CANDIDATE SPOTLIGHT: School Board — Leah Stanley
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 to serve the remaining two years of her term after being appointed to fill a vacancy. Melissa Nine is also running to fill the two-year term against Lowry, and Hernandez, Rebecca Kouang, Leah Stanley and Zachary Wahl are competing for a total of three seats.
Profession: Supply Chain Management, Emerson
Education: MHS Graduate, Undergraduate degree from Central College, MBA from University of Iowa
Family: 3 children attending MCSD
Experience: Hoglan PTO President, MEP (Marshalltown Education Partnership), SIAC (School Improvement Advisory Committee), Emerson Women in STEM Leader
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?
1. Public Image of the District
I would support promoting, accelerating, and expanding the great programs happening at MSCD to help students be successful beyond high school. Programs like: Project Lead the Way, dual credit classes, individualized learning programs, summer school, dual language schools & bi-lingual certification.
We need a community effort to create an environment where people who work in Marshalltown want to live in Marshalltown and those who live in Marshalltown want to send their kids to school in Marshalltown. The school board cannot do that alone and will need to partner with other community organizations to accomplish those goals.
2. Increased Social Media Influence
Social media continues to encourage division in our communities, escalating from cyber bullying to encouraging vandalism and physical abuse with this year’s TicToc monthly challenge. Together with disciplinary actions already communicated by the District & local law enforcement, I would support a student run “counter” club – something along the lines of a Social Media Club that posts encouraging tidbits, student successes, bolsters community spirit, and features acts of kindness.
2. What can the MCSD board do to help with the high number of students open enrolling into other area schools? In addition to promoting and expanding the career ready programs that already exist, we can initiate outreach programs at the pre-school level, develop an understanding of why families are thinking about open enrolling early and potentially execute programs to alleviate their concerns.
We also need to retain great teachers and attract new teachers who are willing to be active in the community. Teachers are typically the first role model children have outside of their home. An engaged group of teachers is the first step to creating lifelong learners and developing a positive school culture, encouraging enrollment at MCSD.
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? Both teacher and student training need to occur. Reporting of inappropriate behavior needs to be easy for anyone to do in a safe and confidential manner. I assume there are suggestions provided to schools regarding what preventative measures should be in place to prevent sexual misconduct. Our District needs to be the poster child for implementation of these mitigation efforts and ensuring that preventive actions are continuous and ongoing.
4. Has MCSD been effective in COVID-19 mitigation? What’s gone well and what still needs to change? MCSD has the responsibility to provide a safe environment for both students and staff and I think they have done that to the best of their ability. As a parent, I have been satisfied with the actions that the District took both last year and this year to get students access to learning environments that best suited their situation while doing what they could to prevent spread of COVID-19 from happening in our schools. It has not been perfect, but I think everyone has been doing their best with the information they have at the time.
Positives: Benchmarking other schools and local businesses to put preventative measures in place so students could get back to in person learning while there was still a lot of unknowns about COVID-19. Then adjusting as more information became available.
Getting online programs up and running, then continuing them for students who do their best learning with this flexible environment. Recognizing that the online learning for K-6 needed to be adjusted and improving it significantly throughout last year.
Offering vaccines to students who wanted them.
Changes: Take a deeper look at what might trigger similar actions in the future. A policy regarding virus / illness prevention measures will give parents an idea of what to expect in the future and create a path to follow if something similar happens again.
5. Why do you think voters should support your candidacy for school board? I am passionate about Marshalltown’s success, have experience in past school outreach programs & board committees, and prefer to address issues head on so that we can focus on creating a better future. I tend to make big decisions by combining input across various points of view (constituents in this case) and my own research. I have developed skills in my career that will benefit me as a school board member, such as justifying a budget, change management, and collaboration in a large organization. This is an opportunity I have been thinking about for some time and I will do my best for the people of Marshalltown.