School Board Candidate Spotlight — Karina Hernandez
Residence: Marshalltown (22 years)
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Profession: Bilingual School Site Coordinator
Education: BA Degree in Elementary Education, William Penn University
Family: Married (20 years), 3 children — Vanessa Ceren (22) — University of Iowa Alumni, Alonzo Ceren (19) — Sophomore at Iowa State University, Rogelio Ceren — Sophomore at MHS.
Experience: 4 years as a Board Member, 17 years as parents, past district employee for 12 years, and community member for 22 years.
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? With the uncertainty of the pandemic, keeping all of our students and staff healthy and learning will continue to be an issue for our district to combat. I believe our most important focus should be the achievement gap. This last year has been especially hard due to the pandemic, in which students have missed so much instruction time and our teachers are constantly playing catch-up to try to reach proficiency. MCSD not only needs to work on the plan to accelerate student learning, but also on a plan to support our current teachers on keeping students engaged and learning in the classrooms.
My plan is to continue to support our school professionals in stirring our district in the right direction to allow students to learn through personalized learning experiences. I want to continue to be part of the effort to reduce our achievement gap and support our teachers through the process. I will commit to ensure decisions will focus on student achievement and to support staff. I would also see a strengthened parent engagement effort by increasing communication and opportunities for parents to be involved.
2. What can the MCSD board do to help with the high number of students open enrolling into other area schools? Our board needs a continuum of communication to our community about our district. Early outreach to our community preschools and daycare parents for a formal introduction of our district is a need. We need to provide them with the opportunity to visit our buildings and learn more about the great things our district is doing and has to offer. I will continue to support the great work of sharing MCSD highlights through many avenues of communication. Our district has so much to offer and we need to work together to spread the word.
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? It’s never enough, this needs to be a continued effort of education for all. We need to build trust in our students and parents to come forward with any allegations. I believe it is important to educate parents on how to talk to their children about this subject, what is appropriate behavior and what behavior is unacceptable from any person of any age group. Staff training also needs to continue yearly as a constant reminder of their expectations as a professional. Moving forward, I believe in our staff and trust that they are here to support and teach our students in order for them to reach their highest potential.
4. Has MCSD been effective in COVID-19 mitigation? What’s gone well and what still needs to change? MCSD has tried their best to put in place appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all by following the CDC recommendations and providing protocols in our buildings. These efforts have helped with the spread in our district. MCSD was proactive in focusing on students and staff during the school shutdown by providing remote learning. Resources and support were provided to students to continue learning. I believe there is room for improvement, if a shutdown were to happen again, but given the time they had to do it, they did it well.
5. Why do you think voters should support your candidacy for school board? I love every aspect of education. I love to teach. I enjoy learning. I enjoy seeing others learn. It’s rewarding to see our district along with the community of Marshalltown move forward and succeed. As a board member, I know how important it is to view the district as whole. I also understand the importance of checking every box when making decisions to ensure future success for our district. I am committed to our community. I believe the diversity in our district makes us rich! Learning about other cultures and listening to different languages opens so many doors for students going into the world. I believe our district is moving in the right direction and I would like to be part of making a difference.