Facial Masking

Where Urbandale school board candidates stand on masks, race

Nine candidates are running for three seats on the Urbandale School Board. None of the current board members is running for reelection.

School board members serve four year terms. The three board members not running for reelection are Sarah Schmitz, Mark Smith and Stacy Andersen.

Urbandale residents will vote Nov. 2 for their district representatives

Do you feel strongly about a topic? Skip it here:

Editor’s noteAmber Atchley couldn’t be reached for comment. The responses of the candidates have been lightly edited to improve clarity and length.

Who is running for Urbandale School Board?

Kevin Johnson

Age: 50

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Norwalk, Iowa

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experienceN/A

Tami Biggerstaff

Tami Biggerstaff is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age64

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Staunton, Illinois

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experience: Former early childhood chair of the Iowa Music Educators Association; treasurer of Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

Jason Menke

Jason Menke is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age: 51

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Perry, Iowa

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experience: Urbandale Performing Arts Booster Club President, 2016-2017; Cub Scout leader, 2008-2017

Jenny Meade

Jenny Meade is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age49

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Urbandale, Iowa

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experienceN/A

Steve Avis

Steve Avis is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age54

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Rushville, Nebraska

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experienceN/A

Continue readingHere’s where the Waukee school boards candidates stand. maskMandates, race, and student achievement

Heath Hinkhouse

Heath Hinkhouse is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age: 45

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Ida Grove, Iowa

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experienceN/A

Rachel Kent

Rachel Kent is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age46

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Ames, Iowa

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experienceN/A

Daniel Gutmann

Daniel Gutmann is running for Urbandale School Board.

Age: 44

Office needed: Urbandale School Board

Where they grew-up: Urbandale, Iowa

Where they currently live: Urbandale, Iowa

Past political experience: Member of Iowa Safe Schools’ Board of Directors; Founder and organizer, Drive for Lives: Educators and Allies, currently.

More:Here are the Johnston school board candidates. maskMandates, race, and student achievement

Kevin Johnson

I do not support it. First, most people don’t wear their masksCorrectly. Studies on masks have shown that N95 type can only be fitted correctly. masksProvide the protection required to filter COVID aerosols or droplets. There have been more studies that show the negative effects. masksa focus on children younger than 10 years old who rely on facial cues for their development. I find it very disturbing that this topic has become so divisive across the country, as well as here in Urbandale. This topic will fade with the current pandemic.

Tami Biggerstaff

Today? No. Do you think so? No. We are not in a position where any communicable diseases can be masking our students. I would support universal healthcare if that were to happen. masksIt would be the only way to keep students in school. We must consider the consequences of masking. They include: speech issues — children can’t see their teacher and how they pronounce words; social issues — children can’t learn social cues that are often conveyed by facial expression; general learning issues; happiness — children can’t even see their teacher’s smile.

Jason Menke

Yes. Yes. Districts should teach the same science and health as they do in school, especially in a world where approximately half of students are not eligible for the vaccine. The best interests of the community are served by reasonable, recommended public health mitigation strategies. The recommendation of the medical community and local data should support the decision.

Jenny Meade

Urbandale students are either living with or have been a part of someone with serious health issues and who have to be monitored for the possibility of contracting it. virusThis could be dangerous. Students with medical issues may find it difficult to wear a garment. mask. Students who are impacted by the wearing of a hat have had their learning impacted. maskYou have hearing, sensory, anxiety or other issues. If you are allowed to wear it, your parents can choose. mask. You and your family can make the best decisions for your child with parent choice. I support parent choice. We must respect and honour those who choose differently.

Steve Avis

As a U.S. military veteran, I strongly support freedom — especially the freedom of choice for parents and school employees to independently make these decisions along with their medical professionals. School Board Directors aren’t typically trained to make these decisions; thus, any such mandates should not be under their authority. Recently, the board refused to consider the parental majority opposing the 2:1 ratio. maskMandates. They should reconsider the possibility of removing these mandates. mask mandate after the Nov. 2 election; however, if federal or state laws later override the board’s decision, the board will have no choice but to comply.

Heath Hinkhouse

I don’t support universal mask mandates because I believe that they are a generic solution for a specific problem and I don’t see a path to end masking if we require it now. I respect the right of a person or family to wear a hat. mask if they feel that it offers them protection, but I don’t believe that universal masking should be expected or required. While we must protect immunocompromised patients, I believe universal masking is more than a reasonable accommodation.

Rachel Kent

I support positivity when it is high in our community. maskMandatory In our day-today lives, we prevent illness and injury in many different ways. masksThese are powerful tools for illness prevention. I want our students and educators to be healthy and able to attend school — not only for their own success at school but also so parents can be reliable employees and not have to worry about their children’s well-being during school hours. These parameters are to be met. maskMandates should be followed promptly

Daniel Gutmann

The consensus among public and medical health professionals is to recommend masks in school settings. I support decisions that follow the advice of the experts. Schools need to be kept open. Virtual instruction in 2020 left too many families and students behind.

More:Here are the West Des Moines school board candidate positions masksRace, student achievement and racial diversity

Kevin Johnson

To me, it means parents should have some say in their child’s education and health decisions. I think, for the longest time, a big complaint was that parents didn’t “pay attention”to what was happening in school. That has all changed with COVID. It was initially called the mask issue that got everyone’s attention, but recently, parents have been showing concern about not only curriculum but materials in the school (specifically, books) that are available to their kids. I think it’s important that parents are engaged in their child’s education. I’m not advocating they become involved in curriculum, but there is nothing wrong with asking pointed questions on items that are concerning to them.

Tami Biggerstaff

Parental control means parental choice — that each family unit chooses how their children are educated. This could be private education for some, or public school education for others. Parents need to be able to see what and how their children learn. It is essential that all information regarding curriculum and how it is used be disclosed. One family’s right to education does not end where another family’s right to education begins. Individual families have the right and responsibility to supplement their child’s public school education at home, in whatever manner they feel is right for them.

Jason Menke

It is crucial for parents to be involved and engaged. We know that students perform better when their parents collaborate with their teachers and are involved in their education. That’s not what’s being advanced when we hear “parental choice.”Iowa’s public education system has suffered greatly from the choice narrative (see also: vouchers and bans on public-health measures). We must shift the conversation so that we can focus on helping students and teachers thrive and not making the school environment more uncertain and less welcoming.

We can’t lose sight of the role of public education in our communities and always remain focused on science, truth and inclusivity.

Jenny Meade

Parents should be involved in school activities. Students grow the most when parents, teachers and administrators work together. For example, parents should trust that teachers and curriculum leaders will adhere to state guidelines and standards when it comes to curriculum. Teachers must be open about what they are teaching in order to build trust. Accommodations may be necessary if there is concern about the curriculum. There are many paths to meet a standard, and parents should be involved in their child’s education.

Steve Avis

Parents are generally the best people to decide what is best for their children. The board must not only seek and encourage parental involvement in making major decisions, it must be willing to consider all comments and openly deliberate upon receiving them. School districts do not operate within a vacuum, they operate based upon the needs of the community. Some students require reasonable accommodations. These students are often provided with reasonable accommodations through an IEP (or Section 504 plan).

Heath Hinkhouse

The parent’s role in raising a child until the child reaches 18 years old or until that right has been forfeited is absolute. Parents can and should consider how they and their child contribute to the broader community, but parents should expect transparency into their child’s education and expect that they have informed consent on topics that may be considered controversial or objectionable. I believe that the role of public education is to teach our children how to think, not what to think and parents should have visibility into a school’s philosophy.

Rachel Kent

Parental control is when parents have the power to make decisions about our student body. I don’t believe this belongs in public schools. I believe that parents have the right to choose and can exercise their voices. Our educators are experts in education. Parents should respect and trust them. We have school choice in the metro area; neighborhood schools, open enrollment, private schools and homeschool options — choice is available. If educators are polite, they will make parents feel heard. Parents need to be able to accept realistic outcomes as public education must consider all students.

Daniel Gutmann

School boards need to listen to all voices including parents when making decisions, but also need to account for the data, best practices in education and expert advice. Parents’ choices should not be made at the expense or access of other students to education.

Kevin Johnson

My daughter, a junior at Urbandale High School, is involved in the student group C.O.R.E. Club of racial Equity.  I think one of the best ways to promote diversity and inclusion is to listen to the thoughts and ideas of our students — let them know that their individual issues/concerns are being heard and that they will be addressed. This would be a great way to ensure that our students are happy and fulfilled. “teaching all, reaching all” motto is, in fact, happening.

Tami Biggerstaff

Learn from our mistakes. Our students are not disrespectful or exclusive by nature. These are learned social reactions. We need to strive to be the best community we can, celebrating and respecting each person’s differences, while lifting up all people as individuals, with their unique skills and talents based on the content of their character. It is important to include parents as volunteers in schools and classrooms to foster a respectful and inclusive student population. Living and working by example rather than “preaching how to,”This method has been proven to be effective in teaching.

Jason Menke

Our community has become more diverse in the past 25 years. Therefore, we must ensure that our public education reflects this. It allows diverse students to perform better — academically, socially and emotionally — and it better prepares all students for the world they’re entering as adults.

It is important that the curricula as well as the resources available in school media centres reflect the diversity within our community. This is also crucial for helping students to understand how cultural, learning, and other differences among peers can contribute to a better, informed perspective of the community.

Jenny Meade

Urbandale’s mission statement is “teaching all and reaching all” — I believe in this statement. Every student that enters our community should feel welcomed, valued and heard. Character counts is a curriculum that teaches the pillars and values of character. With a focus on respect, caring and responsibility, we can celebrate our diversity while finding common ground rather than division. Inclusion means providing equal opportunities for all learners. Classrooms can include this by accommodating all learning styles and making accommodations when necessary.

Steve Avis

It’s important to get to know each student and what makes them unique. It is a great idea to meet with each student one-on-one to discuss their progress and offer guidance. Students should be encouraged to examine their genealogical backgrounds and share this with their classmates so that each student can become familiar with other students’ traditions, cultures, etc. This helps students understand each other better and prepares them to face the future.

Heath Hinkhouse

One of my five priorities has been to embrace diversity, inclusion, and other perspectives. Our community is more racially diverse today than it was a few decades ago. I believe that this is an incredible opportunity to learn from a variety of cultures. I believe that diversity and inclusion can be promoted in a way which promotes equality over equity, which promotes the individual above the collective, and encourages unity over scapegoating, division, and

Rachel Kent

Urbandale’s diversity is my favorite asset! There is so much we can learn from each other, and real-life experiences can make learning and retention more enjoyable. It is important to take the time to get to know one another and to invest in them as individuals. This can help academics come to life by putting it in context. Facts and students’ personal experiences should always be embraced and taught in our classrooms.

Daniel Gutmann

Our district should reflect Urbandale’s growing diversity. To identify discrepancies in academic, socio-emotional, disciplinary outcomes between different student groups, we should look at district data. We should listen carefully to the experiences of students and their families. To support all students, we should use research-based best practices. UCSD can be more responsive to the needs and interests of all learners. When a coach gives a struggling hitter extra batting practice, it’s not at the expense of the cleanup hitter. It makes for a winning team. It is possible to lift all students and not make anyone feel bad. This creates a great school district.

More:Here are the Ankeny school board candidate positions masksRace, student achievement and racial diversity

Kevin Johnson

The most help should go to any of our struggling/not proficient learners — whether that’s the IEP students or students that are English as a second language. Data-based decisions must be made with all our learners, but especially with those who need the most help. We have tiered support systems.

Tami Biggerstaff

After a semester of half-time learning last year we must ensure that every student is performing at or above grade level. We must quickly identify those who aren’t performing at grade level and then react to them to get them to do so. This is not an easy task and it is not impossible to do. “times we live in.” It is a situation that needs immediate attention and unified teachers and staff, administration and board to accomplish.

Jason Menke

There is no one student group that should be singled out for academic help — especially in the current environment. Every student is facing the challenges of teacher, substitute, and paraeducator shortages. This should be a top priority for every school district. While we must continue to support students in IEPs and 504 plans we also need to find ways that we can enhance the learning programs of advanced students who could benefit from a more rigorous curriculum.

Jenny Meade

The word “all” within Urbandale’s mission statement really means all, and if we truly believe in that statement, all students need academic help. Our extended learning program learners need to be challenged and pushed to excel. Students in trouble need assistance and accommodations to help them succeed. Most of our learners fall between these ends, and each student deserves to be challenged academically. This is a daunting task we assign our teachers. We need to make sure they have enough support and resources to help all students.

Steve Avis

Every student is unique — and to deny the existence of their individual challenges and to simply stereotype them into a group is a major disservice to each student. The academic help that all students can benefit from is critical thinking skills — learning to form their own opinions based upon doing their own research and carefully weighing the information to come to a conclusion is important. We must also address pre-COVID-19 proficiency scores in reading, writing and listening skills in our district, which are below state averages.

Heath Hinkhouse

Urbandale’s mission is “Teaching All, Reaching All,”I believe that every student has the right to live this mission and that we should all give our best efforts. I don’t believe in segregating our children into groups and developing strategies that may run contrary to our mission. Focusing on individual learning outcomes and needs is the best way to achieve our aspirational mission. As a public school, we need to teach and reach everyone that comes through our doors, regardless of their attitude, ability, effort or situation.

Rachel Kent

All of our students require teachers who are open to working with students on their individual needs. Teachers are usually willing to help students before and during school. Some schools have homework clubs. The high school has an intervention period that allows students to get extra time in classes they need. ESSER funds were used this year to hire math specialists. There are also many summer programs available for students who are in need. We have the resources to assist every student and we should make use of them.

Daniel Gutmann

UCSD must be more transparent about student assessment data. District goals should not be based on assumptions but data. UCSD has a difficult time providing differentiated instruction for all students. This is true of students from diverse demographic groups, students with special education, and those who are eligible for extended learning programs. Too often, we are too focused on the middle when we should be aiming for everyone to win.

Kevin Johnson

We need to make sure that our pay is at least equal or higher than those in neighboring areas.  We might offer stipends to those who are more difficult to fill. We need to make sure we have a safe and welcoming environment for teachers. Staff should also be involved in topics such as masks or new curriculum and then take that feedback/data and do something with it to show that the district is hearing them.

Tami Biggerstaff

At a time when every school district in the Des Moines metro area is experiencing the same issue — lack of substitute teachers and a general shortage of teachers — the answer may be at a higher level than the districts.

Communication and listening are key components of the UCSD. Are there issues that don’t involve the general shortage in our area? If so, it is important to identify those issues and develop a plan for resolving them. Our teachers are vital to the success of our students — which is the end goal.

Jason Menke

I’d like to see the district review of compensation packages comparing us to metro-area peers. We’ve lost a number of staff to neighboring districts because of differences in pay and benefits. It is crucial to make Urbandale schools more competitive.

We must reject the negative if we want Urbandale to be attractive to educators. “parental choice” narrative and focus on parental engagement and involvement. The former is a narrative that micromanages and alienates teachers. The latter is more productive and beneficial and recognizes and values the professional expertise of educators.

Jenny Meade

First, we must ensure that our contracts are fair and attractive to teachers. Teachers need to feel safe and supported in every building. Are teachers heard? Do they feel comfortable expressing their concerns? Do they have the resources necessary to succeed in the classroom When teachers feel heard, safe and supported, everyone wins. We are fortunate to be near many excellent universities that offer education programs. We must work with universities to attract teachers to our community. This includes bringing in student teachers and practicum teachers, as well as exposing them to Urbandale’s unique qualities. These positive experiences will help increase the number of Urbandale teachers who want a career.

Steve Avis

According to a 2018 study by the Learning Policy Institute, “teaching attractiveness rating” for Iowa is 4.05, with 5 being the most desirable based on compensation, teacher turnover, working conditions and qualifications. Although this report indicates a high level of Iowa’s support for teacher recruitment and retention, it does not reflect some of the factors that have occurred over the past three years. While I’m not currently privy to details of hiring and retention problems in our district, I’m anxious to see what can be improved to make our district an attractive school to work for.

Heath Hinkhouse

Our teachers are the most important people in our efforts to achieve our mission. We must recognize their tremendous value in teaching students if we want them to choose Urbandale. My sisters and I are both teachers so I know the demands placed on teachers. I want Urbandale’s teachers to feel valued, heard, and that they can make a difference in the community.

Rachel Kent

Urbandale has an unusually structured pay scale. It is difficult to compare our scale with other ones, according to my sources. It would be beneficial to both prospective employees and our current employees. We need to strengthen our family relationships so that there is more. “teamwork”Our teachers feel valued and supported by the district and their families. Our greatest asset is our teachers. They are our vehicle to a brighter tomorrow.

Daniel Gutmann

The ability to educate all children depends on the availability of qualified adults in schools. I will not support any reduction in the district standards to fill vacant positions. Our support and compensation packages should be comparable to those in surrounding districts. We must listen to staff voices. I have very high standards for what kind of adult I want to spend my time with my child.

Sarah LeBlanc covers the western suburbs for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @sarahkayleblanc

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