. Public education requires the teaching of history, which includes teaching students how slavery and racism have shaped, and continues to shape, our nation. More information becomes available as we continue to study history. Curricula should include real history, not history scrubbed and polished to ensure people in power stay comfortable. We should continue to keep our curriculum up to date with that newly acquired knowledge. The same goes for social and labor movements, queer studies, women’s studies, and anti-racist education.