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.
My name is Kimberly Schirm and I am running for a position on the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District school board. I graduated from Vinton-Shellsburg in 2006 and currently live outside of Garrison with my husband, Dustin, and our three children. Following graduation from high school, I attended the University of Iowa where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. While at the University of Iowa, I discovered a passion for helping students and families on their journey into the realm of higher education and decided to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Postsecondary Education: Student Affairs from UNI.
During my time at UNI, I worked as an Academic Advisor where I specialized in working with first-year students that were undecided on their academic major. Together with the students I helped them to explore interests, goals, and strengths to ensure they were finding their purpose and making the best decision for their futures. It was in this role where I came to truly understand the powerful impact public education can have on a student's life. I worked with students and families from school districts all over the state and doing so demonstrated what resources and opportunities were given to them to ease the transition into the next phase of life.
Whether students choose to directly enter the workforce, attend trade/vocational school, community college or a four-year institution, we should promote an atmosphere that will encourage each student to explore and follow the path most suited for them. I am running to be on the school board because I believe in the importance and value of public education and the difference it can make in advancing a student's potential for success in all areas of life. I wish to collaborate with other board members and individuals within the school district and community to be able to take the ideas and concerns and implement them into making a better, more inviting and purposeful environment for students and families.
Looking ahead to the future, there are a few challenges I see facing the school district. The first challenge is staffing shortages. As the Vinton-Shellsburg school district continues to grow, there is a demand for more qualified individuals to fill certain positions and substitute when current staff members are absent. If the school district can maintain staffing, this will allow class sizes to remain small enough for students and teachers to feel supported. If we strive to continue to grow our school district and community, it will become even more pivotal to have the necessary staff in place to keep the district running smoothly. Hiring the necessary staff is only part of the equation. Another important component is ensuring that the staff feels supported and heard. Working with teachers, staff, and community members will aid in the process of maintaining a positive and productive climate in the school district and community.
Next is the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic is an ongoing and fluid situation that is constantly evolving. The school district will continue to face the effects of Covid-19 and the academic, social and behavioral impacts it has on students and the district in its entirety. When considering the topic of mask wearing, I believe it is imperative to take into consideration a student's mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In addition, keeping the students in school is at the up-most importance. I do not believe the mask topic is an all or nothing issue. As we have learned during the pandemic, things are always changing. As a school district, it is important to look into each individual school building and examine the number of cases to make the best decisions. I do not support a universal mask mandate, but I do think it is wise to keep tabs on the cases to ensure that our children and staff are able to maintain in-person learning and make the proper decisions to make that possible.
In terms of the vaccine mandate for children, I believe that is best left up to the parents of the child to make the right decision for the child and their family. I do not think that is the right or responsibility of the school district. It is a personal and private decision and one that should be left up to the parents to consider all the components that go into deciding.
Aside from Covid-19 and staffing, there are a few other pressing issues facing the district. One issue is making sure our students are meeting proficiency standards. Not only are the academic proficiency standards important, but also guaranteeing the students have the necessary resources and support to find success inside and outside of the classroom.
It would be an honor to serve on the VSCSD school board. I look forward to the opportunity to learn from others and continue to focus on the advancement and longevity of the school district.