CANDIDATE SPOTLIGHT : School Board — Bonnie Lowry
Editor’s note: Ahead of the November 2 election, the Times-Republican sent out questionnaires to all of the declared candidates in the city council, mayoral and school board races. We will print responses from one candidate per day in the city council and school board races this week in alphabetical order.
In the school board race, Karina Hernandez is the lone incumbent seeking re-election, and Bonnie Lowry is seeking a full term after being appointed to fill a vacancy. A total of four seats are available with six candidates declared: Hernandez, Lowry, Rebecca Kouang, Melissa Nine, Leah Stanley and Zachary Wahl.
Hometown: My family moved frequently due to my father’s job. In 1968 we moved to Marshalltown when I was in the 8th grade. I consider Marshalltown my hometown.
Profession: Educator — teacher/administrator/consultant
Education: BA Education, MA in Special Education, Administrative Endorsement K-12
Family: Husband — Pat, works at NADC for Lennox, Son — Nathan, graduated in 2000, owns a construction company in Johnston and lives in Waukee with his wife and 2 children, Daughter — Andrea, graduated in 2002, she is a school social worker and lives in Longwood, FL with her husband and two children.
Experience: I have worked in the field of education for 44 years. I have worked in elementary and middle school special education classrooms in Marshalltown with students who have behavior disabilities. I coordinated the Caring Connection at the middle school level, arranging services with outside agencies to meet student needs. I served as an associate principal at Marshalltown High School for 6 years and in 2004 I was named as the building principal until 2011 when I retired. I was then asked to serve as a special education consultant at the Meskwaki Settlement School, working with students, parents, and teachers of 3-year-olds through 12th grade students. I served in that role for 10 years until June of 2021. Currently I am working with MICA and Center Associates as a consultant; working with Early Head Start and Head Start Programs in 5 counties.
1. What do you feel are the top two most important issues the Marshalltown Community School District will be facing during your term as a school board member? How do you plan to address those issues? Changes in how instruction will be delivered and regaining lost learning opportunities due to the pandemic.
Changes in how instruction will be delivered: MCSD is one of 24 school districts in Iowa that has launched an accredited on-line virtual educational program for K-12 students. Staff members who have agreed to work totally in a ‘virtual’ environment with students and parents are becoming experts in this new educational arena. I believe that this new learning environment requires developing a close partnership between school staff and parents to create a highly effective and motivating environment for students. In order to support this new adventure, as a Board member, I will remain open to meeting the needs of staff, students, and parents to ensure that educational needs are met.
Regaining lost learning opportunities due to the pandemic: When the pandemic closed our school doors in March of 2020, it was a challenge for our teaching staff to make the transition to on-line learning. It was a steep learning curve for the MCSD staff, students, and parents. Participation in the learning opportunities was optional for students, new material was not presented, and our families were not all equipped with the technology necessary to fully participate in the learning opportunities. As we moved into the 2020-2021 school year, a hybrid learning model was implemented which also was an adjustment. We know that our students have diverse learning needs and at times need additional support to maximize learning. Our elementary schools have created opportunities for students who are in need of additional support. As a board member, I will support the development of creative programming to meet the needs of all students and support that programming with the material necessary to maximize student learning.
2. What can the MCSD board do to help with the high number of students open enrolling into other area schools? I believe that the MCSD has a lot to offer the students in our community. We need to continue to showcase the achievements of our District. The more transparent that we can be regarding the opportunities our District has to offer and highlighting student successes, the better our community will understand the benefits of having their students be actively involved in the Marshalltown Community School District.
3. Student safety and parental trust was put into question with allegations of sexual misconduct against MCSD staff members. Some training has been provided and some new policy introduced since the incidents. In your view, is that enough? What further steps should be taken to address these issues? Incidences of sexual misconduct are alarming to all of us whether the allegations occur in our schools, work place, or out in the community. The MCSD hiring practices that are in place are good. Background checks are completed in compliance with state and federal laws. I believe that education of our District staff, students, and parents regarding appropriate and inappropriate staff behavior and transparency of how to report incidents of inappropriate staff behaviors is one way to be proactive in dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct. Talking about and reporting sexual misconduct is uncomfortable; however, having open dialogue and organized reporting protocols may help to facilitate dealing with allegations if they arise.
4. Has MCSD been effective in COVID-19 mitigation? What’s gone well and what still needs to change? I believe that the MCSD has been very thoughtful, purposeful, and timely in dealing with COVID-19 mitigation. The District has provided opportunities for parents, staff, and other community members to be heard within school board meetings as well as through email correspondences. COVID-19 has become part of our lives, requiring us to deal with it on a daily basis. It is not going away anytime soon. The use of masks, getting vaccinated, and determining individual comfort level of attending community activities are all personal choices. Just like with other communicable diseases, we need to examine what scientific research has to offer us and also the trends that are being noted. I believe that my position as a school board member is to listen and evaluate information to make the best decision for our school district.
5. Why do you think voters should support your candidacy for school board? I am a Marshalltown graduate and have lived most of my life in Marshalltown. I feel that I am connected to this community. I serve on the SATUCI Executive Board, the Marshalltown Community Auditorium Foundation Board, and the Live On Stage Marshalltown Board. In the past, I have served on the MICA and Center Associates Boards. I have also done a little case management work for Youth and Shelter Services. I am currently working with Center Associates providing consultative services to MICA Early Childhood Head Start and Head Start programs. I am a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church and I am also a Rotarian. I have been actively involved in the business of education for 44 years. I have served in the roles of classroom teacher, administrator, and consultant. I have had the opportunity to work with children from 3 years of age through college seniors. I believe that I have a good understanding of educational practices and research/evidence-based strategies and materials. I see serving on the school board as another way that I can give back to the community that I have grown up in to help ensure that the educational system stays strong and vibrant.