Johnston High School - 6500 NW 100th St, Johnston, IA
  • School Board
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Soneeta Mangra-Dutcher
    • Chapter 4
    • Katie Fiala
    • Jennifer Chamberland
    • Jerry Kinder
    • Jason Arnold
    • Chapter 9

2019 School Board Election Candidates

November 5, 2019

Lane Sires

Lane Sires moved to Johnston when he was fifth grade, and has spent the rest of his life in Johnston. Overall, he has lived in Johnston for 34 years. He earned a MBA degree from Drake University, and went on to work at a financial service company, where he helps clients with retirement plans. Sires previously coached baseball and football within the district, and is now apart of the Little League Board. Besides coaching, Sires spends most of his free time golfing at Hyperion and chasing around his kids. His daughter, Cadence, is a freshman at the Johnston Middle School and his son, Tyson, is a fifth grader at Beaver Creek. His favorite Halloween candy would have to be anything chocolate. He specifically likes peanut butter cups, but also happens to be allergic to peanuts.

 

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“I’ve just always wanted to do it. I’ve lived in Johnston, more or less, my whole life, it’s always been something I’ve had of interest. I’ve had a few people ask me about it. I think we have a really good board, and there were four incumbents and none of them were running for re-election. So, I had some people talk to me about that, and I just thought the timing worked out great. I think there’s four people that did a great job, they’ve done their service, they put in their time, and they weren’t going to run again. So, I think it was my time to step up. Also, my daughter’s a freshman so, getting on it now would be her four years through school. I have a son who’s in fifth grade, he’s got eight years left in Johnston. Just the timing was right. The timing was right with people coming off the board, the timing was right with where my kids’ ages are, the timing was right with where I am in life, where I think it would work out. And it’s something that I’ve honestly said for twenty years I’ve had an interest in doing. I’ve never had a strong interest in politics, but this is a looser version of politics. I think it’s exciting to have nine people running who want to give back to the district.”

 

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“I think the biggest thing you have to do first is just listen. I think we have great teachers, I think we have good leadership, I think we have a board that works really hard. So, I think the first thing you’d have to do is figure out everything that’s been done, listen to people’s ideas and thoughts for the future. But I think we’ve done a lot of really good things in this district; just look around, look at the facilities. I think the first thing you have to do is listen and learn, and then figure out, ‘what are the next steps? What do we need to do to take the district to the next level?’ And I think those next levels are growth: what’s the growth trajectory look like? How do you manage that? What are our five and ten year plans for how we are going to manage that growth? I think the biggest thing we all think about, at least when I think back to high school, and I think you could probably say it for your years in school too, you remember those great teachers that you’ve had, right? So when I look back, there’s the three or four teachers that really just stick out at me in my mind. Those are the teachers that you want to make sure we attract and train, and get the really good people that work at Johnston. We need Johnston to be the district where every teacher wants to come work; because when we have great teachers we have great education and students have a great experience.”

 

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

“Well I think the board’s responsibility is, obviously, to work through the administrators. But it’s also to listen to the district, right? I am already pretty involved in the schools, I’m not in the schools on a day-to-day basis, going into classrooms and I wouldn’t think I would ever being going into a classroom. But I think getting to know the administrators and getting to know teachers would be a good thing, letting them know that you’re there to listen. But I think, ultimately, there has to be some hierarchy too. I mean, just the reality of a school board member is more to oversee. Really, your school board members have two main responsibilities; to oversee the financial budgets for the district and to really be the boss for the superintendent. The superintendent reports to the seven people on the board, that’s the superintendent’s boss. So, it’s not overstepping your grounds. To me, a board member should never be involved in a day-to-day matter. Let’s say something happens between a teacher or a student, or any of that, that should be handled through the appropriate channels. Whether that be the principal, human resources, excetera. There’s going to be ultimately times where that funnels up, so I think you have to be careful as a board member not to overstep.”

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Alicia Clevenger

Alicia Clevenger originally moved to Johnston 15 years ago, because of the great schools. Now that she has three kids, she is extremely involved in the district. Her son Henry, eleven years old, and her daughter Mira, eight years old, attend Beavercreek, while her four year old, Maggie, is enrolled at Johnston Early Learning Academy. Clevenger’s husband is a coach for their children’s activities, which leads to a lot of time spent with teams. She has worked as a full time Chiropractor with a specialty in pediatrics for sixteen years and now works part time to be with her family more and help out around the community. Volunteering is very important to her, and she spends much of her time volunteering around the schools. She is also a speaker for the Iowa Donor Network, and works with kids often because of her job. Her favorite Halloween candy would have to be a Snickers bar.

 

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“So, when we moved here fifteen years ago, my goal was that I want my children to have a great experience. And now that we’re here, and we’re in that, I want to be apart of this community, and I want to be apart of where my kids are getting their education. But, in looking at the long term, not just about what we’re doing one year, five years, ten years from now, I’m looking at, ‘what is this school district going to look like twenty years from now, twenty five years from now?’ Because that’s when my kids are going to be making the decisions about where they want to raise their families. We aren’t going anywhere, so I want them to look back at Johnston and say, ‘number one, not only did I have a good education and a good experience there, the schools are still so good that I want to bring my kids back there, my family back and raise my family there too.'”

 

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“My first goal is community engagement, support for teachers, and, really, a lot of transparency. Like I said before, there’s a lot of value in people understanding what’s going on, I think there’s a lot of value in people knowing what the issues are and being able to have a voice and how that’s what’s done. I think that sometimes, just listening to one more person and one more person being able to voice their opinion is really important. Because, I think that when decisions are made for people, they back up. When decisions are made and people have a voice, they become invested in a community, in a school district, and they want to be a part. I think that’s really important. Another one is equity of opportunity and resources for all kids in our district, so the person sitting next to you and on both sides of you and front and back of you have access to the same things that you do. And more than just having those; how can we get them into everybody’s hands? How are we going to teach people and provide those services to people? Because just having them is just half the battle. Making sure we get those services into the right student’s hands is really important. A big topic right now in our schools is creating a way for students to go out into the global economy. So, I think it is important that we start looking at the not every student in our district is on a four year track for college. And how can we give them the skills, teach them about what jobs are out there. I know other big districts have programs that really help students in this arena. And we have some things, but, not necessarily the magnitude that other districts have. So, I think it is important that we look at what those districts are doing, and look at what’s working for them, and how we can maybe incorporate them into Johnston. Because I’m not necessarily a follower, I’m more of a leader. So, I would like to look at what districts are doing, what’s working for them, and then how can we put that into our district with a spin of being better, so that other schools are looking to what Johnston is doing. I think that’s important. And then for the student’s that are on the four year track to college, what kind of things can we do? Are there programs that we can get them into working with engineering companies maybe for a few hours of the day of school so they can start to learn about the professions they want to be apart of. And I think it’s important we work with our students in learning different skills.”

 

 

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

“So, I am out and about a lot already within the district, just in terms of my kids and the activities they are in. I mean, not a day goes by that I don’t talk to another parent in the district. I think I have a very open-door policy, like I said, I’m pretty transparent and I’m willing to talk to anybody. Even in running for this election, I’ve had people I don’t know contact me and say, ‘hey, can I talk to you about this’ or ‘can I get your opinion on this?’ Because voters are trying to decide what they want to do. I think from the get-go, I’ve been, ‘sure, what’s your phone number? Is there a time, today or tomorrow that we can talk?’ I’m more than willing to be invested in the community, be apart of the schools, be open to anybody that really wants to talk and share their voice. I do that now, at the schools my kids are at, obviously. I’ve been, even when I worked full time, sixty hours a week, I still volunteered at the kids’ school. So, it’s not just since I’ve been part time, I made it a point to do that, even when I was working full time. I think it’s important. I think that’s when people get a sense, and a pulse for where things are. So, absolutely, I think that kind of stuff is important. I think that, occasionally, they wanted to have a coffee with the board, get to know people. I know, for instance, before the new board comes on, they’re going to have an open house at the new facility, where people can come meet the board members and I think that’s important. It’s important to know who your board is and for, not only community, but students to feel that way, and for teachers and administrators too.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Soneeta Mangra-Dutcher

Soneeta Mangra-Dutcher has lived in Johnston since 2009. She has three daughters, two currently going through the district. She graduated from Des Moines Area Community College with her Associates degree, and Upper Iowa University with a Bachelors in Psychology. She strives for diversity in our schools and mental health awareness, and runs a suicide prevention and mental health organization called Stand for the Silent Central Iowa.

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“Really, my overall answer is that I really care about kids in the community. It’s not just my kids, it’s other kids as well. We also run a suicide prevention-mental health organization that’s based out of Johnston and some other things that we’ve done in the community. It’s based around kids. I care about what happens to them, I care about where they go, and their learning and all of that. So I think I can make a difference being on the school board and that’s really why I’m running. It scares me to death to think that I’d be on a school a board, and school boards aren’t political but I am the least political person. I’m the least out-there, out-going person but because I care about kids I think it’s important that we do something and I think this is something I can do.”

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“I guess my first thing I have to say that I need to figure out what the school board has done up to this point, and we all hear about what they’ve done, but really the nitty gritty of what they’ve done. There’s a strategic plan. Where do they plan on going? And really looking at that and saying, ‘Is this attainable? Is this where we need to be right now?’ And then looking at what we can add to that, or what we can beef up. Some of my focus is mental health, and this one I’m probably going to get a lot of pushback on, but it’s diversity in our district. Our district is quickly changing, and I don’t think our school district is. I don’t think our school administrators are keeping up with what they need to do to make sure all kids are successful, all kids are included. The income disparity in Johnston is huge. You have very, very low income people to very, very high income people, and I don’t think everybody has an equal chance. That’s not to say that the district is doing anything on purpose to make that happen, but I think we need to look at it more strategically and be like, ‘What do we need to do to make sure kids are all being served?’ Something that goes along with that is there are hungry kids in our district. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry, so we need to make sure we’re doing what we can to make sure kids aren’t hungry. Some of the districts–and I know to do with the percentage of kids that are on free and reduced lunch–but there are school districts in Des Moines where everybody gets a free lunch, right? I’m not saying that’s where we need to go, but I’m saying we need to move that direction and make sure that our kids are being fed and being nurtured in all the same ways. Some of the work that I do through my regular job is I’ve brought in people in certain careers into the high school because what do you hear about in the high school? ‘Where are you going to college?’ ‘What college are you going to?’ ‘This college, that college…’ There’s a lot of kids that don’t go to college, but they don’t know what else is out there for them. So I’ve brought in people from apprenticeships, I’ve brought in people that work at Wells Fargo that are pretty high up in Wells Fargo that didn’t go to college. Or they went to Wells Fargo and let Wells Fargo pay for your education. Once you get in and use tuition reimbursement and that kind of thing. So I brought employers in to talk about those kind of things. I help with the school to work program and connecting people with internship opportunities and things that they just don’t know about. So helping kids connect with those opportunities I think we need to do better as a district.”

What traits do you think you possess that would be a good addition to the board?

“Diversity, for one. I’m going to be the only person of color, I’m the only one running. As far as I have researched there has never been a person of color on the school board in Johnston. I don’t know anyone else that’s running’s income background or anything, but we are not the richy-rich of Johnston. I’m just that average Joe. So I bring that different perspective. I work with people with tons of barriers, I work with people that have been incarcerated, I work with refugees, immigrants, so I bring that experience, I bring mental health experience. So I think I bring all of that to the board, where learning about the other candidates have a background in finance and they want to look at the budget and I’m like, ‘Go at it! You can get on the board and you can do that stuff, I’ll do the other stuff.’ Because that’s not my forte. But I think bring all of those other things that we haven’t had on the board.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Stephen Kenney

Stephen Kenney

Originally from Jamaica Iowa, Stephen Kenney graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in finance. After living in Boston for 12 years, he moved back to Iowa. Johnston was a pull for him because of the school district. Kenney works at a private equity firm based out in Boston, Mass. that invests in Western farmland in the United States. Aside from his job, Kenney is a coach for the Johnston Basketball club, and enjoys running and biking. He has a daughter in seventh grade, and his other daughter is a sophomore at the high school.

 

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“I’ve been in the private sector ever since I graduated from Iowa State. I think it’s exciting to flip it over and get into the public sector, and continue to move the schools district forward. It’s a competitive world out there. So I want all of our students to be prepared when they leave Johnston, and ready to go get a job, go to a two year school, four year school, be able to make a difference in the world because it’s a big world out there. And I know it. There’s a lot of competition out there, so I want to make sure that our students are ready for that.”

 

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“I think we want to make sure we give our teachers the best resources that we can provide to them. But, at the same time, continue to be physically responsible with the budget that we have each year. Because, we have high quality teachers and making sure they are happy, they have what they need. Making sure the support staff, that helps the teachers, helps the students, also have what they need. I don’t have any specific goals, but I think that may change as the year goes on.”

 

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

“I think the school board members should be very visible to the district and really be proactive out there; visit classrooms, have meetings with teachers, have meetings with student representatives, those types of things. I really didn’t know any of the school board members, so it’s good to have more visibility because we oversee the district. If there’s any issues, I would say they should follow the proper chain of command, but they should know who they can approach and come and speak to about these problems. I would like to be very involved as much as possible. I think it’ll depend on what is going on within the district, that will determine how involved I think I would be.”

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Katie Fiala

Participating in Kindergarten through twelth grade in Johnston, Katie Fiala is of the graduating class of 2004 from Johnston. Fiala works as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Iowa, and got her degree from the University of Iowa College of Law. After returning to Johnston as an adult, she now has three children; four year old twins who are entering elementary school and a two year old in preschool. Despite running around after her kids, Fiala likes to do “do it yourself”, such as woodworking, and she likes to read and watch her kids participate in activities. As well, Fiala has been on the library board for a few years. Her favorite Halloween candy is Butterfingers.

 

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“For me it’s to make our school district the best district it can be and I think that’s probably the answer you’ll get from everybody who is running for the board. I think everybody only wants the best for the district. So for me, it just comes from a long history. I had a great experience with Johnston. I did a lot of things, got a lot out of my time here. I thought it set me up really well for the things I did after high school. So I want the same choice and the same opportunities for my kids. Beyond that, I think the schools are the strength of our community. When my husband and I finished school, we were thinking about where we wanted to move back to, the schools are why we came to Johnston. It’s a great city, we love living here, but if the schools were not as strong as they were it wouldn’t have the same draw. Just appreciating that value is something I hold really close to my heart which is why I’m so interested in being on the board.”

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“The interesting thing about the school–our school district is really large, I know it’s one of the top ten largest in the state–so the interesting thing is how far in advance you plan. So there’s already a strategic plan in place that goes through 2030 and I am on board that strategic plan. So there are a bunch of different areas that the current board’s already identified as areas going forward. Employee excellence is something I think that’s really important, you know, good teachers, good staff, that’s how you make a good district. Equity is another component of the current strategic plan that I’m really interested in that I think the modern school districts have to be looking at to be successful in the future.”

 

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

 

“At every event we’re had I’ve said I want to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. I’ve had multiple emails since that time. So that’s something I heard, especially from teachers, they don’t see board members in the schools as much as they want to be. I hear that as a concern, so my goal would be to attend at least one event per week whether it’s a swim meet or cross country, or just being at something in the community. For campaigning, I set up a Facebook page that I don’t post on super often because I’m not sure that’s the most effective way to communicate with people. But really I think I’m just going to be out there and hopefully people will come talk to me. We put our headshots and everything associated with the school district, and hopefully people would recognize me, come up to me and also talk. I’ve responded or I’m in the process of responding to every email I’ve received and I’m also willing to talk to people about anything related to the school.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Jennifer Chamberland

Jennifer Chamberland is a native Iowan with two kids in the Johnston Community School District. She attended the University of Iowa and has background in accounting, finance, and federal law. She believes that both academics and mental health are important, and that communication with staff is vital for a successful school district. She hopes to stay active in the community going forward.

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“It always has been, for one, trying to do my part to make my community better and contribute, doing something to volunteer. And I feel like with my educational background and my work experience I can offer something in that regard as far as dealing with budgets and administration issues and things like that. I personally feel like if you want to complain about something, you have to be willing to try to fix it too, and that can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Our budget was a huge issue in our former district and it’s like you can’t complain about it if you don’t want to do anything about it, in my opinion. So that for me made sense, like this for me fits. This is how I’m gonna volunteer to try to make that better and to make sure that we keep improving. This district is excellent. I don’t know anybody that can say it’s a bad district, and so the goal is to keep it there and to keep it growing because there are issues we have to deal with. Obviously population growth is a huge issue, overcrowding, things like that. Those are issues that are going to impact the district, and already are impacting but will continue. So there’s always room to grow. A big thing too is dealing with the social and emotion aspect of school. We focus so much on test scores and grades and getting those A pluses, but now more than ever the social and emotional aspect of school is a lot for a lot of kids and it impacts students and the learning environment more than people realize, and that section of most school districts is very underfunded and understaffed and lacking in resources. So when you have schools that maybe only have one counselor, maybe two, when you’re talking about hundreds to a thousand students—it’s just not reasonable. That’s way too much for one person to take on and it’s not conducive to a good learning environment. So those are things that should be looked at that maybe, up until now, have not been addressed fully. Those are things that I think is a more prevalent issue now than ever, and it’s finally getting some attention and those are issues that the district has to address sooner rather than later or it’s gonna be a problem that we’re not going to be able to get a handle on.”

 

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“It sounds like there are some communication issues throughout the district between teachers and administration, so I want to get more feedback from the teachers. And it may not be all over the district, it might be one certain area, so address that because it is important that all teachers are heard and that their needs are met as best as we can. Obviously, everybody would love a million dollar paycheck and all the resources in the world, and we can only do so much. But there are certain things that can be fixed and it’s not about money. Sometimes it’s just a matter of feeling validated and knowing that someone’s listening. If it’s just a matter of, ‘I hear you, I can’t do anything about it right now, but we will implement this into maybe next year’s budget,’ and then actually follow through with it. Because sometimes it’s easy to say, ‘Oh sure, I got you, I’ll take care of it no problem,’ and then, oh, that was six months ago and nothing’s happened. So that’s the biggest thing, making sure our staff–and not just the teachers, all of our staff, because support staff is so important. Part of my role is in a supportive-type role, and sometimes you feel like maybe if you’re not the so-to-speak star of an organization that you get overlooked, and that’s where sometimes we forget about that and so that’s important too. It’s not just teachers, it’s our secretary staff and janitorial staff and everybody. Just making sure that people feel heard–just as people, you want to feel heard, you want to feel that somebody cares and gives a crap, when you think about it. If you go to your job everyday, just like if you go to school everyday, and you feel like, ‘Well why am I even here? Nobody cares. I could be replaced tomorrow and nobody would care that I, Jennifer, am here today.’ That is so draining on somebody emotionally. If you go home and your parents are like, ‘Oh, you’re standing there, I didn’t even see you. I didn’t even know you were home.’ ‘Oh, thanks mom. That makes me feel great.’ Or, ‘Oh, you’ve been home for four hours? Didn’t even notice.’ People want to feel like they’re valued. Sometimes it’s not even about money, it’s not about things, it’s about making them feel valued and that they have self-worth. And that’s a lot of it. Sometimes it’s just lacking. When your morale gets so low–in my own job, when your morale gets low and everybody’s like, ‘Ugh, why are we even doing this? Everything’s terrible, nobody cares, nothing’s going to change.’ I’m sure there’s probably teachers that are already feeling that, and then it’s like, now you get to sit for 50 minutes and they’re like, ‘Yep, two plus two is four, read your book, I’m just gonna sit here… let me know when you’re done.’ You want teachers that show you their personality and you get to know them and you’re engaged and you’re like, ‘Wow! I love calculus! It’s amazing because this teacher is rockin’ my socks right now, and I don’t even know what all these symbols are about.’ You want people that show up everyday and are excited to be there, and that can be very difficult in education. So that would be a goal.”

 

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

“Someone asked me about should board members be required to volunteer. I am in the mindset of, when you make someone do something, how often do they really wanna do it? They don’t. Just like, when you’re mom makes you do the dishes, do you wanna do those dishes? No. But if you happen to have some free time, and you’re like, ‘You know what, mom’s gonna get home, I’m gonna do these dishes… Maybe she’ll let me stay out an hour later?” You do those dishes and you’re happy about it, and maybe you don’t get that extra hour curfew, but you don’t feel like, ‘Ugh, I have to do these stupid dishes.’ And that’s the same thing. For adults, if you tell them they have to do something, they’re not gonna like that. So anytime there’s a mandate, and we have state mandates that the district has to follow, it doesn’t always benefit people to do that. I am not in the mindset to mandate adults to do volunteer time in the schools. I would hope, as a person on the school board, and as a member of the community, they would make the time and choose to volunteer some time in the schools. One thing our school board did as well, I know they have their setup here with the new building, but typically our meetings were in the high school library. We made a point to at least once every other month move to one of the other schools for the meeting, and we usually did a tour of the building. So it was a little bit more convenient to have the other stuff other than just high school. And that’s just a simple easy fix that you can do, just being like, ‘Okay, not everything is about the high school. They actually care because they’re coming to our building and they want to know what’s going on here.’ Things like that. So those are just little steps that you can do. And so, just trying to tie in the fact that yes, I would hope that you would choose to volunteer as a school board member, I hope sometimes as just a parent you volunteer. And not everybody can do every day, every week, whatever, but at some point during the year, hopefully you’re volunteering for an event. Maybe you’re doing the concession stand at the football game, or you’re talking some kids to a track meet or whatever it is–just doing something. And even better if it’s not just your kid’s school. Hopefully you do try to address the other schools as well. Not everybody can do that, especially with us being on the school board it is a huge committment and it is a lot of time, so hopefully you would find time to fit that in. And sometimes it’s not a lot, maybe it’s only half an hour or something like that. I used to, when I had extra time, I would go into my kid’s elementary kindergarten class and just sit and read with students, and that freed up the teachers to, you know, ‘Hey, this student needs a little bit of extra help. I’m only one person, I got 19 other kids to worry about,’ so I just sat and let a kid read to me for half an hour once a week. If you have the ability to do that, great, just something like that. It may not seem like you’re changing the world, but you’re an extra set of hands. And right now, that seems like just what people need, because teachers can only do so much. That would be my hope for everybody, that they would choose to volunteer. I wouldn’t push to make it a policy that you have to volunteer because nobody likes that. And it also kind of will tell you who’s, you know, the people that do volunteer? Says a lot. And the people that don’t? Says a lot. So you don’t have to make somebody to something. I would hope that’s something people do and I will choose to as well.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Jerry Kinder

Jerry Kinder moved to Johnston in 1986. He attended Drake Law School, and became a full-time classroom teacher at Johnston High School in 1991 while balancing his part-time legal law practice. After 33 years of teaching, 26 being in the district, Kinder retired from teaching, but still helps out on the Boys Tennis program as an assistant coach. Kinder hopes to keep the district at the top as a place to work and learn and believes that his experience in the classroom and his motivation to be an effective member of the board will help make sure that happens. 

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“At first, I was concerned about whether we would have enough people on the ballot to replace the four board members who are leaving after their service to our district. After being in the district for 33 years, and working for the district during that time, I felt I needed to step up and be willing to serve. While seeking signatures from voters on my nomination petitions, I was encouraged to run and thanked for doing so. Therefore, I decided to follow through and turn in the paperwork and run for the board.”

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“My biggest goal is to work hard to be an effective board member. I want to see our students excel while here, and in their futures. I also want to do all I can to help the staff excel in their fields by promoting effective staff development and have ample time for class preparation and collaboration.”

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

“Most of the communication by the board is done through the district’s board secretary and administration. However, as I am sure all board members will do, when contacted by those with concerns I will try and respond as I can, keeping in mind, the communication should be coming from others. I many instances, the communication should come from the administration. I plan on continuing my work as an assistant tennis coach, and perhaps, the occasional substitute teacher.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Jason Arnold

Jason Arnold has lived in Johnston since 2012, and he has two children in the school district. He attended Drake University, and has his Bachelors of Science in Computer Science. He and his wife Beth are heavily involved in the Timber Ridge PTO and hopes that he is able to shed more light on problems in the elementary schools. He strives to make sure that every child is set up for success.

 

What is the driving force behind your motivation to run for the board?

“Being PTO president with my wife, we had a lot of encouragement from our PTO members. They wanted to see someone who could be a representative of the elementary schools because the prior board, while they may have had kids go through the elementary schools, they didn’t have anyone currently in the elementary schools. So people wanted to get that representation of the elementary schools on the schools. Granted, my kids aren’t going to be in elementary through the whole time. But they wanted to get a more fresh perspective on the elementary schools and what issues are facing the elementary schools. Not knowing how many of the people wanted out, I signed up for it because I talked to the PTO members and they thought I would do a good job, so I’m like, okay, I’ll try it out. I’ve come to learn that there’s a couple other people I think that have elementary school kids, so I think that’s good. So whoever gets in as long as someone can be there to help represent the elementary schools, that’d be great. So that’s kinda why I go into it. I really want to help the district grow and make sure that we’re spending our money wisely. My primary goal is making sure that we’re setting up every kid in the district to succeed. If we can achieve that, then I’ve achieved my goal.”

 

What are some of your goals if you were to be elected?

“So my primary goal is I want to set every child up to be successful. That’s gonna be my prime motivator. So if something only impacts 80%, I might take a second look at it. That’s not to say implementing something that only impacts a specific set of students is a bad thing, but if it’s something between, ‘Well we can do something that impacts 80% of the students or we can do this thing that’s gonna impact 100% of the students.’ Well, I’m gonna go with that route. And basically just set the school up to continue to be successful. The school district itself isn’t–it has it’s issues, like any school district, but you talk to anybody around, and Johnston is one of the better school districts in the state, if not one of the best districts in the state. So coming from that perspective we’re not hurting necessarily for a lot of things, so it’s really gonna be looking at what do parents see are the issues? What do teachers see that are the primary issues? And one of my goals is gonna be to go out and look at what do the teachers think are the top five issues? What do parents think are the top five issues? And how do we look at those, and address those issues? I can tell you right now, I think teachers want to see the ESP staff with higher pay. Right now, their average salary is 22,000 dollars a year. Looking at how is the administration paid versus teacher versus staff, does it make sense that we’ve got that kind of pay structure? Are there other things we can do to improve our budget? And then also, one of my goals is going to be working with state legislature too, because they control the purse ultimately. They decide how much money our school district’s gonna get, from the state level. Because a lot of the issues that we have, we may not be able to solve them because we just don’t have the money. So a lot of it’s gonna be working with the state, being like, ‘Hey, this is the issue our school district is seeing. We really would love you to increase the funding for schools by three percent, four percent.’ So I think that’s going to be a lot of my goals, just making sure every child is set up to succeed as best as we can, looking at the top issues from parents’ perspective, from teachers’ perspective, and resolving those, and then working with the state legislature to tell our story. What are we doing, what our budget is going to look like five years, ten years down the road and making sure that they are properly funding our schools–and I can tell you right now, I don’t think the state is properly funding our schools. They’ve not had a decent increase in decades.”

 

 

How do you plan on communicating with staff, students and parents about problems within the district? How involved do you plan on being in the schools?

 

“So one of the things I’d like to do is–I know we have various PTO organizations, I know each of the elementary schools have a PTO, Summit has a PTO, I’m not sure about the middle school, and I know the high school just got a PTO. That was a shocker to me, there hadn’t been a PTO for a while and I think they just got one made a couple years ago. So one of the things I would do is I would actually attend at least once a month a different PTO meeting and be involved there. I don’t see enough of the previous school board doing that. We finally had some of the school board members show up at the end of our last school year PTO meetings because we had brought up concerns about switching to the 6-day schedule. Typically our school is set up to be on a 5-day schedule, so art is on Monday, gym is on Tuesday, music is on Wednesday, and then repeat Thursday and Friday. Well they’ve decided to switch it to a 6-day. Now art is on day one, music is on day two, three is gym, and then repeat for four, five, and six. We had a lot of questions. Then the school board showed up to our PTO meeting because we were getting a presentation from the superintendent, so we had two members show up from the school board. So I think it’s very important for the school board to be communicative to parents, and to the teachers, because there was a lot of confusion around switching to the 6-day. The teachers didn’t feel like they were communicated to enough by the superintendent or the principals, or that they didn’t feel they had the ability to voice their opinions about the switch, whether it was good idea or a bad idea or if there were alternatives. The parents were completely left in the dark. Even when we had our PTO meeting, there were still elementary schools that didn’t know what was going on. They had no clue on. When they found out they were like, ‘What? Really? This is happening?’ So I think it’s very important for the school board to be involved as much as possible with the community and communicate to the community. ‘This is happening,’ or, ‘We have this meeting coming up, we’re going to talk about these topics.’ Really highlight if something looks like it’s going to be a hot topic. Get in front of it and communicate it to the parents. ‘Hey, if you wanna tell us your opinion about this, email us or come to our meeting that we’re going to have where we’re gonna talk about it and give us some public comments.’ So from my perspective, I would be involved with PTOs at every school. I know the teachers and staff have a JEA and JESPA as their primary organizations that represents the teachers and staff, so if those organizations have meetings regularly I’d want to attend those as a school board member if I can. And then just try and get the word out. I noticed they livestreamed our public forum. I would like to see more of that format for the school board meetings. I have been doing Twitch streaming for a while so I’d like to see the school board get more into that type of communication too. That way parents can watch at least, if not participate even, where we can enable chat on the livestream and then also have that available for VODs later. I think that’s some of what I would do. I would also look into other ways that we could communicate with parents, because I think the board does struggle a little bit trying to get parent involvement. And that’s another thing I see with our PTO organization. We struggle to get parent involvement there as well. We have about 400 families in our school, and we get around 20 members to show up. So that’s about five percent or less that show up to our meetings, and it’s always the same folks. We get a lot of donations from our community of parents, but we don’t get a lot of volunteers or parent involvement in the actual meetings. That I think transitions over in the school board too, and I get it, a lot of parents don’t have time or feel they don’t have time to attend all these meetings and whatnot. But I would look at ways to get more parent involvement in the school board, and just making sure we are appropriately communicating out policy changes and anything else that goes on in the school board.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

David Gray

David Gray was unavailable for comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Leave a Comment

The Black & White encourages the student body to comment on the issues covered by the newspaper. The Black & White believes that user feedback is beneficial to maintain a balanced journalistic perspective. However, we encourage all comments to remain respectful and constructive to the issue. We also encourage students to restrain from using profanity and making inappropriate comments. The Black & White editors review all online comments before being posted. The Black & White reserves the right to refuse to publish individual comments, remove previously published comments and to suspend the comment function on a story.




*

The Black & White • Copyright 2019 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in