Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 18, 2017

Candidates make final push before election

Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Today for school board race
By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Oct 17, 2017

The Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fairfield Economic Development Association and the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center hosted the final Fairfield Community School District Candidate Forum Thursday night at the convention center’s Stephen Sondhiem Center for the Performing Arts.

Four candidates are vying for one two-year spot on the school district’s board of directors, and each one had an opportunity to respond to several questions, which were selected by event organizers and audience members.

School board candidates are Jennifer Anderson, Ben Picard, acting school board member Ryan Kurka and Michael Lane.

The school board seat came open after the resignation of former board president Phil Miller, who was recently elected into the Iowa House of Representatives.

The special election is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Today.

Andy Hallman, editor of The Fairfield Ledger, moderated the forum.

“We all know that the shortage of state funding is a huge challenge for Iowa’s public schools; however, there continues to also be opportunities,” Hallman said, as an introduction to a two-part question. “Aside from state funding, what do you see as the greatest challenges facing public K-12 education today and in the future? What do you see as the greatest opportunities facing public K-12 education today?”

Aside from money opportunities, Lane said that “poverty” in the district was a problem. “There are a high number of students on free and discounted lunches.”

Lane said that there was a “strong correlation” between poverty and low achievement. He also spoke about challenges with the teacher/student ratio, funding and the need to educate parents on ways to help their students succeed.

“We need to be teaching parents to read to their children,” he said.

Picard said that one of the greatest challenges that the district faced was the industrialized, standardized model that public education employed that “zapped creativity.”

He said that creativity was just as important as literacy and getting kids into college.

“Not every student goes or should be expected to,” Picard said of traditional college, explaining that there were many highly intelligent students who wouldn’t go that route.

Picard spoke about growing students’ natural talents. He also talked about the extraordinary teacher talent within the district.

“Public boards face making difficult decisions because popular opinion may not fall in line with a decision. Tell us about a time you faced making a decision that was not considered popular, but you felt was the right decision because of other factors?” Hallman asked the forum.

“My job as an insurance adjuster I give good and bad news,” Kirka said, explaining that in the field as an emergency medical technician he had to make tough calls at times.

“You must stand behind your decision,” he said, of when tough calls need to be made.

Anderson recalled a tough decision she had to make when she worked as the laboratory manager for the Henry County Health Center. Anderson explained that others who worked with her wanted her to speak out about a particular issue.

“I chose to do it silently,” she said, adding that she let the date and performance speak instead.

“It was the best thing to do, and I’m glad I did,” she said.

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