Candidate Q&A: Sean Heitmann
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part three of a five-part question-and-answer series on the Marshalltown School Board candidates.
Part three is dedicated to candidate Sean Heitmann, 40, attorney at Moore, McKibben, Goodman & Lorenz in Marshalltown.
Originally from Victor, Heitmann received a bachelor of arts degree in business management from Waldorf College in Forest City. He proceeded to earn a juris doctorate from the University of Iowa College of Law.
Heitmann and his wife, Megan, have one daughter, Millie, who is a sixth-grade student at Lenihan; and one son, Eliot, who is a second-grade student at Hoglan Elementary.
The other candidates running for four seats on the school board are incumbent Nicholas “Niko” Aguirre, Sara Faltys, Jan McGinnis and Bob Untiedt.
The election will be held Nov. 5.
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?
Heitmann: The overall trend of open enrollment is positive. Since the 2015 school year open enrollment has decreased from 522 students to 478 students. To help continue the trend, the district developed a communications plan. The goal is to improve communication with parents and our diverse community to improve the overall perception of the district. Most open enrollment decisions are about wrong perceptions that smaller districts have smaller classes or kids will have better opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. Our district offers 4-year-old preschool, transitional kindergarten, a one-to-one Chromebook ratio for students. We have STEM specialists in our elementary schools, computer science is taught in elementary. We have a new modular technology lab at the middle school. High school students can complete AP courses and dual enrollment college credit courses.
Q: Besides open-enrollment, what do you consider to be the top three goals you would like to see the school district accomplish?
Heitmann: I would like to see growth of summer programming which is vital in helping kids exceed proficiency in reading, math and more. I would like to see growth of preschool and transitional kindergarten and the implementation of a long-range facilities plan which is essential to prioritize improvements.
Q: How will you exercise fiduciary responsibility and oversight?
Heitmann: School districts are funded by taxpayers. The school board must be responsible with those funds. It is necessary to question proposed expenses to ensure funds are used as intended. It is essential that board members develop an understanding of their role to provide oversight.
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?
Heitmann: I was elected to the school board in 2015. For three years I served on the board Finance Committee. It gave me an education in school finance. The Iowa Association of School Boards is a great resource for board members. I have attended numerous seminars and training sessions dedicated to many areas of school board governance, including school finance.
Q: Have you visited any school facilities? Explain.
Heitmann: I had the opportunity to visit nearly every school building as a part of various curricular visits which gave me the chance to see staff members in action. I spent time in our schools as a volunteer, interacting with middle school students, talking about personal finance through Junior Achievement and reading to students for Anson Elementary’s annual Dr. Seuss day. As a parent, I attended picnics, family reading nights, STEAM nights, dodgeball tournaments, concerts and performances.
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?
Heitmann: The lack of air conditioning at the high school is an issue. Classrooms that are too hot negatively impact the learning environment. Completion of a long-range facilities plan is necessary to prioritize projects. Preliminary cost estimates for air conditioning the high school are approximately $14 million. Given the cost and the impact a project of that size would have on property taxes, the community should determine how much of a priority this project is.