Seven candidates running for four positions on the Ames Community School District School Board

Sabrina Shields-Cook is a candidate running for the Ames Community School District School Board. She has a platform of improving communication and mental health resources.

Jacob Smith

Editors note: Individuals with an asterisk (*) by their names denotes them as an incumbent currently serving on the Ames Community School District School Board

Sabrina Shields-Cook

Main issues: Allow community voices to be considered, implement communication initiative, emphasize mental health resources and training for staff, address high enrollment problems.

“There is definitely a need to address the fact that close to 30 percent of our adolescents are experiencing mental health issues,” Shields-Cook said. “I would like to see the district hire licensed mental health professionals or find a way to bring licensed mental health professionals into the school to work with students who are experiencing mental health issues.”

Skills/experiences: Master’s in rhetoric and professional communication, graduate of Ames High, currently an academic adviser for Iowa State, worked in pre-inclusion for about a decade, served on the executive committee for the Meeker Parent-Teacher Organization, served as president for the Ames Water Association, Human Resources Liaison, parent for 10 years in the district.

Allen Bierbaum*

Main issues: Promote mental health initiatives on the board, support kids in the district.

Skills/experiences: Vice president of the school board, chief technology officer at Priority 5 of the Iowa State University Research Park, master’s and Ph.D. in computer engineering from Iowa State, vice chair of the Ames Parks and Recreation Commission, former member of Iowa Innovation Council and Leadership Ames Class 29.

Michelle Lenkaitis

Main issues: Address mental health, reduce district waste, improve communication with new leadership within the district, evaluate the superintendent.

“I think [mental health] needs to be community-based, and they need to leverage community resources and build partnerships,” Lenkaitis said. “It’s not something for the school to do by itself.”

Skills/experiences: Over 25 years in relationship management, human resources and labor law compliance, parent of four kids who have gone through Ames schooling, current manager of custodial services with facilities planning and management at Iowa State.

Amy Edwards

Main issues: Increase communication processes and how they work at the building level, emphasize information distribution to families, support social and emotional growth of students, prepare students for the future community they will be living in.

“I would put forth an initiative to revise the district website,” Edwards said. “I also would advocate for improved email communication to our families, pretty much ensuring that only relevant emails for that family’s student and/or school building reaches their inbox, and they’re not overwhelmed with so many other things that may or may not at that moment be indicative to them.”

Skills/experiences: Former Sawyer parent/teacher organization president, created a newsletter to improve communication to families, attended previous school board meetings, family ambassador for her building, teaches Sunday school, volunteered for high school referendum committee.

Alex Yakobson

Main issues: Improve communication on all levels, prioritize children’s education as opposed to focusing on the facility, review school board priorities, work with students to be successful if the district marks the kids as struggling students.

“I believe to make some webpage where parents can share their ideas and students needs,” Yakobson said. “Another tool I believe we need to create is a forum like we do during the election, but to do it at least every two to three months. Right now in school board meetings, parents can come, they speak, but they [don’t] get any answers; they’re not sure they’re listening.”

Skills/experiences: Sunday school director, worked as a security guard, worked in public education.

Alisa Frandsen*

Main issues: Focus on educational improvement and equity, create consistent communication, address mental health, generate social and emotional growth of students.

“A lot of it is work of the administration to understand the effects of it on education,” Frandsen said. “It’s also teaching partnership and support of resources in our community and thinking creatively about ways that we can address all of those priorities.”

Skills/experiences: School board member for last four years, a mother and a former teacher, served as an assistant dean of students at Iowa State, chaired the Parks and Recreation Commission, leadership roles within her church.

Awein Majak

Main issues: Provide more support to children with special needs, reduce waste in the district, improve communication to students and families whose first language is not English.

“I came from Africa,” Majak said. “English is not my first language. I need a better way for the school district to communicate with Latinos, refugees and immigrants in general. Also, other students — they have parents that don’t have access to internet [or] email, [and] they can’t read and write. So we have to find a better way to communicate with them.”

Skills/experiences: Described herself as a hard worker who sets goals, bachelor’s in biology from Iowa State, volunteers for the homeless shelter, assists families with school paperwork.