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Haluska, Hauer elected to Solon school board

Area school boards welcome new members

JOHNSON COUNTY– A few local school boards are experiencing a great deal of change since last Tuesday.
In Iowa City, the Sept. 8 school board elections brought five new members to the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) board, as directors Patti Fields, Jeff McGinness, Marla Swesey and Orville Townsend declined to seek reelection, and director Tuyet Baruah stepped down with two years remaining in her term
Based on the Johnson County Auditor’s unofficial election results, filling the four-term seats will be LaTasha DeLoach, Phil Hemingway and Tom Yates, all of Iowa City, and Lori Roetlin of Coralville. Elected to finish the final two years of Baruah’s vacated seat was Christopher Liebig, of Iowa City.
According to Lisa Bartusek, Executive Director of the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB), about 70 percent of districts across the state had a majority of their members up for election this year. In a weekly memo on the association’s website, Bartusek said there is challenge inherent in changes like these.
“The Sept. 8 school board election will bring many new faces to board tables across Iowa,” Bartusek wrote. “That means new dynamics on your board team, because any shift brings a new learning curve, new perspectives, new questions, new opportunity, as well as the challenge of maintaining continuity in the strategic direction set by the previous board/superintendent team.”
The IASB serves as a resource to school districts across the state, providing development opportunities and support services to boards of education, superintendents, board secretaries and school district attorneys.
In addition to regular district procedures, the ICCSD will take advantage of many IASB offerings as it helps to prepare five new board members for service, said current board President Chris Lynch.
First, members will go through the district’s on-boarding process comprised of a series of working sessions, Lynch said. The entire board will meet every week until the end of October to review topics like leadership for student learning, working with district departments, board policies and district policies.
“We have a very detailed schedule for on-boarding. We are planning a much more rigorous process this time,” Lynch said.
The district will also tie into IASB training sessions as they become available, Lynch added. The IASB offers a new member orientation workshop, as well as online tools, webinars, and a convention in November with a number of learning opportunities. Lynch and board Vice-President Brian Kirschling will encourage all the ICCSD board members to attend.
“In the past, new board members would have gone through orientation with district departments, but this year we will all do it together in a work session,” Lynch said. “There are two benefits to this approach. First, the whole board goes through the same information at the same time. The second is that it will be an open session so the public can watch and learn, and see the same things we are seeing. We think it will be a great enhancement to the process.”
In Solon, the single incumbent to seek reelection was ousted by just three votes. There were two open positions on the board, with director Dean Martin stepping down after two terms and one-term incumbent Dan Coons running for reelection. Newly-elected directors for the Solon Community School District (SCSD) school board were Adam Haluska and Jim Hauer.
Solon Superintendent Dr. David Eihdal said orientation will take place for both new members in Solon, consisting of reviewing the role of a board member, district goals and strategic plan, student data, budget, funding sources and current facility projects.
“This is also a great time to answer additional questions each new member may have and begin building the necessary board/superintendent relationships to effectively lead the district,” Eidhal said. Members will also take advantage of the IASB’s training opportunities, he added.
Eidahl himself is new to the district; he replaced Sam Miller this summer and began communicating with the school board even before beginning his official duties.
“Continuous communication that keeps each board member well-informed is a key to building a strong superintendent/board relationship,” he said.
Eidhal provides the board a summary of events, issues and any relevant information regarding the district through email at the end of each week. “I also keep several lines of communication open through email, phone or a face-to-face visit. Our five board members are very active in the community and reach a lot of people in various social settings, so keeping them well informed is important.”
Clear Creek Amana’s (CCA) school board election was less dramatic, with all five candidates running unopposed. There was not much change in the board’s composition, as four of the five elected members were incumbents: current board President Steve Swenka was reelected to the District No. 3 seat, director Bob Broghammer to District No. 2, and board members Terry Davis and Matt McAreavy were reelected to two At-Large seats. Jennifer Mooney was the only newcomer, and was elected to District No. 1 seat formerly held by Rick Hergert.
CCA Superintendent Tim Kuehl said Mooney will have an orientation session with himself and the board secretary to help her acclimate to her new role.
“We’ll cover basic school finance, review current projects/initiatives, and go over the role of the board,” Kuehl wrote in an email last week. “We are also having a board retreat in October where an IASB trainer is coming to work with the entire board. He’ll review the role of the board and work with us on establishing board/superintendent goals for the coming year.” The CCA board also plans to attend the IASB annual conference in November, he added.
Unlike ICCSD’s majority turnover and a slate of 13 candidates for five seats, CCA’s leadership went unchallenged and will remain mostly uninterrupted.
Kuehl believes consistency is a good thing for the district at this time.
“Currently CCA has lots of projects going on, both from a physical plant standpoint, as well as instructionally. The continuity of the board helps the district to maintain momentum and focus,” said Kuehl.
But a change in board membership doesn’t always come at election time.
Former CCA board member Kevin Kinney served until taking his seat in the Iowa Senate, at which time Matt McAreavy was appointed and subsequently elected.
“I’m starting my third year and we’ve had three new board members in that time, so we’ve had nearly 50 percent turnover,” Kuehl noted. “The critical component is having a group of leaders who are focused on continuously improving the educational opportunities for students, and CCA has been fortunate to have that leadership on the board.”