116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Kerri Davenport, candidate for Cedar Rapids Community School Board director at-large
Oct. 13, 2021 11:19 am, Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 8:36 pm
Kerri Davenport, Bridgette Williams Robinson, Carrie Davies and Marcy Roundtree are running for an at-large director seat on the Cedar Rapids Community School Board. ► Get to know the other candidates
Name: Kerri Davenport
Office sought: Cedar Rapids Community School Board director at-large
Age: 53 (born July 27, 1968)
Occupation: Marriage and family therapist for Covenant Family Solutions
Campaign website: kerrischoolboard.com
Have you held office before? I have not held office previously.
Personal bio: I have a B.S. degree in Elementary Education. I am a wife, mother of six, grandmother of six. Our family moved to Cedar Rapids over eighteen years ago and all of our children graduated from Washington High School. While our children were attending public schools, I volunteered hundreds of hours in our children's' classrooms, in the Instructional Media Center at Wash, and with Wash's marching and concert bands. My husband and I have been serving as group leaders for our church's addiction recovery program for the past three years, and I have served in various teaching and leading positions in church congregations for over three decades. My soul is thrilled to be part of any person's growth and development. That is why I recently finished a master's program in Marriage and Family Therapy and currently work part-time as a Marriage and Family therapist.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
I have chosen to run for a seat on the school board to pay goodness forward, as our children were beneficiaries through their participation in schools in the CRCSD. I also hope to help persuade others to continue an educational focus on each individual student, rather than on groups with whom individuals may identify. I hope to persuade other school board members and the CRCSD administration about the need to encourage and include parental voices in policymaking and reassure parents that their voices are heard and matter a great deal in policymaking decisions. In order to successfully build a child's character to each student's potential, parents, school board members, district administrators, and teachers should collaborate on teaching methods and curriculum. As a woman with an extensive background and deep interest in child and adult psychology and development, I believe my voice and efforts can help bridge the gap I perceive between schools and families of students in the school district. I have a passion for building strong and supportive families and marriages. I believe that the most important "school room" in a person's life is the home in which they are raised. The school district and board ought to regard parents as the ultimate authority in their children's lives. The policymaking process needs to more fully reflect that reality.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
The CRCSD has generally done a good job navigating the needs of students and families throughout this unprecedented and difficult pandemic. The district is blessed with enthusiastic, well-meaning, and caring leadership. The district administrators have worked very diligently to address concerns of students regarding school resource officers in their schools.
Communication opportunities between the school board and the public need to be improved. Open meetings and discussions between members of the public and school board members should be more accessible and improved. Parents need to have more opportunities to voice their concerns and ideas in regards to creating policy in their schools and district.
The district administrators have worked metrics that demonstrate interactions with school resource officers which place students in groups rather than focusing on an individual in need of further direction and instruction. This practice has helped to exacerbate discord and enmity between groups. The focus of education should be on each individual student and not on how situations/things may appear to or from a group perspective.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
I have witnessed a tendency of the CRCSD administrative team to take the power that, by Iowa law, belongs to local school board. As a member of the public who has followed the school board rather closely for the past several months, little discussion has been offered in the presence of the public regarding school resource officers, mask mandates, budget matters, or any other matter involving school district policy. The three biggest issues facing the school district currently are utilizing the school board correctly as the governing body for the district, the utility of school resource officers (SROs), and the responsiveness and communication between the school district and parents of district students regarding mandating masks and other matters. Parents are the ultimate caretakers and stewards for the children given them to care for, raise, and teach. The parents' voices need to be articulated, heard, and regarded most when policy is considered. The school board should discuss further ways to hear parents' voices, and then listen, so all parents have opportunity to communicate their concerns and ideas. Policy should then be based on a collaboration of parents', staff, administrators', and school board members' input about their perceptions of students' needs.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
The school board should be the governing body of the school district. Ideally, the board should hold open discussion between members of the board in public. The public should have the opportunity to speak and be heard before and in the midst of policy discussion. This effort could look similar to our school board's current agenda but include another public input space and time utilizing a spokesperson to verbalize the different concerns at hand to the board.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
The school board policy at this time seems to severely limit communication between school board members, and parents, students, and staff. This restriction appears to be connected to the school board president being the spokesperson for the board. The school board should revisit that practice and discuss changing policy to allow a school board spokesperson to respond to written (between school board meetings) and verbal (during school board meetings) communication with opportunity for input from each school board member. Parents should be able to expect a written or verbal response from the spokesperson of the school board in a timely manner. If elected, I will communicate this vision to other school board members and foster a discussion to change current policy in order to be more responsive to parents, students, and staff.
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?
School districts should be not be allowed to enact a mask requirement for students during the COVID-19 pandemic unilaterally. Only after vigorous discussion between school board members (in full view of the public) and after hearing parents' concerns about wearing and not wearing masks should policy be made regarding the wearing of masks. Masks should not be forced on all children and neither should vaccines that have not been tested for ramifications on children's' growth. There are many parents who are fearful about their children being forced to wear masks and there are many parents who are fearful about all children not being forced to wear masks. Viewing the "other side" through a suspicious lens only widens the gulf of trustworthiness. Most parents are passionate about their children's well-being and parents are the people who need to make choices best for their own children. The mask issue is a messy one and there may not be a "one size fits all" policy that will work for all parents and students. But the school board needs to hear parents' concerns and needs, and allow input throughout the decision-making process.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
There are two areas I would look to trim the school district budget: administration and money going to outside (the district) groups. More tax money (school district money) should be used to pay teachers while trimming the number of positions in administration in the district. Money contracted to outside groups should be accounted for on a quarterly basis so the school board can know that the families of Cedar Rapids are getting the most "bang for their buck." Questions such as: how many students are benefiting from this program, and how much are students benefiting from a certain program, should be asked and answered at least four times every year.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
Parents should have the most say in what our children are learning in school. One bright spot from the pandemic is that parents at home were able to hear and be more involved in what their child was learning through online schooling and could become more familiar with the curriculum. The district should make curriculum and standards to be met for grade advancement widely and frequently available to parents for perusal and through question and answer sessions with teachers and administrators. There are topics such as sexual development and health where there is a variety of values which exist among teachers and families. Parents should know what is planned to be taught and have the opportunity to opt their children out of potentially objectionable instruction. Communication can occur wholesale between groups of teachers and multiple families or be between one teacher and affected families in one classroom.