Oskaloosa School Board Candidate Profile: Elaine Fontana

Elaine Fontana (submitted photo)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – On Tuesday, voters will once again head to the polls, as the Oskaloosa School District looks to fill a vacancy on the Oskaloosa School Board. Director District 1 Representative Nick Hansen resigned from the board, effective November 1, due to a new job opportunity that will force him to relocate to Minnesota. Shortly after Hansen’s resignation became effective, a petition was presented to School Secretary Chad Vink requesting a special election. Amanda McGraw and Elaine Fontana both filed to run in the special election.

When asked why she was running for Oskaloosa School Board, Elaine Fontana said that she views the possibility of serving as a way to give back to her community, while noting that she had been asked to run by a friend from church.

“I find the opportunity to serve on the board a great way to participate more with my children’s education and to give back to the community,” Fontana said.

Statewide supplemental aid has been an ongoing battle in the state legislature for the past six years. Fontana stated that she believes funding sources, such as supplemental aid, are the biggest challenge facing the Oskaloosa School District.

“I would want to work with the administration and the other board members to learn more on what we can do to get the most out of the funds available for Osky’s kids,” she said. “A good education is essential for all our children’s futures,” Fontana added.

The role of school board members is also one which presents a wide gulf of opinions. Fontana said that if elected, she would view herself as a policy maker.

“I think the role of the school board members is to oversee how the taxpayer’s money is spent, and if it is done in an efficient manner to educate our kids. Board members should also see to it that the school district is following all state laws and operating ethically,” she said. “The administration and the teachers are the educational professionals who are trained to teach our kids,” Fontana also said.

In recent months, internal divisions within the school board have given the school board a few black eyes. Fontana stressed that she believed board members should gather all the facts on an issue before making any final decisions.

“I think the best thing the school board can do is share all the information that they can with the public on any subject, what any state laws require and why they have made decisions the way that they have. Then people can make their own decisions,” she said.

Recently, the school board heard a presentation from high school teachers on the issue of scheduling at the high school. Superintendent Russ Reiter indicated at the same meeting that the board may be asked to look at approving a new high school scheduling system for the 2018-2019 school year. The school currently operates on a trimester system and is one of the few schools in the state to do so. Fontana said that the decision on a new high school schedule will be primarily based on financials.

“Due to schools being underfunded the past few years, schools have to consider sharing teachers for some subjects if they want to offer those classes to students. If there are opportunities for Oskaloosa to share a teacher with North Mahaska or Eddyville to keep an upper level math or science class offerings, then all three schools would need to have a similar calendar,” Fontana said.
Fontana noted that if there were additional staff sharing options considered, Oskaloosa would have to move to a semester system at the high school. She also noted that there are already staff sharing plans ongoing.

“There is already some sharing of classes with other schools now and I would need to hear more from both the administration and from teachers before deciding on what is best for our students,” Fontana said.

During the fall months of 2016, the school board notably discussed student behavior at several different meetings and explored alternatives of how to deal with student behavior after several parents expressed concerns at board meetings. Fontana commended the school board on their recent action on student behavior.

“Recent board meetings broadcasted have shared many changes that have been made in the discipline policy and in new staff positions that have been added. It seems that all board members are now speaking positively about how this is going now. I think it would be good to see how this school year goes with these changes and then ask teachers and parents what they think,” Fontana said.

Asked about who she thought the primary customer of the Oskaloosa School system is, Fontana said the students are the primary customer.

“The students should be our first concern when making decisions,” Fontana said. “They are the ones who can get the benefits of the classes and activities that are offered at school. They are the ones who can learn and use this knowledge to choose a career path in the future and be successful,” she added.

Fontana said that she believes the residents of Oskaloosa should cast their votes for her because she is open minded and has no agenda.

“I want to give back to the community in an area that is so important to all kids. A good education is key in their future and I want to help make that successful for all of Oskaloosa’s kids. I have no hidden agenda and no group anywhere has asked me to do this,” she said.

Voters in the Oskaloosa School District will head to the polls on January 10 to elect a new Director District 1 representative. Despite the fact that McGraw and Fontana are running for the Director District 1 spot on the board, anybody in the Oskaloosa School District can vote in the election. Polls in next Tuesdays election will be open from 12pm to 8pm. There will only be one polling place in next Tuesdays election, that being at the Fellowship Bible Church Activity Building, located off A Ave West. Absentee ballots are also available for Tuesdays election. Absentee ballots may be cast at the Mahaska County Auditor’s Office until 11 am on January 10.

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Posted by on Jan 6 2017. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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