116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Matt Rollinger, candidate for Linn-Mar Community School Board at-large
Oct. 20, 2021 6:05 pm, Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 9:41 am
Matt Rollinger, Geralyn Jones, Kara Larson, Cara Lausen, Melissa Walker and Rachel Wall are running for three at-large seats on the Linn-Mar Community School District Board. ► Get to know the other school board candidates
Name: Matt Rollinger
Office sought: Linn-Mar Community School Board at-large
Age: 43 (born Oct. 11, 1978)
Have you held office before? If so, what office did you hold? I have not held an elected office in the past.
Personal bio: I was raised in Northeast Iowa on a farm outside the small town of Bernard. I attended school in the Western Dubuque Community School District and graduated from Cascade High School. I later attended Kirkwood Community College and earned my associate degree in Mechanical Engineering. I worked in the engineering field for 15 years until I realized that my “hobby” of purchasing and rehabbing residential real estate was something I was more passionate about, so I decided to pursue that full time. I am now self-employed and the owner of a real estate investing company. I have a beautiful and talented wife, Ann, and two amazing children, Chase and Josey. I have resided in Cedar Rapids for 22 years and in the Linn-Mar District since 2008.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
Like many parents in the Linn-Mar School District, I feel that parents have been shut out from the important decisions being made that directly affect our children. We feel as though our voice has been stripped away from us. My family and I have personally asked many questions to the administration of the district and current school board only to receive either a seemingly automated reply that didn’t answer our questions, or no reply at all. One answer I did receive from a few members of administration was “You can always run for school board if you don’t like it.” So here I am. I seek to give parents of the district a voice back into the decisions the board makes.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
There is a reason that my family and I live where we live. A big part of that is the School District and all that it has to offer. It has an outstanding reputation in the special needs community which is near and dear to my heart as I have a child with special needs. The district continues to excel in academic areas as well as performing arts such as dance, band, choir, speech, and theater, as well as the sports programs. I also believe that the teachers in this district are truly amazing. In our case, our children have absolutely loved their teachers. They have continuously been easy to get a hold of to discuss any issues or concerns of ours and have always gone above and beyond to make our children’s education a top priority. I truly believe Linn-Mar has something to offer every student that enrolls.
As for what can be improved I feel that the district is beginning to lose its way on the core purpose of education. Reading, Writing and Math need to be the focus of both the board and the administration. It seems that there has been so much distraction as of late that these core academic areas are taking a “back seat” to ever changing protocols and demands from different groups that are simply taking away from what this district has historically done best: educate.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
The first issue is the lawsuit in which Linn-Mar is named as violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since this is a legal issue, the community doesn't have much information regarding it. To address this, we need to see what comes out of the courts; going forward as a board member it will be my duty to find out what led up to the lawsuit so that the policy or process that failed can be remedied. This issue could have long lasting effects to the district.
The second issue is that parents feel they do not have a voice. Parents of the district feel they have been abandoned by the district and are not being heard. We need to bring both sides to the table for honest discussion. Recently the board changed the policy so that 500 signatures are required to get an item added to the agenda. That is not a show of good faith that the district wants open and honest discussion. I continue to advocate for public Q&A at the board meetings. I would push for more community involvement in meeting discussions prior to votes being cast.
The third issue facing the district, as always, is the budget. It’s difficult to say how to remedy this as I am not a current board member and do not have the information needed to be able to really dig into the details of what is being spent and where. But I do believe that there is always room for improvement in everything. Fiscal responsibility is always paramount, but even more so right now that prices on everything seem to be rising.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
I believe school boards need to focus their control on the financial and programming needs of education. That’s it.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
Communication with school board members is essential. This lack of communication with the current board and administration is one of the largest drivers for me to seek a seat on this board. I have been an advocate for public Q&A during board meetings or separate Q&A sessions with board members to the public. We simply need to allow the parents, students and staff to be part of the discussions when decisions are being made. I also intend on being available for in person meetings, phone calls, and emails.
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?
My short answer, No. My reason is not because I am anti anything. If I were to be elected to this board I would be required to take an oath of office. That oath is my promise to those that elected me to adhere to and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Iowa. I do not believe that school board members have the legal authority to mandate any medical device, procedure, or practice medicine in any way without a license. I have asked repeatedly to the members of the board and to the Linn-Mar administration for clarification on where in Iowa code they receive their authority to do so. As of the date of this answer, they have not been able to provide me with that information.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
As someone that isn’t yet apprised of all the fine details of where exactly the district dollars are spent, that is a tough question to answer. However, I will say with certainty that the last place to look is at teacher and staff salaries. It is apparent from the board meeting a few days ago that the district is possibly facing some serious budget woes in the future. I look forward to looking at this from a different perspective and see what can really be done that will not affect the core education that our students deserve. Budget cuts are never easy, and it will never make everyone happy. As a family and a business owner there are times that tough decisions have to be made in the budget. School districts are not immune to it either. Prices on everything are rising. It’s possibly going to be a tough road ahead, but it won’t mean that our student's education will suffer.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
As of now, I have no issues with the curriculum. However, my only experience is with what my own children are using. I don’t currently have access to the curriculum for all grade levels. This is concerning to me, and I believe it should be for all parents. As a board member it would be my duty to familiarize myself with the curriculum being used throughout the district. I would also take all parental concerns of curriculum seriously, and investigate those concerns brought to my attention.