In the Nov. 5 election, voters in the Iowa City Community School District will choose four of the seven members of the school board. Two current members, Shawn Eyestone and Paul Roesler, are running for reelection. Phil Hemingway and Lori Roetlin decided against seeking another term.
Little Village emailed questionnaires to the seven school board candidates. All the candidates were asked the same set of questions.
Shawn Eyestone was elected to the school board in September 2017 to complete the two years left on the term of LaTasha DeLoach, who had resigned two months earlier. Eyestone is an analytical lab manager at Integrated DNA Technologies in Coralville.
“I have two sons who are currently attending Liberty High,” he said. “That makes all three comprehensive high schools for my in-laws as my wife attended West and her mother attended City.”
What other community organizations have you been active with? Have you served in elective office before? What made you interested in becoming active in public service?
I am currently serving on the ICCSD school board, after being elected in 2017. Prior to my time on the board, I was active in the district since my oldest started pre-school 12 years ago. I was the treasurer for the Garner Elementary PTO for seven years. I am now the treasurer for the Liberty High PSTO. I have been the District Wide Parents’ Organization representative for both Garner and North Central Junior High. I was also a DPO officer for five years. I am a founding board member for the Liberty Fund, which is a fundraising arm of Liberty High School that was created to increase access for all students to all opportunities.
Why did you chose to run for the school board, rather than some other elected office?
During my time on the board, we implemented some difficult but necessary changes in order to take the next steps towards demographic balance at our elementary schools. During this process, I was asked at a listening post why the board is constantly making these short-term disruptions without having a long-term plan. My response was that while I know how keenly people feel these changes to be short-term in nature, they are, in fact, a necessary part of a long-term plan. Because of that, I am determined to continue my service on the board in order to create and achieve that long-term, sustainable success.
What do you see as the biggest long-term issues the district is facing?
We have an incredibly high level of engagement in our district from the families and communities. This can be a challenge, as differing opinions can lead to inaction from the board as they weigh both sides of the argument. But it can also be a huge opportunity for the district if you can tap into that engagement to drive improvements.
Currently, there is a lack of trust among some in our community with our administration and board. Repairing that trust is crucial to achieve the point I made in a previous question about everyone pointing in the same direction. If there is a lack of trust of people, then there is a lack of trust of the process, no matter how good it is. Again, it’s about relationships.
I believe the board has recently improved its relationship with the admin team and has received a more open and honest dialogue with them over time. This has not necessarily carried over to the community. If we can improve those relationships, we can find willing partners all across the district to help achieve our goals.
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 most immediate work to be done is the selection of a new superintendent. However, instead of a challenge, I would like to look at it as an opportunity. As we do the work to create our long-term vision for the district, we can use that to frame the superintendent search. We should look for someone who is excited to help shape that vision and bring energy to process.
Realizing positive results is the way to continue to improve relationships within the community. With those relationships, we will be in a much better place to create and meet the vision of the district. For the superintendent search, the key is to have multiple voices at the table. To garner support for my ideas, I have to listen to other viewpoints and recognize the validity of them as well.
As long as we can tie any decision the board makes back to our educational goals for students, it is an easier conversation to have. Making decisions to fit one specific mindset or one person’s pet project is not going to help with long-term positive improvements.
What in your personal skill set, or previous experience, would make you an effective member of the school board?
My current board experience has definitely opened my eyes to a wider array of challenges the district faces on a daily basis. It’s easy to get caught up in some of the hot-button topics, but there are decisions to be made at every meeting. I come prepared to address all of the meeting topics, not just the high-profile ones.
My professional life an analytical quality control manager has given me the experience to parse through large data sets. As we disaggregate all of the data that is presented to the board, this is a useful skill to help determine patterns and outliers.
Prior to my time on the board, I spent several years involved with my children’s schools as well as an officer with the District Wide Parents’ Organization. This gave me a more holistic view or our district and the challenges facing the different schools and communities.