Academic, communication and budgetary priorities of candidates for the Linn-Mar school board

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A woman stands in a voting booth to mark her ballot in the early voting area of ​​the Lindale Mall food court in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, October 29, 2020 (The Gazette)

MARION – Five candidates are vying for three seats on the Linn-Mar Community School Board in the November 2 election.

The seven-member board of directors serves approximately 7,600 students. The three seats will serve unpaid terms of four years.

Incumbents Cara Lausen and Rachel Wall are running for re-election. Other candidates vying for the extraordinary seats are Geralyn Jones, Kara Larson and Matt Rollinger.

Here’s what the candidates say are their priorities:

Cara lausen

Cara Lausen (Photo submitted)

Lausen, an incumbent, said she wanted to help Linn-Mar schools “continue to provide top-notch education.” To do this, the district must continue to work to remove barriers to learning faced by some students by providing experiences such as socio-emotional learning, said Lausen, director of business affairs at financial services firm Convergence. Acquisitions.

One of the biggest challenges facing Linn-Mar schools is staff shortages, she said, an issue that plagues many schools across the country. Lausen said the district should devote time to the professional development of staff to ensure their needs are met. While this is not a “silver bullet to fix the problem,” she said, it could help ease the burden.

Another priority area for Lausen is for the district to spend time assessing its facility needs over the next 10 years.

“As the district’s growth has slowed due to the pandemic, it would be naive to think that we are ‘in the clear’,” Lausen said. “We will have to continue to deal with the size of the classrooms and the space in our buildings, opening the new intermediate buildings was only a temporary solution.

A committee made up of board members, staff, parents and community members met to discuss the issue and make recommendations, Lausen said.

Lausen described the neighborhood as “property poor,” meaning that the tax base is primarily residential and non-commercial property. State aid and property tax revenues make up the majority of the General Fund, which is mainly allocated to staff compensation.

“We must continue to work with the Town of Marion to encourage commercial development within our boundaries to reduce the burden on our residential taxpayers,” said Lausen.

Rachel Wall

Rachel Wall (photo submitted)

Wall, also the incumbent, believes Linn-Mar provides high quality education because of its “commitment to high standards, innovation and top quality educators.”

While there are a lot of things the district does well, Wall, a medication technician at Views of Marion, said the district needs to improve its communication, especially with parents and community members.

“Our communications strategy has failed to keep pace with the growth of the district and the changing world, and this is probably the # 1 complaint we hear from parents,” Wall said, promising. transparency and precision “if re-elected.

She is also concerned about the pressure on the district budget due to “inadequate funding” at the state level, especially as the student body continues to grow.

District voters passed a 2018 bond referendum for the construction of two middle school buildings, which helped alleviate “significant overcrowding” in elementary and middle schools, Wall said.

“However, we still face short and medium term needs for more space in the district. These include additional parking at the high school, a larger performing arts hall, and an eighth grade elementary building, among others, ”she said.

Finally, Wall wants the district to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address mental health, including providing more student services and professional development for staff to help respond effectively if a student is in crisis.

Geralyn jones

Geralyn Jones (photo submitted)

Geralyn Jones, wife, mother and volunteer, comes forward because parental involvement is important when establishing policies that impact students and families, she said.

Jones wants to help other parents get more involved in their child’s school. Better communication and transparency is a “major concern” for many parents. Recent school board decisions have lacked input from parents and teachers, she said.

“We don’t know of any form of transparency around the data surrounding decisions or policies being made,” Jones said.

“This past year, we’ve seen firsthand the blame game in how our school district and board determine policy, protocol, requirements and recommendations,” Jones said. “We need to elect board members who own their actions and realize that in order to grow in a positive influence, we need to be responsible for our actions and lead by example.”

Jones is also concerned about staff shortages and the declining number of parents and community members volunteering in schools and wants to “bring positive change and community back to our schools.”

Kara larson

Kara larson

Larson, executive financial assistant at Covenant Family Solutions, said she was proud of how the Linn-Mar Community School District handled “shocks and struggles” during the COVID-19 pandemic and derecho.

Larson’s top priorities if elected are inclusiveness, staff retention and planning for the rapid growth of the student body.

Students, families and staff should have “equal access to opportunities and resources” for more inclusion in the district, Larson said. Feedback from students and parents could provide insight into how the district can improve this, she said.

Larson wants staff to know “we want them to stay” by making sure Linn-Mar offers competitive salaries and anything that helps retain staff, she said.

Finally, Larson wants to keep the school board looking to the future and consider solutions for the rapid growth of the student body.

Matt Rollinger

Matt Rollinger

Rollinger, who is self-employed, said his family lives where they live in part because of the “really amazing” school district. Linn-Mar has an “exceptional reputation in the special needs community, which is dear to me because I have a child with special needs,” said Rollinger.

One of its top priorities is maintaining the quality of education that students receive at Linn-Mar, he said.

“The district continues to excel in academic fields as well as in the performing arts such as dance, orchestra, choir, speech and drama, as well as athletic programs,” said Rollinger.

But “core academic areas” like reading, writing and math are “taking a back seat,” Rollinger said. “I feel like the district is starting to get lost on the primary goal of education,” he said.

Rollinger also wants parents to have a greater voice and to be heard by district officials and school board members.

“Recently, the board of directors changed the policy so that 500 signatures are required for an item to be added to the agenda,” said Rollinger. “It is not proof of good faith that the district wants an open and honest discussion.”

Rollinger said he was an advocate for community question and answer periods to school board members during community meetings and discussions before a board vote. Rollinger also wants to control the district budget.

“I believe there is always room for improvement in everything,” he said. “Tax responsibility is always paramount, but all the more so right now as the prices of everything seem to be going up.”

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