What made you interested in becoming a school board member?
I have been a school board member since 2007. When I started, my oldest was a kindergartener. My background is in education- I have a master’s in AG education and I was a stay-at-home mom. So, being a part of the school board was a way for me to stay connected to education and be involved in our community.
One of my goals is to see some positivity in our district. I think it’s really important especially with the past two years that we’ve had. I want to see us being positive, choosing to be happy. That’s a choice. It’s easy to get bogged down in the negative things that are happening in our world and in our community.
What do you see as our district’s strengths, specifically as they relate to the high school?
I think we are really strong in student achievement. We have a talented qualified staff. People in our community are excited about things that are going on. Our community is full of support. We pull together and work together–whether it’s an accident in the community or what happened with our middle school. We pulled together as a community, moved locations, and worked it out.
What problems or concerns facing the district are priorities to you? How would you address these concerns?
Getting the middle school students back to where they belong. It was a beautiful building and it was hard to displace those kids. It was wonderful that we had the achievement center available for them. Some of the goals that we had for the achievement center were put on hold.
One area I’m concerned about is our teacher shortage. We’ve got shortages of workers in all areas, not just teachers but that we have qualified people who work throughout the district.
Should financial support of activities (the arts and athletics) be tied to the number of students involved, the success of the programs, or other factors?
I do not think funding should be tied to the success of a program. Sometimes we have to look at numbers. Let me be clear: this is an administrative role. The function of the board is to set a vision for the district, to set policy, and to oversee the financial resources of the district. We also hire and evaluate the superintendent. Am I personally going to make a decision on whether or not a program should go forth based on those criteria? No. I’m not. And I shouldn’t be. But I can be part of setting that policy. So we can say when we have a limited number of activities we fund, if this one consistently has not had high participation levels, maybe we need to look at something else.
And maybe students have something else they want to be a part of. That was clear a few years ago when we did a survey about bowling and that’s how the archery program came about.
What do you think about the school’s current budget distribution? For example, do you think we spend too much money in some areas and not enough in others?
At the school board level, we’re probably not making those decisions. That’s more administrative. What we receive from the state is a per-student amount. That’s why enrollment is important. Generally, 80-85 percent of that goes to staff salaries. The remaining amount funds all of the extra stuff: the activities, the paper, the printing, the cleaning supplies. Then we have a couple of other funding streams. We have a debt-service fund that would be part of the bond issue. Sales-tax revenue that allows us to buy textbooks, to renovate our buildings, that allow us to buy equipment-type stuff.
I think we have a good balance in Atlantic. I think our arts programs are really doing well in terms of our vocal music, our instrumental music, speech, debate, drama, all of those things. We have great participation and put out quality programs.
I’m disappointed we don’t have an on-site art instructor at this time. That worker shortage is a challenge.
How do your children influence your opinions on issues?
I don’t know if they really do. I will ask them if things are going on. Not all of our school board members have students in the district.
What should we do to get highly qualified teachers to come to Atlantic and stay in Atlantic?
I think part of it is having a vibrant community, having a community people want to be a part of. I think we have that in Atlantic. We will continue to always have a challenge because we’re smack in the middle between Des Moines and Omaha. So anyone who wants to be close to those areas, we’re about as far as you can get. That goes into what I mentioned: that goal of positivity, creating a positive culture in our school and community. What we have done, how we’ve responded to adversity, are things people see.
At least one of our new teachers said he feels more welcome here than he had at his old job in another state. I think those are the kinds of things we can do to retain and attract teachers.
What do you want students to know about you and your goals?
Student achievement first and foremost. And with that, preparing our students to graduate. Be sure they fulfill the qualities of the Portrait of a Graduate. That they are able to think clearly, critically, that they can act with integrity and persue a passion. Those are all important things. My goal of getting our kids back in the middle school is important. That’s something that the school board can impact.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your campaign?
Improving student achievement. Preparing our students to graduate. I’m excited about our new greenhouse, some of the things that are happening in career-tech, aviation. Those are all important avenues that can help our students pursue their passion. Not everyone is planning to continue at a four-year university. We on the school board don’t decide that specific programming, but we set policy. One of the things we as a board said we want to have more rigor. And what came out of that is the administration would like to offer at least three AP [Advanced Placement] courses added next school year. So that kind of shows how the relationship between the administration and the school board works in terms of our planning and our visioning.