An ‘ability to listen’
Bea Niblock says school board stability is important going forward
By ADAM SODDERS
Editor’s note: This is the last in a five-part series of interviews with the five candidates vying for a seat on the Marshalltown School Board.
After decades of working as a school principal and educator, Marshalltown School Board President Bea Niblock wants to continue her service for another four years.
“I think I bring an educational perspective to the board,” she said, adding one of her strengths is “My ability to listen, whether it’s to other school board members, community members, school district staff; I think that everybody needs to have a voice.”
After serving for 17 years as principal of Anson Elementary, Niblock ran for and won a seat on the board in 2013. As president, she said she enjoys her role as a moderator during meetings.
“That’s kind of what you did as a principal,” Niblock said. Along with her time at Anson, she has also been a principal in the communities of Chariton and West Liberty.
Niblock’s decision to file for re-election was because she wants to keep working on projects the district currently has going.
“I’d like to see (the Marshalltown High School) Roundhouse Phase II finished,” Niblock said. We had some difficulties with Phase I … I’m hoping Roundhouse Phase II will go more efficiently and effectively.”
Along with the rest of the current board, Niblock was involved in hiring district Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte.
“I think it’s necessary that [Schutte] has a little more stability in his first couple of years,” she said. “I would like to see that stability continue with the board, I think the board is going in the right direction.”
Additionally, the board has been working on new policies, and Niblock said she’d like to see the results of that work. Communication among members and to the district is another area she would like to keep working on.
“I think it’s important for the board to be transparent, I would like to see our communication and marketing plan come to fruition; we’ve worked pretty hard on that,” she said.
By Oct. 1, the district’s strategic plan is set to be released to the public, and Niblock said she’s happy to see the plan coming together.
“We’ve had a lot of community input, we’ve had staff input, we’ve had student input,” she said, adding it’s been a long process.
With the departure of former superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade in early 2016, the board’s focus shifted to hiring a new superintendent. That largely distracted from the strategic plan for several months.
“I think we have the right person in the job to move the district forward in the ways that the board has shared with him,” Niblock said of Schutte.
Between her time on the board and as a building principal in Marshalltown, Niblock said she still holds several concerns about the district.
“We do not have everyone in the district trained in all the things we need to have them trained it,” she said of preparing staff for high numbers of English language learning (ELL) students and students who come from poverty. “This year, we need to get at how we serve students students from homes of poverty, because it’s much different than students from homes of privilege.”
With the district’s demographic challenges in mind, she said student achievement is a top priority.
“Student achievement is the focus of the district, it’s a board goal, it’s a superintendent goal; that’s why we’re here,” Niblock said.
Along with other board members, Niblock said the roughly 600 students open enrolling out of the district on an annual basis is concerning.
“When you multiply those 600 kids by the state funding number … that’s a lot of money,” she said.
That state funding number, about $6,400 per student, doesn’t look like it will increase in the coming year.
“We know that this year’s funding is going to be 0, or less; there could be an across the board cuts,” Niblock said. “The first thing we need to do is look at efficiencies of scale.”
Buying classroom supplies in bulk from organizations like Area Education Agency 267 can save costs.
“The district has been doing that as much as possible,” Niblock said, adding improvements, like adding air conditioning at Marshalltown High School, may be impacted by lack of funding.
“This will be a tough budget year, and we’re getting better on the board at bringing everyone up to speed on the various funds that there are,” she said.
There are two candidate forums set for later this week, and Niblock said she looks forward to both. The first will be hosted by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 24 at Fisher Community Center.
The second forum will be hosted by the Marshalltown Education Association starting 10 a.m. Aug. 26.
An avid gardener and adventurous cook, Niblock said she enjoys being outside. Reading is another passion.
“I enjoy cooking unusual things, so I read cookbooks,” she said with a smile. “From probably April to November, sometimes later, I grill.”
While the role of board president takes up, as Niblock put it, “about 90 percent” of her time, she said loves the job.
“I thoroughly enjoy working on the board, and hope to be able to continue,” Niblock said. “I’ve given a lot of years of my life to the Marshalltown School District, and I want to be able to continue.”
The Marshalltown School Board election is Sept. 12.
Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org