Education

Rafael Jacobo seeks reelection to Cedar Rapids School Board

Jacobo, first elected in 2015, says his focus is on 'all kids'

Rafael Jacobo, Board of Education Director for District 4, looks on during the public comments section in a meeting of the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education at Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 25, 2016. The Board of Education was listening to public comments on the proposed plan to eliminate school librarians from Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Kennedy High Schools. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Rafael Jacobo, Board of Education Director for District 4, looks on during the public comments section in a meeting of the Cedar Rapids Community School District Board of Education at Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 25, 2016. The Board of Education was listening to public comments on the proposed plan to eliminate school librarians from Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Kennedy High Schools. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Rafael Jacobo intends to run for reelection to the Cedar Rapids School Board, making him the only school board incumbent on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Jacobo, 39, was first elected in 2015. He is a business analyst with Verizon Wireless and a parent.

His interest in remaining on the board, Jacobo said, stems from an interest in providing educational opportunities to all students.

With two children still enrolled in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Jacobo saw his oldest son graduate from Washington High School in May.

Watching the graduation ceremony and the end of his son’s K-12 run in Cedar Rapids Schools was a reminder of the board’s potential influence over students, Jacobo said.

“It’s something that’s a big deal for parents. ... In the last four years (on the board), I was part of something that impacted lots of kids,” Jacobo said. “It’s about those kids and the people behind those kids — their family, relatives, mentors, in some cases guardians. I recognize there is a lot more to each and every one of those kids who walks across the stage.”

Jacobo said he is proud of the current board’s work to increase personalized learning for Cedar Rapids students, including a technology initiative that will give all high school students a Chromebook this fall.

He also stood by the district’s facilities plan — which he voted in favor of in January 2018 — that stipulated closing eight elementary schools and rebuilding most of the remaining 13.

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“I’m very happy we built into it that the plan be undertaken in phases. It allows time to stop,” he said, noting a pause is built in once work is completed at Coolidge, Truman and Jackson schools. “ ... At this point, no, I don’t know where we’ll go after that pause.”

The next board also will be tasked with hiring a new superintendent. Jacobo said he was impressed with Brad Buck during his four-year stint in Cedar Rapids, and hopes his successor will be someone who identifies issues and finds solutions in collaboration with others.

Jacobo represents District 4 on the board. He is the only candidate so far to announce intentions for that seat.

Four school board positions in all will be on November’s ballot, which for the first time will combine school and city elections.

Three newcomers — entrepreneur David Tominsky, marketing professional Jen Neumann and retired teacher and activist Cindy Garlock — have said they will run for the other three.

The candidate filing period begins Aug. 26 and ends at 5 p.m. Sept. 19.

The board is sure to see new faces as long-serving members — Mary Meisterling of 17 years, and John Laverty of 12 years — will not run for reelection. Kristin Janssen, who served one term, also declined to run.

Laverty and Meisterling’s departures were inevitable eventually, Jacobo said, and he is grateful to have worked with them.

“Change is one of those things that occurs,” he said. “It’s about working with it, and working through it, and making it the most positive thing it can be.

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“With new board members, there’s new perspectives, new ideas, taking a look at what we’ve already done — and potentially re-examining and refining our vision and mission as a board for the district.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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