On November 5th, people living in the boundaries of Muscatine Community School District, including those outside city limits, will go to the polls to vote for school board members. Discover Muscatine sent a survey to each candidate, and printed their answers below verbatim. Discover Muscatine does not endorse any candidate.
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? I worked as Self Sufficiency Coordinator for Housing Programs for 32 years. There were many barriers for families to obtain employment to meet their family needs. After retirement, I did substitute teaching and saw the needs of the teachers and the children. I wanted to be part of the solutions.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? Our students are not ready for what is coming next in this world. Midwest seems to lag behind other areas of country including education. We need to identify better what those needs are to prepare for the future. We have started but I think there still needs to be more bold moves for best education.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! Anytime you can gain knowledge in any given subject, it empowers you to move forward. It empowers you to get a better education, and go for the best jobs etc. We need bolder ideas on how to teach our students. Teachers have the best view, empower them and we all win.
John DaBeet (Incumbent)
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? I am running for re-election because education is my career, and because I have two kids attending classes in our school district. Also, because our School District is preparing for curriculum audit and hiring a new Superintendent. Those are the reasons why I am running for re-election.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? There are several issues facing Muscatine Community School District but the one I like to talk about is the hiring of the new Superintendent.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? I will take an active role in the selection process of the Superintendent, I will listen to stakeholder’s feedback, work with my fellow board members, and I make sure the one we select will meet the selection criteria that was created by Muscatine School Board. I ask for your vote on November 5th.
Aaron Finn (Incumbent)
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? As a current board member I chose to run because of two critical projects that will set the course of our district for the next 5-10 years; the completion of the curriculum audit of which I am a sub-committee member and the hiring of a new superintendent.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? Absenteeism and the behavioral and mental health of our students. With a chronic absentee rate of almost 30% district wide and teachers spending increasing amounts of time managing behavior and mental health issues, our students are receiving less-and-less instructional time.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? The first step is to hire a superintendent that has had success improving these issues. Second, I believe we need to increase the level of paraprofessional and social work support such that we can educate parents on the importance of attendance and decrease teachers management of behavioral issues.
Nathan Mather (Incumbent)
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? To get things done. Noble words and gestures are not enough. Real progress is made outside of board meetings. I pushed for and got the new Jefferson, the MHS science wing, health navigators, expanded AP courses, weighted grading, the alternative pathways school, local internships and fiscal sanity.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? The schools scare people away. MCSD fails to deliver in key areas. Employers can’t recruit. Kids open enroll out. Falling enrollment means fewer resources. The cycle repeats. Students are unprepared. Businesses have no one to hire and start to leave. Poverty grows. Our schools are the weak link.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? The board’s only real power lies in where it focuses the superintendent’s efforts. I will keep the superintendent focused on the ultimate goal: building Muscatine’s future by enlisting employers, collaborating with teachers, communicating with parents and making sure students are ready to learn.
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? As recently retired member of Muscatine Community School District, serving on the School Board offers the opportunity to continue working for our community/families, while also allowing me more time with my family.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? I believe the most important issue facing MCSD will be the hiring of the next superintendent. I believe it is imperative that our community works together to find the person who will lead not only our school community, but will be active in moving Muscatine forward.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? I propose reaching out to as many community members as possible, whether through town-hall meetings, social media surveys, face-to face meeting in work break rooms, etc., gather insight from all. Additionally, members of the City Council and Chamber of Commerce should be on the hiring committee.
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? I am running for School Board with a passion for helping all kids, including those who are slipping through the cracks. I have a unique set of experiences that are well suited to address our challenges. I grew up in NE Iowa Waterloo/Cedar Falls Area. I attended public schools with an undiagnosed learning disability that effected my ability to read quickly. By HS graduation, I was disillusioned about the benefits of an education. I fell through the cracks. At 23 years old, I was married with one son. I was a hard worker in manufacturing, but I was being passed by people with just a college degree. I wanted better for my family. I quit and enrolled in college. I am a graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. I have a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota. I have over 30 years’ experience as an Engineer and Manager in Manufacturing, Research & Power Generation Industries. I have had direct reports of up to 256 people. I have managed annual expense budgets approaching $200M and capital budgets up to $71 Million. I have lead organizations through change similar to what is needed in the Muscatine School District. I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to engage boots on the ground that do have ideas. I know how to make ideas into actions. I am rooted in the Muscatine community. I am the Site Engineer at MidAmerican Energy. My family owns and operate, Creations by Oz, Hanna’s OzSome Treats and the St Mary BnB all in Muscatine. I spend my spare time supporting Melissa & Hanna in their businesses. I enjoy restoring our two historic 150 year old properties. My wife and I both have a passion for investing in and giving back to our adopted home town.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Schools? Muscatine Schools are a wonderful asset to our community. Not many communities in SE Iowa have our engaged parents, qualified teachers, and helpful staff. We have a wide range of classes and activities. We have the financial strength to invest in our people and our facilities. We serve over 5,200 wonderful students. However, the Muscatine School district is no longer the preferred choice for many families in our community and those looking to locate in SE Iowa. Graduation rates fall below our peers. Enrollment is declining. We fail to retain students after 9th grade. We are closing, consolidating and overcrowding our remaining schools. Our compelling challenge is to better serve one in four students at Muscatine High School who cannot demonstrate minimal proficiency in reading, math or science comprehension. If I am elected, I will ensure this goal has impact on finding a new superintendent, selecting a curriculum and setting the vision for how we will move forward.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? It is said, “We cannot solve today’s problems with the same level of understanding we had when we created them.” I will bring new understanding. If elected, I will ensure that parent and teacher input stays at the forefront of daily decisions for administrators. Recent effort to gain community input on curriculum and the selection of a new School Supervisor are great, but this is not our daily culture. I will ensure we have a Superintendent that values input from parents and teachers. He or she will have similar experience to mine in leading a culture change to move an organization from top down push to servant leadership that listens to parents and teachers. I am looking for a superintendent that will have prepared for our interview by reviewing our academic performance data, socio economic data, past actions of the Superintendent / School Board. He or She will share common experiences and insight related to our challenge. They should come to the interview aware of the city of Muscatine’s designs for growth, its challenges. They will have contagious passion for our schools place in attracting and retaining families to Muscatine. I will ensure parents and teachers are part of the interview process.
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? I am a former teacher of 29 years and varsity softball coach of 26 years in the district. I now have grandkids attending MCSD and want to help make a positive difference for the school system. One of my concerns is the large class sizes in the elementary schools.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? The most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now is finding the right Superintendent. It is imperative that the Superintendent has a vision and plan on how to engage our students positively and also reduce our absentee rate.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? I would look for a candidate who has the leadership skills to place a strong value on teachers and principals. This person should also come from a district with similar demographics to ours so they would be familiar to the challenges they will face.
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? I know I have what it takes to be an excellent school board member. I will be able to help analyze the big questions regarding the direction of school system and also listen to the individual concern from the parents to see how we can solve their situation.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? Implementing the curriculum in an effective way for our student to understand is a pressing issue right now in the school district. We need to be able to leverage our teachers to understand what we can do better in the classroom and figure out what we can change to help strengthen the learning.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? Two main area that will help address the curriculum implementation situation include, hire the right superintendent and ask teachers to provide feedback for improvement. This issue will improve significantly if teachers, principals, and the superintendent work together and support each other.
Mary Wildermuth (Incumbent)
- Why did you decide to run for School Board? I decided to run for reelection to the Muscatine Community School District Board of Education because we have made some very important community changes that need to be supported. Additionally, we will be selecting a new Superintendent, who will be a key player in evolving that vision and direction.
- What is the most important issue facing Muscatine Community School District now? The most important issue facing the Muscatine Community School District is the selection of our new Superintendent. The next key issue is the implementation of the curriculum audit findings that will be a major tool for the new Superintendent to use to continue to improve student achievement.
- If elected, how will you address the issue you identified? The community will be highly involved in the interview process and successful integration of the new Superintendent into our district and community. The new Superintendent will be given the curriculum audit information and will be asked to use that information to improve student achievement.