OTTUMWA — Three candidates for the vacant school board seat gave presentations Monday night, and the competition was tight. Each candidate spoke for about ten minutes, answering a variety of questions about the district and their ability to work on the board.
“They made it a very difficult decision,” said board member Nancy Manson with a laugh. “I was hoping for a much easier decision.”
In the end, it was Jon Bunt who received the appointment.
Mitch Niner gave the first presentation of the night. He seemed confident, and referenced his number of years on the city council as evidence for his ability to serve on a legislative body and work in conjunction with others. He referenced the needed repairs on some of the older schools and recent low enrollment numbers as the main problems facing the district.
The second presentation was given by Krista Tedrow, who has some work experience in the district. She wanted to be more involved in the operations of the district, and wished to attend professional development seminars and to sit in on a classroom once a month to get a sense for how things were going with the students themselves. She also wanted to explore more grant options like the one that led to the beginning of Spark Tank, and wanted the school board to be both transparent and held to a high degree of public accountability.
The winner of the appointment, Jon Bunt, seemed at ease before the board. His presentation was conversational, relaxed, and thorough. As the only candidate not originally from Ottumwa, he saw the district and the city from an outsider’s perspective, but was excited for the opportunity to serve the community and to set a good example for his kids. He cited similar problems facing the community as Niner and Tedrow, but especially stressed the district’s need to expand mental health resources. Also noteworthy was Bunt’s experience working with nonprofits, and his desire to expand the district’s community outreach programs. Ultimately, what drove his presentation was the need to develop a positive learning environment for all students.
“Our community is only going to succeed to the levels to which we prepare our kids,” he said.
He will serve until school board elections Nov. 5, at which point his seat will be declared vacant.
Some of the district’s accomplishments were also highlighted by Board President Leisa Walker. The district’s first day enrollment counts were higher than last year, and Pickwick is at full capacity with two full classrooms and a long waiting list for Pre-K students.
District Superintendent Nicole Kooiker also noted the district’s accomplishments over the past year, during which both Spark Tank and Pickwick Early Childhood Center were established. Emergency operation plans were updated across the district, developed in close cooperation with the Ottumwa Police Department.