In the Nov. 5 election, voters in the Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) will choose four of the seven members of the school board.
Incumbent Rafael Jacobo is challenged by Dexter Merschbrock in District 4. There are two open at-large seats and five candidates running: Jen Neumann, Cindy Garlock, Maurice Davis, Janelle Lund and Joseph Miller. David Tominsky is running unopposed in District 1.
Little Village emailed questionnaires to the seven school board candidates in contested races. All the candidates were asked the same set of questions.
Cindy Garlock was a teacher in the Cedar Rapids schools for 33 years. Garlock taught at Wilson Junior High, Taft Junior High and Kennedy High. Her daughter graduated from Jefferson High, and Garlock’s husband was also a career teacher in Cedar Rapids.
“I have retired from teaching but have continued to be a strong advocate for public education,” Garlock said.
What other public service organizations have you been active with? Have you served in elective office before? What made you interested in becoming active in public service?
Since retiring from teaching, I have been active in the community, serving as vice president for the Friends of Noelridge, as a community representative on the Blue Zones Engagement Committee, and as a supporter of many community organizations. I have spent the last few years as a community activist.
Why did you choose to run for the school board, rather than some other elected office?
While I am passionate about many issues that impact the quality of life for Iowans, my area of expertise is public education. It is what I know best. It is where I have already invested so much of my life. I want to be instrumental in making certain that our children are guaranteed the very best education we can possibly provide. Public education lays the groundwork for lifelong learning and personal success.
What do you see as the biggest long-term issues the district is facing?
I believe the greatest challenge facing the district is adapting to the changes in our student population. These changes include our declining enrollment, the increasing needs of our students as they enter school, and addressing the achievement gap that exists in our district. As our demographics change, we must be flexible enough to change so we are meeting the students where they are.
What do you see as the more pressing problems that the district can solve in the short term? What would your approach be to solving these problems?
One of the most important short term decisions will be hiring a new superintendent to lead us as we address the challenges ahead. It is critical that we hire a superintendent who has a vision that aligns with ours. A vision that addresses OUR priorities, not her/his interests.
I am very excited to further explore the “community school” model, which is being implemented at Hoover Elementary. This model uses an intensive needs assessment, along with the creation of problem-solving teams to address the needs of the entire community around the school. It creates partnerships with community organizations that can provide resources to families. I believe this is an important step in supporting kids, families and the community and should be expanded into additional neighborhoods. The community school model has proven effective in closing the achievement gap in other school districts and is worthy of our exploration.
The most critical factor in student learning is the classroom teacher. We need to be certain we are giving them the tools they require and the time they need to provide the very best instruction. That includes providing learning material and providing time to plan, free of other responsibilities. Reducing class size is a priority so teachers have time to know their students and their families. Every decision the board makes must keep learning at the center.
What in your personal skill set, or previous experience, would make you an effective member of the school board?
I know how education works in the classroom. I spent an entire career with kids, addressing their needs, both educational and emotional. I know the impact that teachers have on students’ lives. I know and appreciate the work that our staff does every single day. This perspective will guide every vote I make as a board member.
I also served as the Kennedy Science Department Chair for a number of years. That experience gave me insight into the larger picture, providing input on issues that impact the entire school. I understand the complexities and constraints of budgets and staffing allocations, and how various needs must be balanced.
I will be an effective member of the school board because public education has been my life’s work and that work is not yet finished.