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Davenport school board race: Bruce Potts, incumbent

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Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:19 PM CDT
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(KWQC) - Note: TV6 reached out to local school board candidates with a list of questions to help voters make an informed decision in the Nov. 2 city and school elections.

We will post the answers at www.kwqc.com/news/education/learn-united. TV6 does not endorse any candidates.

Why are you running for the school board? If elected, what will be your priorities?

I am running for re-election to the board because I believe in community service and that I bring to the board table experiences that others may not have. Priorities: Financial stability, securing our accreditation, and control back from the state and reducing our declining enrollment.

What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member?

I worked in the Davenport Schools for 42 years as a teacher and junior high principal. I am aware of the culture of our district and the needs of our students and parents. I also have four years experience as a current board member through some very challenging times.

What do you see as the major issues facing your school district?

Major issues, declining enrollment, financial stability, student achievement.

As a board member, where would you look to make budget cuts? What would you change about the current budget?

When you have to deal with budget reductions, you need to have everything on the table. You need to know that whatever the board cuts will not be welcome or popular.

What abilities and experiences do you bring to the table that would assist with making difficult financial and budgetary decisions, such as reducing staff?

Having been a principal for 31 years, you were always assessing your expenses and your budget. When directed to make reductions, you attempted to make them when it did the least damage to learning.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into state law a ban on mask mandates in schools (which courts have currently put on hold). Do you agree or disagree with the state ban, and why?

When the Davenport School Board took up this topic, I was supportive of a mandated K-6th as they have not had the opportunity to get the vaccination and allowing parents to decide if they wanted their children to mask 7th-12th grades as they have had ample opportunity to be vaccinated.

How would you critique your school district’s overall handling of student and staff safety during the COVID pandemic?

We worked very hard to ensure masking, social distancing, hand washing, contact tracing, etc. during the height of the pandemic. We provided online learning for 14,000 students, secured mobile “hot spots” and internet service for families who did not have internet access, etc.

Due to various controversial issues, such as mask-wearing, school board meetings have become more heated in recent months with protests and sometimes unruly behavior. Do you have any safety or other concerns, and what changes, if any, would you advocate?

We have always had a uniformed police officer at our meetings and have added an additional officer if we knew there was going to be some “hot button” issue addressed in the open forum.

Iowa has a new law restricting what teachers can teach in schools, particularly when it comes to sexism and racism (issues sometimes lumped together in the catchall term “critical race theory”). This law bans concepts including the idea that one race or sex is superior to another. Do you agree or disagree with the new restrictions and why?

I agree. We need to put all of our energy and resources into student academic achievement.

Schools throughout Iowa are experiencing achievement gaps, especially among students of color and those from low-income families. What course of action would you propose to help close the gap?

We have an elementary literacy initiative in progress. Schools are implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. We have done extensive staff development with our staff on cultural awareness. We have in place a tiered system of academic intervention to provide academic help to students.

Under Iowa’s open enrollment law, Davenport and certain other districts are no longer allowed to deny open enrollment requests. What are your thoughts on this?

It is what it is. We need to up our game to compete with other districts for students. We should do exit interviews with families who are choosing to leave and determine what is motivating them to go. That may then give us a place to start addressing the problem.

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