Schmidt hopes to unseat incumbents in upcoming school board election

Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor

On Tuesday, November 3, voters will select the candidates that will fill the two open seats on the Mason City Schools Board of Education. Campaigning for these spots are incumbents Kevin Wise and Courtney Allen, as well as community member Erin Schmidt. Of these three candidates on the poll this election, voters can choose two to represent the district. The elected officials will serve on the Board for four years.

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Courtney Allen, incumbent School Board President, hopes to continue to have a say in big decisions. Photo contributed by Courtney Allen.

According to Allen, incumbent Board President, being a current member running for re-election has both its advantages and disadvantages.

“I feel the district has faced some tough challenges during my first term,” Allen said. “The Board made some difficult decisions and worked hard to overcome those challenges and move the district in a positive direction. I feel we have been very successful which may provide an advantage. With any big decision, however, you’re going to have people who agree and people who disagree, which can convert into an advantage or a disadvantage, respectfully, when it comes time for re-election.”

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School board candidate Erin Schmidt hopes to gain a position on the Mason City School Board. Photo contributed by Erin Schmidt.

Schmidt said she thinks that introducing herself as a fresh face running for Board could work in her favor towards winning the election.

“I feel at an advantage running against two incumbents,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes being the new name and face garners more attention because people want to see what you are about…I also think many residents of the school district feel it is time for a change.”

According to Schmidt, her desire to run for the Board of Education stemmed from volunteering in her children’s classrooms and witnessing firsthand the problems students and teachers face on a daily basis.

“In the last couple of years, I have seen an increase in the stresses placed on classroom teachers in the form of testing mandates and unfair evaluation measures,” Schmidt said. “Those stresses affect you as students.  My interest in running for a Board seat began with a desire to be a voice for Mason’s amazing teachers and, in turn, a voice for the students.”

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Kevin Wise, incumbent board member, hopes to continue to represent the board. Photo contributed by Kevin Wise.

The three candidates were in agreement that state legislations and mandates, such as funding and standardized testing, were at the forefront of the issues currently facing the district. Kevin Wise, incumbent Board member since 2002, said he hopes to address these government regulations in Mason.

“Federal and State mandates are putting more and more pressure on school districts and Mason is no different,” Wise said. “I want to assure Mason remains able to defend against these intrusions and flexible enough to navigate all of the changes.”

The three candidates said they feel a pull towards the Board of Education because of their children’s involvement in Mason schools. According to incumbent Board President Courtney Allen, the board allows her to actively make changes to benefit all students, and in turn, her own children.

“My family is very important to me, as is the school district and community we live in,” Allen said. “I firmly believe that our school district is a great source of pride and plays a major role in the strength of our community. With my 3 most prized possessions–my children–all in the Mason School District, and my family being vested members of the community, the School Board continues to be a perfect opportunity for me to utilize my skills and passion to make a difference.”

Ultimately, the goal of any candidate that is elected is to represent and be an advocate for the students, teachers, and district as a whole, according to Allen.

“As a Board, our goal is to support and protect what makes Mason special and strong,” Allen said. “I want the Board to continue to show good financial stewardship, while prioritizing the educational needs of the students…The most rewarding part about being on the School Board is definitely seeing the successes of the students, the staff, and the district.”

 

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Contracts and compromises

Mason Education Association and School Board reach agreement over contracts after turbulent summer relationship

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

After months of negotiation, the Mason City Schools Board of Education and the Mason Education Association came to a compromise regarding teacher contracts.

At the school board meeting on February 10, the Board announced a two percent teacher raise on a base salary, as well as a $1,000 stipend into employees’ health care savings accounts. In this one-year agreement, everything from their previous contract remained the same.

After a rocky relationship between the School Board and the MEA this past summer, MEA Vice President Maria Mueller said she believes the contract resolution is the first step in the right direction.

“The previous contract was a struggle,” Mueller said. “It is, by definition, a negotiation. You have different perspectives on how things should work, so that was a significant struggle…Certainly, (there were) concerns about the way things were pretty antagonistic last time…We spent some days figuring it out and talking it through and people on both sides were willing to give it a try and were willing to have a good conversation and a direct conversation about the issues at hand and about what were the needs and how could they best be suited. It was nice that by the end, it was a real group agreement…I think it’s definitely, clearly moving in the right direction.”

According to School Board President Courtney Allen, the MEA and School Board agreed to go into a one-year contract rather than a three-year contract to allow decisions regarding health care to be made.

“The reason we went into a one-year agreement after what is typically looked at to be a three-year agreement is because there’s a health care committee and there’s a lot of work being done…” Allen said. “There needs to be changes made to the health care here, but it’s taking time and they need additional time to make the right decisions there, so the agreement was a one-year and allow that work to continue to happen.”

Through negotiations last year, a sub-committee was created in order to collaboratively assess health care needs within the district, Mueller said.

“The committee (includes) people from the Board, naturally teachers, but then other people representing the other areas of employment here like bus drivers or custodians, that kind of thing,” Mueller said. “All the various groups of people are represented and that committee’s job is to examine health care…First, they’re assessing where are we at, and then okay, how might we improve this…They will come up with some ideas or some proposals and when we renegotiate the contract, we can commit to an idea for a longer term.”

Contracts and compromises

According to Mueller, the Board exceeded teacher expectations in their decision to contribute a stipend to health care savings.

“This year, the Board, once again, made a tremendous gesture to say, ‘We do value you. We want to have a great relationship. We want, truly, for the Mason schools to continue to be phenomenal and we want to be a team with this,’” Mueller said. “They actually then, this time, actually increased this stipend to $1,000, which once again, was not something we had even asked for. It was nice for them to take their own initiative to express that sentiment to us…It wasn’t really about the $200 increase, it was about taking the initiative that I think that has gone so far in helping to rebuild (our relationship). It was an awesome gesture of respect.”

Allen said she is hopeful for further collaboration with the MEA in order to accomplish other goals, beyond the topic of teacher contracts.

“We’re also addressing together, as a whole public school, teacher advocacy efforts out there,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of legislation and a lot of stuff going on in general for public education, so that’s also a collaborative effort…We have administrators, we have Board members and we have MEA teachers that are a part of that effort so we’re working collaboratively on that too.”

Mueller said she anticipates a favorable relationship between the MEA and the School Board in the future.

“I can’t emphasize enough the positive ripple effect I think will come from this negotiation,” Mueller said.