116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Two first-time school board members Maka Pilcher-Hayek and Jayne Finch will join incumbents Ruthina Malone and J.P. Claussen on the Iowa City school board after their win in Tuesday’s election.
Pilcher-Hayek, who was running unopposed for a two-year term to fill a vacancy, had the most votes in Tuesday’s election with 10,026.
One of Pilcher-Hayek’s top priorities as a school board member will be finding ways to address the social-emotional needs of students, she said.
"It is the topic of every conversation when I talk to educators,“ said Pilcher-Hayek, a lawyer with Hayek, Moreland, Smith & Bergus in Iowa City. ”It’s obvious you’re not going to maximize academic achievement if you’re struggling socially and emotionally.“
Pilcher-Hayek is a strong proponent for mask requirements because “it works” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, she said.
With a vaccine now available to kids 5-11 years old, Pilcher-Hayek said she would defer to public health experts on how much longer a mask requirement should stay in place.
The most “conservative, safest approach” is who she would agree with, Pilcher Hayek said. “We do not want to end up with more outbreaks in our school system.”
Malone, who received 8,933 votes, said it’s a “great honor” to know the community trusts her to serve a second term on school board. Malone is an administrator in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Malone is committed to continuing the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion work and closing opportunity gaps for historically marginalized students, she said.
“We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface,” Malone said. “I think under this administration and with this board, we can really think outside the box.”
J.P. Claussen, who received 8,507 votes, was also reelected to his second term. Claussen is an educator in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics inpatient Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit.
Claussen said when he was first elected in 2017, he and other board members made a commitment to work together. Reelecting both him and Malone feels like validation from the community that they support the direction of the board, he said.
He hopes to continue work on the equity, diversity and inclusion plan, and emphasized the need for more mental health supports in schools for students. He is also excited to dive deeper in to the district’s “Grow Your Own” program, helping current students find pathways to becoming educators and recruiting and retaining the staff they have now.
The district’s student body is under 60 percent white while their teaching staff is 95 percent white, Claussen said.
“We want our staff to look like our student body,” Claussen said.
Finch, newly elected to the school board, received 5,907 votes. She is a physician assistant at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Finch’s top priorities are decreasing the opportunity gap for students, prioritizing mental health and advocating for equity.
Finch was unable to be reached for comment.
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