Our Cedar Rapids schools are among the best out there, and I’m proud to have sent both our daughters to our local public schools. They’ve gotten a first-class education, and also garnered a wider worldview attending school with a diverse cross-section of our community, participating in fine arts and learning opportunities in and beyond their classrooms, and growing up in a community and school system that values its students
But my roles as parent and business owner also have given me a perspective on where our schools can be better. If I’m elected to the School Board, I want to bring focus to three priorities in particular:
• Finding every student’s path to success. As a district, we tend to concentrate on the highest and lowest achievers, while too many kids in the middle get forgotten. We need to empower our educational staff to guide every child on their way to success — whatever that means for each child.
• Ensuring the emotional and physical safety and support of both students and staff. We need to find modern-day solutions to ensure kids come to school ready to learn and teachers are able to focus on teaching. Concepts such as restorative justice and community school models take some of the onus off the teacher, help students who need a different approach than traditional discipline offers, and help all students learn with fewer disruptions. Schools need to feel safe for both staff and students, with policies, practices and facilities that use state of the art technology and effective techniques to protect everyone from threats.
• Identifying and hiring the next superintendent. Stability in this key community leadership role, along with a collaborative, innovative and inclusive mind-set, will be what drives our district forward.
As a volunteer member of the Cedar Rapids Schools Foundation over the last seven years, I’ve been in nearly every building in the district and heard the challenges and successes of teachers and principals. I’ve served on districtwide committees tackling issues such as redistricting and working to instill the teacher leadership program.
Through all these years and experiences, it’s clear to me that decisions have to be made for what’s best for students, and that — above all else — great teachers are how we deliver student success. I plan to bring my experience and leadership skills to listen, collaborate and guide our district in innovation, and ultimately to a brighter future for all kids.
Jennifer Neumann is a candidate for Cedar Rapids School Board at-large.
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