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League of Women Voters holds School Board Forum

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The Ames Public Library continues to serve the Ames community through community events and opportunities to learn.

The League of Women Voters of Story County and Ames held a school board forum for the Ames Community School District for the candidates to voice their opinions and views on various topics.

The four candidates are:

  • Sabrina Shields-Cook, who has been president of the board for the past three years.
  • William “Scott” Dryer, a school board member for six years.
  • Angie DeWaard, who has served on several city commissions and committees.
  • Allen Bierbaum, who has 29 years of education experience, and currently works for the Iowa Department of Education.

The forum was moderated by Barb Peterson, the chair of the voters services committee. The candidates were given two minutes for opening remarks and 90 seconds for responses to crowd questions.

Bierbaum started his school board experience by filling a vacancy back in 2016, adding that he loves being a part of the community.

“I still feel community service is a great thing to do and participate in, and I want to continue to make Ames Community School District as good as I can for all the students of Ames, whether that be the students that are just doing fine or students who have different needs,” Bierbaum said.

DeWaard said she has major amounts of experience on educational boards, from being president of the Kate Mitchell Elementary parent-teacher association for the past three years to being on the strategic committee.

“Basically, I love, passionately, our school district. I love what we offer. I love the diversity, and I love our students,” DeWaard stated.

There is no lack of experience from Dryer, who has spent a good amount of his life dedicating himself to bettering education. 

“When we moved to Ames, my wife and I, [we] believe in servant leadership and look for different ways to serve,” Dryer added

Shields-Cook already has an agenda of what she wants to do if she is granted the opportunity to continue in office.

“I believe we have to keep fighting for public education,” Shields-Cook said. “We have to keep talking to the legislature.” 

The first question from the crowd asked what the role of the school board is in the curriculum development process. 

“The most direct thing the school board does is set policy about how to ensure curriculum is reviewed and set and make sure that the superintendent understands any desires that the school board might have related to the community,” Bierbaum said.

The second question came directly from a community member voicing support for and inquiring on the transition from STEM to STEAM to representing the arts. All four candidates threw their support behind STEAM, but explained that it is more difficult than it looks.

“As far as reinstating teachers, I think that’s going to be a big budget discussion,” DeWaard said. “I think as we watch state budget cuts roll in, kind of seeing how that is going to play out.” 

Dryer, who has dealt with budget cuts before, agreed by telling a story from his past experience when the school he was employed at had to cut a foreign language teacher because they simply could not afford to have two. 

Candidates were asked what their responsibilities are in regard to retaining teachers “in an era of teachers leaving at catastrophic rates.”

Shields-Cook said it is difficult to support educators with a lack of support from the legislature.

“It’s hard to be a teacher in a state that devalues teachers and in a state that kind of vilifies teachers and doesn’t support public education,” Shields-Cook said. “It’s really hard for especially young teachers– how do we get them to want to stay here when this is how public education is happening in our state right now.”

DeWaard agreed and gave props to the new superintendent for making progress on trying to address the issue.

“I think it is a wonderful step that Dr. Lawson is taking– I also really, really admire that he has reinstated the little Cyclone Academy, which is an opportunity for our teachers to get together at the beginning of the year to work together to collaborate,” DeWaard added.

Safety was also a big question, with people wondering if the school has metal detectors and if they are necessary.

The school does not have metal detectors, and none of the candidates seem to think they are needed. They all agreed that metal detectors make students feel unsafe, and could have the opposite effect of what they want to happen.

The final question of the evening regarded how schools can make students, parents and administrators feel safe with the new LGBTQ Iowa law. 

Bierbaum and DeWaard both stated that there is nothing in the new Senate laws that says teachers can’t be allies to their students. 

“I mean we have to follow the law, right,” DeWaard said. “That’s what the law is. We have to follow it, but what we can do is encourage the community and the district and the superintendent to just keep plugging away and just trying to advocate for kids.”

School Board and City elections are on Nov. 4 this year at your local polling place from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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