Ottumwa — The League of Women Voters hosted a public forum Thursday night at the City Council Chambers in Ottumwa City Hall, where the six school board candidates answered questions crafted by audience members.
The forum provided a chance for those in attendance to ask direct questions to each of the candidates, who stated their cases for election of the three openings on the school board.
Each candidate was allowed to give a two-minute opening and closing statement, and answers to the audience questions were limited to one minute. Topics of the opening statements were mostly focused around boosting the education of every student in the Ottumwa school system, and how each candidate is in a position to provide that.
"I believe that every child should have the best education possible," candidate Michael Burton said. "Students should be prepared for after high school, no matter what path they choose."
The League gave the first question to the candidates, asking what the role of the school board should be within the district. Each candidate agreed that the school district is responsible for reaching the needs of the students, and keeping the school officials accountable for the decisions they make.
"We should hold the schools accountable for progressing and keeping policies and be attentive to the public and what they are saying," candidate Torey Young said.
Other audience questions varied in context from the relationship between the superintendent and the school board to the banning of The Laramie Project. All of the candidates agreed the superintendent has the responsibility to handle the day-to-day operations of the school system, and that the school board should discuss certain decisions before making them.
"The role of the school board is to listen to recommendations by the superintendent, but not accept every opinion or recommendation they make," candidate Carol Mitchell said. "The school board has the absolute right to question decisions."
One candidate, Dr. Charles Coram, declined the League's invitation to the event. He stated in a note to the Courier that he "will not accept a debate invitation from an organization that cannot hold itself out as a non-partisan debate sponsor."
The entire forum was captured live on KBIZ Radio and GOTV, which will rebroadcast the event in its entirety.
Elections for the three open school board positions will be held Tuesday, Sept. 10.