Candidate Q&A: Bob Untiedt
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part five of a five-part question-and-answer series on the Marshalltown School Board candidates.
Part five is dedicated to candidate Bob Untiedt, the director of the Orpheum Theater.
Originally from Davenport and Durant, Untiedt obtained a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and business from Coe College in Cedar Rapids and completed a graduate-level certificate program in non-profit fundraising from the University of San Francisco.
The other candidates running for four seats on the school board are incumbent Nicholas “Niko”
Q: The Marshalltown Community School District currently has more than 550 students that have chosen to open-enroll out of the district and attend area schools. What do you think are the main reasons for students leaving the district? What do you propose to change that trend?
Untiedt: I’m a strong believer in a method of strategic planning called “Appreciative Inquiry.” In it, organizations emphasize the elements of belonging to the group based on the actual experiences of people. If we promoted the opportunities which the school district has over other smaller districts that might make a difference. We should continue the work of marketing good people, programmatic advantages and the diversity of the district as strengths.
Q: Besides open-enrollment, what do you consider to be the top three goals you would like to see the school district accomplish?
Untiedt: Priorities for the school board should include things like ensuring our graduation rates remain strong at 88 percent; that achievement gaps are recognized; and that we are prudent, but opportunistic in investing in people.
Q: How will you exercise fiduciary responsibility and oversight?
Untiedt: Reading financial forms, asking questions and ensuring the district has good people in the right places is the main answer. I know people were fired, the auditing company was dismissed, the district asked the state to do an audit and that bad things happen to good districts. While it’s a good idea for board members to take an interest in financial matters, it doesn’t mean that the average school board member should get into the weeds of accounting and the daily work of the financial department. There are at least a dozen nonprofit execs who will say that I ask a lot of questions about accounting. I want more than monthly reports. I want to see trends and understand how organizations deal with long-term spending.
Q: Since the school budget is millions of dollars, what is your background in financial concerns or how will you gain understanding of this major component?
Untiedt: There is an ongoing training program for board members to understand the nuances of public education financing. I have served on two boards with multi-million dollar budgets and know how accounting from various sources have limits on them. I have a BA in business from Coe College with some classes in accounting from UNI. I have enough knowledge to ask informed questions and know I’ll learn quickly to be conversant on financial topics for the school district.
Q: Have you visited any school facilities? Explain.
Untiedt: I have visited every elementary school, Miller Middle School and the high school. I’ve done so to engage principals around free movies for their schools; talk about a March 2020 concert by a nationally known artist who will do a workshop for the 700 plus students of Miller; and met with the high school principal to see if we could engage students through the Orpheum Theater.
Q: What course of action should the school district take to install air conditioning in to the high school? How soon should that process begin?
Untiedt: I understand it’s an issue for students but I also know that the Facilities Committee of the school board has been looking at priorities for years. There are limits to revenues and this has only affected six class hours this year to date. I have significant doubt that it should be the highest priority, and the $14.5 million price tag means that it can’t happen tomorrow. Passing the Secure an Advance Vision for Education revenue initiative here this fall is a critical part of moving this project forward. There will also have to be discussions of whether we need a bond measure for this. I do take this need seriously but it’s got to be the right project among many others.