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.
Maurice Davis is a program coordinator and business coach for Jane Boyd Community House, a Cedar Rapids nonprofit working to enhance the academic, emotional and social well-being of children and families. He’s lived in Cedar Rapids for seven years.
While Davis doesn’t have kids or family in the CRCSD, he wants to help shape the district for the better.
“As a young man that wants a family, I am invested in the future of the schools,” Davis said. “My future children will be impacted by the choices made.”
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?
I have been active in the ADA commission, Families Helping Families, Junior Achievement, United Way’s VITA program, African American Museum, AAP, Freedom Festival and others when I hear about the opportunities.
I value giving back. I have been working with nonprofits to make an impact now for over seven years. When people work together we can increase the impact of our resources expediently.
Why did you choose to run for the school board, rather than some other elected office?
Because it’s overlooked. It’s unpaid and doesn’t get nearly as much attention as some other positions, so people forget about the impact it has on the community. I want to make a long-term impact on Cedar Rapids for the better. Helping to improve the education system and the way kids feel about learning is a great way to do it.
What do you see as the biggest long-term issues the district is facing?
Keeping up with the changing world. Education, like people, must evolve. The schools are responsible for getting young people ready to be adults. The world is always changing, so a large government entity needs to be nimble to make the needed changes through the years.
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?
The achievement gap. We must get kids reading. In two of the communities here in Cedar Rapids that have mostly black residents, there is an absence of local early childhood education. We need to have preschools in these communities ASAP and get the kids that are not proficient in reading connected with the resources they need, like programs through United Way and Jane Boyd.
What in your personal skill set, or previous experience, would make you an effective member of the school board?
I have a wide skill set that is based in business. I am a problem-solver and innovator. I am always looking at how I can improve myself, my company or a process. We live in a world that is changing. I am intelligent, I believe in transparency in my decisions and I am thoughtful in my choices.
We need to be able to understand everyone at the table. The young people of color are struggling in Cedar Rapids. We need more voices at the table that don’t think and look like everyone else. Diversity is a powerful tool for making great things happen.