Five candidates are running for four open seats on Maquoketa’s school board, including one write-in candidate.
Two of the candidates are incumbents. Mary Herring has served on the Maquoketa Community School Board since being appointed about 18 months ago, and board president Michael Hayward is vying for his third term on the board.
Joining the race are candidates Tom Miller and Terry Creegan. Last week Tiffany Mangler announced her write-in candidacy.
David Sybesma and Lenke Carson have decided not to run for their current seats. Tanya Roeder’s at large seat is not up for election this year.
All Maquoketa School Board seats are at-large, meaning there are no residency requirements. So in Tuesday’s election, Maquoketa voters will select four of the five candidates to fill the four open seats.
Many of the candidates expressed their desire to serve as an impetus for their candidacy. Many also talked about the specter of declining enrollment, the need to make sound financial decisions, planning, facilities, curriculum and communication.
Creegan served as veteran’s affairs director for the county for several years, after a career in the Air Force, where he ran support for about 8,000 people in areas from lodging to laundry to recreation.
Creegan said he would have liked to see a few things done differently in the last couple years. He said he couldn’t fault the decision to sever ties with middle school principal Christine Snell in 2018 but that the process seemed “a little out of the ordinary.” (The school district started a search for a new principal while Snell continued working in that role. The district would not answer if Snell would keep her job, and months later signed an agreement giving Snell $120,000 and a letter of recommendation in exchange for her resignation.)
He also said the school’s food service transition to Lunchtime Solutions could have been handled in a way that didn’t hurt some of its employees. Creegan’s wife, Mary Kay Creegan, is head chef at Briggs.
Creegan said he is “very, very impressed” by district curriculum developments and that he also wants to prioritize student safety if elected.
Hayward said that, with significant turnover on the board, his knowledge as an experienced board member would be a boon if he’s re-elected.
Hayward sees projections of declining enrollment — tied to state money — as the district’s biggest challenge, and he hopes that early childhood care might “head off that declining enrollment challenge.”
Hayward said that board members are “primarily there to guide and facilitate” administrator and staff efforts. “I’d like to continue our work on the facilities committee,” he said. “We’re starting to get a vision. I’d like to have a strong facilities plan.”
Herring spent a 30-year career in education before coming to Maquoketa, starting out in middle school physical education and serving for six years as associate dean in the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Education.
“I think we’re well on our way in planning for the future of Maquoketa schools,” she said.
Herring praised district superintendent Chris Hoover, business manager Kristy Haxmeier and curriculum director Tara Notz.
“I hope that we continue on the path of state-of-the-art curriculum and support for teachers,” she said. “I think this district does an amazing job of professional development. There’s such a strong partnership between administration and teachers that only serves to benefit their kids.”
She’s excited about the possibility of wraparound care in an early childhood center.
The school also has to keep an eye on tax rates and be good stewards of tax dollars, Herring said.
Mangler said that she hadn’t been looking to run for school board, but that several teachers asked her to consider a write-in candidacy. If she’s voted in, she said she would serve.
A realtor, Mangler said she would bring a unique perspective to the school board table.
“My husband is an educator. My children are in the district. I have a pretty broad knowledge of how decisions affect everybody,” she said. “From the real estate perspective, I’m dealing with people moving out and possibly moving in, and schools are a big part of that.”
She added that she thinks the school has “done a good job of being a lot more transparent” and “trying to communicate.”
Miller said he’s not running for the school board because he has a “burning agenda” but that “his biggest issue is organization and community development,” especially in long-term planning.
“We need to develop students into future neighbors and mothers and fathers and people who will run our businesses in town,” he said.
Miller works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He’s been involved with Limestone Bluffs Resource Conservation and Development and the Maquoketa trap shooting team.
Through USDA loan work, he’s seen first-hand the challenges of school and non-profit daycares. He’d like to bring his experience in that area to discussions of an early childhood center in Maquoketa.
Miller also said he sees the importance of the recently-funded ag expansion at the high school.