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The Gazette’s endorsement: Few good choices for Cedar Rapids school board
While we are reluctant to give incumbents our approval in District 2 and District 3, their challengers simply don’t align with our values.
Oct. 12, 2021 6:00 am, Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 3:32 pm
Note: Staff editorials represent the consensus view of The Gazette’s editorial board. Read more about the process: Previewing The Gazette’s 2021 election endorsements
Voters have underwhelming choices in three races for Cedar Rapids School Board this year.
Two races feature conservative challengers running against incumbents who we have great reservations about. The other includes newcomers who show good potential but also have a lot to learn.
District 2 and 3
The Gazette editorial board’s thought processes for the two district seats up for election are very similar. Each race includes a sitting board member and one or more newcomers.
The Gazette editorial board has profound concerns about the way the Cedar Rapids School Board is operating. One of the biggest is a board policy designating the president to speak on the board’s behalf, which stifles public comments from other elected officials.
The school district has a long track record of bucking transparency and public participation but the situation boiled over this year during debates about mask mandates and school resource officers. Those were crucial moments for the public to be involved, but there still was little meaningful dialogue between the officials and the people.
When we asked board president Nancy Humbles, District 2, about the policy restricting board members’ public comments, she defended it by saying it has been in place throughout her tenure on the board. Doing things the way they’ve always been done is not a good justification for bad policy.
We asked incumbent Jennifer Borcherding, District 3, the same question. She said she is open to reconsidering the policy but wouldn’t break it while it’s in place. She also said she can’t remember ever voting to approve the policy, which doesn’t give us much confidence about the level of oversight board members are giving their own policies.
While we are reluctant to give incumbents our approval, their challengers simply don’t align with our values.
One of the opposing candidates — James Sampers in District 2 — did not respond to our invitation to meet with the board. While we applaud them for running and for taking the time to make their case to us, the other candidates — Barclay Woerner in District 2 and Dan Doyle in District 3 — differ from us on their views of some important issues. They both oppose mask requirements in schools and seemed skeptical of racial equity programming, both things this editorial board has strongly supported.
With reservations, we support Humbles and Borcherding. We expect them and other board members to improve transparency going forward.
All three candidates who agreed to do interviews with us — Kerri Davenport, Bridgette Williams Robinson and Marcy Roundtree — demonstrated a passion for helping students and improving the school district. Another candidate, Carrie Davies, did not respond to our invitations to meet.
In our view, Roundtree has a slight edge. She has experience both as a parent to school children and as a school employee, giving her a well-rounded view of the district.
During the pandemic, Roundtee saw firsthand how the district could improve connections for at-risk students by removing barriers to remote learning. She also listed increasing pay for paraeducators and updating school buildings among her priorities.
Roundtree puts a special emphasis on gleaning more public input, which is imperative right now.
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