Creston school board candidates explain their vision – Yahoo! Voices

Oct. 29—There are similarities among some of the four Creston School Board candidates. And there were also some differences. Each of them explained their own strategy and insight during a candidate forum — sponsored by Creston News Advertiser, Creston Chamber of Commerce and KSIB Radio — Thursday at Southwestern Community College Allied Health and Science Center.
The four candidates for the three seats are Amanda Mohr, Leslie Wurster and incumbents Galen Zumbach and Sharon Snodgrass. Creston voters will elect three on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
"We have a a great community," Zumbach said when answering what is the strength of Creston schools. "I told my parents I'll be back in about three years." He eventually taught 33 years at Creston.
"I fell in love with Creston. Creston became my home. We have been so fortunate in our community to have quality people," said Zumbach, who has been on the board since 2011.
That sentiment was shared by the others.
Mohr said she has seen the quality of Creston's people within the school itself.
"I'm going to get teary," she said explaining her story. She has a child in the school system who requires accommodations.
"A custodian specialized a desk for my child," she said. "I know that is not a custodian's job."
She also noted how among the hundreds of students who are served lunch, there are children who have their lunch tray carried to their seat.
"Custodians and cooks take time out of their day," she said about doing servant-like actions with students.
Wurster is from Phoenix, Arizona, and has noticed the multiple generations of families that live in Creston calling it a strength.
"I've never seen that before," she said. "Young people are coming back after college or come back in their 30s."
Despite the differences among the people, Snodgrass said Creston people still have the same vision for education.
"It's the people who work there. It doesn't have to be a school, a grocery store, dental office, it's the people who work there. That's always the most important. No one thing is the same each and every day. We all like to be treated well. We all want our kids to be happy," she said.
Snodgrass has been on the board since 2012. She has 29 years teaching in Creston retiring in 2011.
Creston has experienced few applicants for teaching positions and that is common across the country. Candidates were asked what a school board could do to renew interest in teaching.
"The best advocate for recruiting teachers are the teachers we have in the classroom," Zumbach said. He taught agriculture classes in Creston for 33 years before moving to Southwestern Community College, where he has been the past 13.
Zumbach credited his high school agriculture and biology teachers for influencing him in his pursuit of a degree in education.
"It's a challenging profession with wide range of students with a wide range of backgrounds. Some are well versed. Some are not and in the same group. People don't like to deal with discipline. There is no easy answer to get people into education."
Wurster called the lack of applicants a result of the d of school culture.
"People used to have a great relationship with their teacher, enjoyed going to school and bantering. I don't think that is the case anymore," she said.
She said a loss of pride in school, lack of participation in activities, hypersensitivity and more influence by social media than parents and teachers have what changed the culture. She said too much has been focused on the underprivileged, "leaving out other students who want to succeed."
Mohr said schools should create environments where people want to apply.
"You want to work at being the best. You want to be the best. Create a culture of excellence and positivity. Grow your bench. Encourage other people to work in the environment. Kids watch teachers who are strong and they want to do that one day. I know we are losing teachers within five years by them not getting encouragement or the support they might need."
Snodgrass referred to the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) System which rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities, attracts new teachers with competitive starting salaries and support, and fosters greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other.
"We do have to have a good, warm place for our folks to be. It's the community too that has to have a warmness," she said.
Wurster said Creston would benefit from expansion of its facilities including a gymnasium.
"We are the hub of Southwest Iowa. We seldom host a tournament and it's constant travel to other schools. Their facilities have been upgraded," she said. "The whole football field needs upgrades," explaining how the stadium itself needs work.
"It's down right embarrassing at times and looked down. We need tennis courts. We need a gym. That will open up opportunity for tournaments and bring more people to this community," she said.
Mohr noted things that are "not seen" for improvements like plumbing and climate-control systems.
"The parking lots, you're lucky if your tires make it. Those need to be fixed. It does effect when people come to school and wonder what is happening here. A school system is a draw to the community. I want to move here and put my kids in," she said about the thoughts of others.
Candidates' ideas varied about how to better prepare Creston students for life after high school. Zumbach said increasing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes and apprenticeships may give students an alternative path to success after high school.
"Not everyone is destined for a university degree," he said. "Young people struggle today in the sciences and maths."
Snodgrass explained a time when Creston High graduates were contacted five years after graduation. A survey was asked to see where they went, or were still at, be it college or trade school.
"That fell off the table of being an important thing," she said about the survey.
She said today's students are influenced by their parents of what to do after high school. Some of those students are learning the differences between high school and afterward.
"The next level is not the same as the level left at high school. That makes a big difference. Some kids were smart enough to breeze through," she said.
Zumbach said schools should focus on reading, writing, arithmetic, financial literacy and problem solving.
"Provide them the means that are attainable," he said. "We can't leave come child behind because they are struggling and it's a tough situation for a teacher to understand what we are presenting. For the most part we do a good job."
Wurster described the education setting different.
"I see our school as a business. We need to get the government out of education. We've made education too complex."
She said teachers are given different strategies and priorities too often and under the guise, "this is the way to teach" and students are all being taught the same way.
Wurster said it's too easy to be a class valedictorian only to see challenges later on.
"Four years of 100 percent, go off to college and struggle," she said. "It's not Creston's issues. It's the public's issue. It's a nation wide issue."
Candidates were asked about the future of online education based on how it was used in schools across the country during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic which closed Iowa public schools early in 2020. Online classes were an option during the 2020-2021 school year.
"It proved in the pandemic as a means to get to the end of the school year," Snodgrass said. "We didn't have the education and bag of tricks we need to do online learning like we developed in class, face-to-face for years. It makes a difference when you can not just look into their eyes, body language and know they are drooping. Kids are social. We have to learn to do it better before it becomes a mode of instruction for our kids."
Mohr said the online instruction was a good way to show how students have changed over the decades.
"Students are learning at a different rate, not learning from lecture or face-to-face all the time," she said. "You have to think about student needs and what students need to develop."
She explained a preschool student who knows how to access an app on a computer.
"The way those kids have developed is different than how we developed," she said.
Mohr said she has been touched by how the high school students are involved in the daily announcements for the building.
"Kids are in front of a camera talking about what is happening that day. Kids at the end will say, 'Respect yourself, each other and this place.' They are doing something right and instill values. I want to help continue that. We improve our school system, we improve our community."
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