Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa. Have lived in Ottumwa for the last 39 years.
Current occupation: Retired teacher
College degrees: BA from UNI, MA from Truman State University
Community organization involvement: Ottumwa Community Children’s Playhouse
Q1: There has been much going on with the district’s facilities in recent years. First, there was the proposal for a new north-side elementary that was approved and then tabled in favor of millions of dollars in renovations to the four buildings, along with renovations at OHS and Evans, an addition to Pickwick, an addition at Evans for a multi-purpose facility, the purchase and renovation of Career Campus, and the purchase of the Wesley UMC property to convert to a parking lot. Do you feel the district is on the right track with these plans, and what, if anything, do you feel needs changed or addressed with them?
A1: I do think the school district is on the right track. Renovating the north side schools gives families the option of attending a smaller neighborhood school if that is what they want. Looking into the possibility of getting Horace Mann, Wilson and OHS on the National Registry of Historic Places would be helpful in getting grants to maintain those older buildings. The only concern I have with the renovations is the fact that storage was taken away from classrooms and many teachers are lacking bookshelves or other storage needed for classroom materials.
I am excited about the multi-purpose facility at Evans for many reasons, the biggest being that by adding more space the class size for PE will hopefully decrease. Adding on to Pickwick makes room for more children to go to our preschool and these families will hopefully remain in our district. The Career Campus gives students opportunities that they may not have had before. I believe that investing in our facilities is a great way to invest in our future.
Q2: Open enrollment has long been a challenge for the district, going back at least a decade. Last year there was a reversal in the trend with the 2021-22 numbers yet to be revealed. How do you propose Ottumwa School District addresses this issue to continue to reverse the trend?
A2: Pickwick is a great introduction to OCSD. The building is very functional and inviting to families. Having PTYC there helps many families with before and after school childcare. Keeping class sizes small through all the grades is also an important factor in keeping families in our district. Handling discipline problems in a positive and effective manner is also a must. I know some families have left our district because they don’t want to send their children to Evans because of the stories they have heard about discipline problems. That narrative needs to be changed! We need to continue the Be the Best initiatives.
Q3: What do you think Ottumwa has gotten right and wrong with its Return to Learn plan in the COVID-19 era?
A3: In a time when things were changing daily, I feel Ottumwa got many things right. Having face to face classes last year was what students, teachers, and parents needed! Virtual classes started out rough for many but got better as time went by. Making sure each student had a device and internet available last year was also good.
As I answer this question we are still waiting for the October 11 ruling on the law mandating masks. It can be uncomfortable to wear a mask all day long, but students and staff did it last year until May, and I believe it helped slow the spread of COVID. Since we know that not everyone is vaccinated if allowed, I feel that the mask mandate should be put back in place.
Q4: Why are you running for this office?
A4: The main reason I am running is because I care about children. I taught in the Ottumwa School District for 38 years. Some years were good and some not so good. I feel that we are heading in the right direction in many areas now. We have people in charge who are listening to the concerns of parents and teachers. They are not only listening, but they are acting on those concerns as best as they can. I would like to see us continue to grow and improve our district. I know that we can be the best!