Vinton Today contacted each of the Vinton-Shellburg candidates for the school board asking them to share a bit about themselves and their experience. I also asked the candidates to address a couple of issues that they could face over the length of their term. The first was concerning a statement that the United States Attorney General Merrick Garland issued concerning threats and intimidation of School Board members. (A copy will be included below.) I specifically asked what each candidate thought should merit a call to the FBI. Secondly on the issue of COVID, the risk and prevention I asked them to address their thoughts about mask-wearing and their feelings about mandating a vaccine for school-aged children. Their responses are below.
As I served in the Air Force for 23 years, my oldest daughter went to school in 7 school districts/6 states. My wife Stephanie and I have always supported our three kids' teachers, chaperoning school trips and helping in the classroom. We have coached soccer, softball, flag football, and baseball and supported both strong and struggling school districts. I turned down a second Air Force command assignment to bring my family back to Iowa and ensure my oldest spent four years in one high school, and VS delivered an excellent education. Having experience in 7 school districts gives me a unique perspective, and if elected, I'll work hard to improve learning opportunities to make our great school district even better.
The pandemic is an emotional subject, many of us including my family's lost elderly loved ones. And we all benefited from our teachers' and staffs' ingenuity in adapting to the pandemic when little about COVID was known. Today is a different story, the CDC knows a lot more, and with just one-half of one percent of our 1,600 students having COVID, I do not support a mask mandate. The CDC's webpage cites on average 10-15% of the U.S. population gets the flu every year, and we have never been required to mask for the flu. COVID, like the FLU will always be with us, so we need to look at these facts and remember our country was founded on the principles of limited government and personal freedom. I believe strongly that parents should decide if their kids should wear masks or get the vaccine. As a member of the School Improvement Advisory Committee, I know the recent Fastbridge testing scores confirm that our youngest grade school students are behind in language arts and math. This progress disparity caused by COVID in many of our classrooms concerns me, and wearing masks with such a low infection rate I believe, does more harm to our students'socialization and learning progress than good. I respect those parents that disagree, and they will always have the option to have their kids mask.
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the attorney general's letter, I'm disappointed in his assertion that verbal harassment to teachers and staff warrant federal intervention. The first amendment guarantees free speech, I encourage parents to express their concerns to their students' teachers, school staff when needed, and attend public school board meetings to share their perspectives. If that policy debate turns negative and leads to harassment, I am confident our Vinton Police will handle it appropriately and build a case if prosecution is warranted.
Finally, challenges I see for the district, ensuring enough resources are available to help our students who have fallen behind due to COVID. We also need to be creative in working to improve our 95% graduation rate and seek more resources for special education due to a significant increase in students needing these services this fall. I also want to work with the community to encourage more daycare options in Vinton. I've learned from educators that the lack of daycare options contributes to some children being behind in kindergarten. Working together we can make progress on these challenges.