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Ottumwa High School

OTTUMWA — Five new members have been elected to the Ottumwa school board, according to preliminary numbers. Votes from Highland Township remain to be counted.

David Weilbrenner, Christina Schark, Brian Jones, and Morgan Brown have been elected to four-year terms, and Jeremy Weller was elected for a two-year term.

They replaced board members Michael Carpenter, Mike Dalbey, Gary Granneman, Jon Bunt and Board President Leisa Walker.

“I’d like to thank the public for voting for a change,” Weilbrenner said. “I think they recognize the same thing we as candidates recognize. We need to stand up for Ottumwa and do what’s right for the kids and the parents.”

“Ottumwans finally got the chance to make their voices heard, and they certainly didn’t squander the opportunity,” Brown said. “I think the results are a resounding rebuke of the now-former board, and I can’t wait to get to work putting the train back on the tracks.”

The new members inherit a number of issues. The district is in the early stages of designing and building a new north-side elementary school, something a number of the candidates have vocally opposed.

Many of the candidates also addressed Ottumwa’s problem with students open-enrolling into other districts. The open-enrollment out rate has risen over the last nine years. This year had the most students enrolling out so far, with 525 opting to leave the district. That number was 116 in 2010.

A few of the candidates, like Schark and Jones, also spoke about things such as school and district culture.

“Our priorities are open enrollment, teacher retention, and a plan to address classroom behavior,” Schark said. “I’m just really excited about this, I’m honored, it was a pool of fantastic people.”

Some spoke about being more transparent with the public than they felt their predecessors had been.

“One thing we’re going to have to do is accountability,” Jones said. “We’ve got to make sure that we as a board are held accountable for everything.”

Weller agreed.

“The priority is opening up that line of communication with our staff and our community,” he said. “Making sure that they feel like they have a school board they can trust, that they can come to, who supports teachers in the classroom.”

The new board will assemble for its first organizational meeting some time after Nov. 19, during which they’ll select their president and vice president.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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