Procrastinator's School Board Election Guide - Vote Tuesday, Sept 13

Tuesday, September 13, 2011, is a scheduled election to fill three seats on the Des Moines School Board. In addition, there is a measure to change the way school board members are elected. The proposal would create four positions elected by ward, and three at-large representative positions.

View the SAMPLE BALLOT here.

Please vote YES on Public Measure A.

I heartily endorse the idea of a ward/at-large system for our school board representation. Such a system is in place on our City Council and I am convinced that it provides the best possible representation - each portion of the City has a representative who can concentrate on issues specific to his or her area. The at-large representatives are able to take a broader systems view.

The Candidates

I can't recall missing an election since I started voting and I don't intend to start now. However, I'll admit to a bit of laziness this cycle - I'm sitting at the computer trying to do my "due diligence" research on the candidates the night before and not coming up with a whole lot.

So, for all you procrastinators out there, here's a quick link guide to all the information I could find on the candidates:

  • Dick Murphy (incumbent) Website - http://web.me.com/rmurphyia/site/welcome.html (But don't try to go there. Though reported in the Register, a website doesn't actually exist at this address. Murphy says he is "setting it up.")
  • Bill Howard Website - None
  • Pat Sweeney Website - None
  • Cindy Elsbernd Website - None
  • Felipe Gallardo (incumbent) Website - None

Are you sensing a pattern here? Not a single candidate created a website for their campaign (Note to Pat Sweeney and Cindy Elsbernd, a Facebook page is not a campaign website). In the near-vacuum of information available online about candidates, one is forced to perform the ubiquitous Google search.

Turns out, the only real candidate information I could find out there is a brief Register Q&A. Dick Murphy is running unopposed for a vacant seat, so that narrows down the field to four candidates vying for three seats. In this case, with such little information available, it becomes a search for any disqualifying characteristics or answers.

The first question asked candidates how they propose to handle potential reductions in state funding and property tax revenue. Three of the four candidates stated that they would seek to keep any cuts away from the classroom. That was the right answer in my opinion. Bill Howard was the only one who didn't explicitly come out for the classroom staff. Too bad the board just inked a heck of sweetheart bonus deal for the superintendent.

The second question dealt with the "policy governance" model where the school board addresses broad policy and administrative staff are responsible for implementing and reporting. Again Howard was the outlier, stating his displeasure with this model. If the Board is not getting the "information it needs to make decisions," it means you need to address the administrative policies, not micromanage the administration of the district. Strike two.

The final question was a softball about getting community input. All the answers were forgettable. Instead, I wish the Register had asked if any of the candidates believed that intelligent design should be taught alongside or instead of evolution.

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