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Davenport school board race: Farrah N. Powell, candidate

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Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:08 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?

The Davenport School District has educated over five generations of my family including my own children. I’ve been actively involved with the schools my kids have attended in some form or fashion for over 2 decades. I’ve watched progression and regression, success and failure, and believe it’s possible to turn things around. I can identify with many parents and their struggles, along with faculty and their frustrations. I’ve been a single parent, I’ve been a 2 income home, I’ve struggled with childcare, I’ve had kids that weren’t challenged enough academically, I have a child with a tough academic driven IEP, and kids who want more extracurricular opportunities. My goal is to bring an extended vision to the board, options to explore. I want to help come up with effective resolutions for the tough decisions and assist as a team to bring back consistent success in our schools and community.

If elected, what will be your priorities? Ensuring the citation concerns stay at the forefront in regards to positive momentum, we don’t want to lose focus after the fact. I’d also like to review how the budget is allocated and what needs more and what areas are not utilizing that allocation in full if either are applicable. Last but not least, reviewing why students are truly leaving the district and comparing what others are offering that we can’t being the larger district.

What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member? Outside of being a parent and feeling it is important to give our children the best chance possible and evolve the practices used to succeed. My career involves contract negotiations, conflict resolution, and development, all of them would be useful resources to the Board.

What do you see as the major issues facing your school district? Inclusion and diversity. As our community becomes more diverse it can affect educational needs. Education is not just academically but also includes how different people learn understanding of cultural differences, and needs. Additional issues are matched with the ongoing urge to move from our district, the students’ needs and opportunity as a whole.

As a board member, where would you look to make budget cuts?

I would need more information on how they determine the use of the budget now, I can’t really say exactly how….yet!

What would you change about the current budget?

Figuring out how to increase it, our kids need additional resources to thrive in today’s world and the only way to do that is to increase or move funds from one sector to another.

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

Working in my field has a huge part to do with maintaining a strict budget, looking for financial opportunities including price comparisons, constant reviews for accuracy and retention, analyzing how to better utilize the finances available. All of these components are utilized in some way anytime there is a budget, the goal is to predetermine ahead of time what needs done to save staff.

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?

Schools are state-funded, I believe if there was a need to regulate the use then it should have had better determining factors on its utilization.

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

The situation changes so much I think it would be hard to critique one over another. I’d like to see some exploration of alternate options if possible.

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?

As for safety concerns, I don’t think certain personal information should be public even for candidates, such as a home address. I think some transparency would be beneficial, some of the aggression has a lot to do with feeling in the dark, seeking to understand, and consideration. You can not make everyone happy, but you can make sure they are at least heard.

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 would never support anything that includes superior and race or gender in the same sentence. I do support history, I support history of all cultures regardless of how dark, distorted, or beautiful and flawless it may be. The only way to ensure dark history comes to light is with knowledge, seeing it from a point of view that you have no idea exists.

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?

It would start with the teachers, we have to put some effort into teaching our teachers. I feel the teachers need exposure to new tools, ideas, and options, instead of class restricted to only teach one way when you have a room full of children whose learning needs may fluctuate. I still hold strong with working on the relationship between students and teacher, any child that struggles is typically identified. That is the opportunity for current grade teachers and incoming teachers to start engaging that transition but needs to include the child at some point.

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?

I feel in-district open enrollment needs to be enhanced. I don’t feel transferring out of the district is a good idea unless it’s under special circumstances or for private school needs. Other districts were not always viewed as ideal, but they changed that by investing into themselves.

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