116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Oct. 20, 2021 6:05 pm, Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 9:42 am
Rachel Wall, Geralyn Jones, Kara Larson, Cara Lausen, Matt Rollinger and Melissa Walker are running for three at-large seats on the Linn-Mar Community School District Board. ► Get to know the other school board candidates
Name: Rachel Wall
Office sought: Linn-Mar Community School Board at-large (incumbent)
Age: 35 (born Jan. 9, 1986)
Occupation: Medication technician at The Views of Marion
Campaign website: facebook.com/wallforschoolboard
Have you held office before? If so, what office did you hold? I have served for four years on the Linn-Mar school board but have held no political office otherwise.
Personal bio: My name is Rachel Wall and I’m excited to be running for re-election to the Linn-Mar School Board. My husband and I live in Marion with our two daughters, both of whom attend school in the district. I love the Linn-Mar community and am invested in its success.
I am full-time mom and work part-time as a medication technician caring for patients with dementia. I am dedicated to supporting society’s most vulnerable by using my voice to advocate for those who cannot use theirs. I am invigorated by this work and am committed to serve in roles where I can support others and make a difference in their lives.
In the four years I have served on the board, I have dedicated myself to learning about all aspects of the district and how I can be most effective in my position. I have attended IASB conferences annually, where I have taken part in sessions related to school finance as well as those that leave me inspired by the power of education and determined to champion its mission.
Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?
I ran for school board in 2017 at a time when the district faced a critical need for additional infrastructure and there was significant anxiety among educators about major changes to collective bargaining laws. I hoped that I could use my voice to help move the district forward and I’m very proud of the work that I’ve been a part of in that pursuit.
During the four years I have now served on the board, I have dedicated myself to learning about all aspects of the district and how I can be most effective in my position. I have served on several committees including both finance and policy, giving me insight into the complex nature of school funding and budgeting, and a more comprehensive understanding of what the board’s role is and how it can be most effective. I have attended IASB conferences annually, where I have taken part in sessions related to school finance as well as those that leave me inspired by the power of education and determined to champion its mission.
I deeply value education and am driven by my desire to ensure that every student has equal access to its promise to help every child realize and engage their full potential. I am eager to continue the work I’ve started and the work we’ve yet to embark upon, and I would be honored to have your vote on Nov. 2.
How do you rate the district’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
I am proud to send my two daughters to Linn-Mar and it’s not just me. Parents consistently report the quality of education at Linn-Mar as one of the top reasons they moved to the area. It is because of our commitment to high standards, innovation, top-quality educators, a supportive environment, and most importantly, results, that we have become a destination district. In 2018 Linn-Mar was ranked #3 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best high schools in the state and we again made their list in 2021 as the #2 high school in the metro area and #6 in the state for college-readiness. There are myriad things that the district does exceptionally well, and we should continue highlighting our successes.
I also strongly believe that if we want to continue our tradition of excellence, the district must be willing to acknowledge areas that show need improvement and work toward solutions. One area in particular that Linn-Mar continues to struggle with is communication. Our communication strategy has failed to keep pace with the district’s growth and the changing world, and this is probably the number one complaint we hear from parents. I will continue to push for a more cohesive and centralized communications strategy where constituents can count on transparency and accuracy.
What are the three largest issues facing the school district and what will you do to address them?
Inadequate funding at the state level continues to strain budgets and risks the ability of school districts to provide the kind of quality education that Iowa is recognized for. When the legislature approves increases below the rate of inflation, it is a de facto cut in funding. If this continues long term, Linn-Mar may face budget shortfalls and tough choices. We must continue to impress upon our elected officials the critical importance of funding for education and find innovative ways to stretch our limited resources.
Growth is a good problem to have but it does present some challenges, one of which is the need for space. The district has taken major steps over the last several years to address this problem, passing a bond in 2018 that paid for the construction of two new intermediate buildings, and resulting in the alleviation of significant overcrowding across most K-8 buildings. However, we still face needs in the short- and medium-term for more space across the district; these include additional parking at the high school, a larger venue for performing arts, and an eighth elementary building, among others.
The significant pressures faced by our youth are taking their toll, as rates of mental health issues among students continue to rise. The district will need a comprehensive strategy to address the need for more mental health services within the school environment and provide professional development for staff to give them tools to respond effectively.
What level of local control do you think school boards should have?
Local control at the school board level must exist within the larger educational framework created by state and local governments that provides that all students have access to an equitable education in a safe environment. Underneath this umbrella, decisions are best made by the local community which is most invested in the success of students.
What will you do to be responsive to concerns by parents, students and staff? What type of communications should they expect from you?
I welcome feedback from the community and will do my best to address their concerns or direct them to the person who can help. The district had a chain of command that people should follow in order to address most problems, as the board is generally not involved in the day-to-day operations of the district. This starts at the classroom level and moves upward from there. I am reachable by email or on Facebook. I may not always be able to solve a problem or but I will always strive to make them feel seen and heard.
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?
When top health experts from agencies such as the Center for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics make recommendations about mask usage, school districts should have the right to act to protect students. I support a universal mask mandate.
If you were required to cut the district’s budget, what areas would you look to for savings and why?
It’s difficult to talk in hypotheticals given the complexities of school finance. Because schools are funded through multiple revenue sources, budget cuts are dependent upon where the shortfalls are. I will always prioritize people and what is best for students in any discussion about how to find savings.
Are there curriculum concerns that you have with the district? What are they? What process should the district use to address the concern?
The state and federal government set standards representing the goals around which districts must base the framework of their curriculum. These standards are designed to ensure that all students receive a well-rounded education and are prepared for the world that awaits them once they leave our buildings. Linn-Mar relies on the expertise of trained educators to design rigorous curriculum that focuses on the whole child, and they never stop working to make improvements based on what is best for students.
There are, however, gaps in the curriculum and I recognize the need to address this. The role of a board member is to provide a critical lens in reviewing recommendation brought to us for approval. I have always been a board member who asks questions, including the tough ones, to have a complete understanding of what is being presented.