OXFORD — Five candidates will battle at the ballot box Sept. 13 for four open seats on the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Board of Directors.
Rick Hergert runs unopposed for Betsy Momany’s District 1 seat, while Steve Swenka is running for Tim Hennes’ District 3 seat. Bob Broghammer, Terry Davis and Lisa Jiras are vying for two at-large openings being vacated by Kevin Kinney and Kathi Huebner.
During the board work session on Aug. 17, the candidates participated in a public forum, introducing themselves and taking questions from current members.
Rick Hergert of Amana said he was asked if he would consider running by a board member. His youngest child recently graduated from CCA, and Hergert says he likes to be involved, and seeks the position without a personal agenda.
“It was a very welcome invitation.” Hergert said he wants to learn what the board can do for to help students succeed.
Steve Swenka lives in Tiffin and is, in his words, “the fourth generation to pay taxes in this district.” Swenka has a junior and a seventh-grader currently enrolled in CCA schools.
“Like Rick, I really don’t have an agenda, I think of myself as very open-minded.” Swenka has experience serving the Johnson County Farm Bureau, including time as the vice-chairman. He also has served in positions with the State Farm Bureau, Johnson County Extension and Johnson County Pork Producers. In addition, Swenka was the chairman of the Graceland Preschool for ten years.
“I look forward to the opportunity of learning how the system works, hopefully being a part of it,” Swenka said.
Terry Davis is a 20-year resident of the Oxford area and said “it was time to get more involved in the school district.” Davis has a freshman and a seventh-grader in the CCA schools currently. He said he wants to learn more about how the district is run, and “…try to make it better, if I can, and try to keep it as good as it has been.”
“I think we have a great school district. It’s growing, there’s a lot of great things going on, and I thought it was time to get involved.” Davis said.
Lisa Jiras also lives near Oxford and is a recent transplant from Bettendorf. Jiras has third and fifth grade students in school currently, with two ready to start elementary school next year.
“I just thought that I would get involved.” Jiras noted she also thinks of herself as open-minded and acknowledged that she is new to Johnson County and the district. “I just want to get on and see where I can help out and give my opinions.”
Current board president Tim Hennes asked each candidate to name a priority they saw, noting there are many challenges facing the district.
Jiras went first and focused on the number of fundraisers parents are called upon to support.
“Maybe if we could go a different way, maybe not having every class do a fundraiser. To do fundraisers for each class is overwhelming as a parent. I want to see what we can do for people who have multiple children.”
Hennes acknowledged her concern, saying “that’s a good point. We’ve all heard that before as members of the board.”
Davis said “I think one of my priorities on the board would be the continuing of academic excellence. Obviously, that’s what we’re here for.” Davis said. “I think we need to continue to make sure that the test scores continue to rise, that we’re looking at how we evaluate teachers.” Davis added that Governor Terry Branstad recently said he wanted to introduce legislation for teacher pay based on performance. “That all goes to how we teach our kids.”
Growth of the district and how to accommodate it was Swenka’s priority.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of building over the last couple of years, and I thought we had that under our belt and taken care of for several years down the road. I think we’re on the verge of overcrowding again.” Swenka said he thinks dramatic steps will need to be taken to manage the growth while working within the constraints of the tax base and available funding.
Student success was Hergert’s focus.
“I’ve done a little bit of reading and what I’ve read, that’s what our job is: to get the students what they need to succeed.” Hergert said he would like to keep open communication with the community as well as the principals and district leadership.
Board member Amy Pitlick asked the candidates to expand on their comments about academic excellence.
Admitting he “didn’t have all the numbers,” Davis said, “We need to make sure that reading, math and science– the core classes– that we are proficient and doing everything we can in those areas.” Saying test scores may not be the best measure, Davis added the district needed to make sure students are learning everything they can possibly learn in those core areas.
Swenka asked about programming for what are considered talented and gifted students.
“I understand that we did have some staff available last year that tried to get that program started, with mixed results.” He said he feels the district does a good job with the federally-mandated No Child Left Behind requirements, and with struggling students. Swenka would also like to see attention directed to more advanced students as well.
Hergert conceded he “didn’t know where we are,” but said his three children were successful at CCA. “What I would do there is get with the building leaders, the principals, and see what I can do to help them.”
Jiras said she would put the emphasis on helping those falling behind, making sure that there is someone there actually helping them to get up to speed.” She said when her daughter was going through kindergarten and having difficulties, she was helped. “We did a good job there of not leaving a child behind.” Jiras said she would want to try and keep “everybody together.”
The candidates also briefly discussed the role of technology in education, transportation issues and what they felt it would take to get them up to speed in their new role as a board member.
“The four of us will have to get together and see how much we’ll want to shake things up,” Hergert said with a smile, eliciting a room full of laughs.
“I’ve been here two years and there are still some things I’m trying to figure out” said board member Mick Kahler. Board member Kevin Kinney told the candidates they were at a disadvantage coming on now, based on how much experience was on the board when he joined it.
Bob Broghammer, of Oxford, joined the group late, having come from football practice. Broghammer has been a coach for the Clippers since 1997 and also volunteers with the track program. He currently has two daughters in school, and a son who graduated.
“I like being involved in this stuff,” said Broghammer. “We’ve got some great people leaving that have done some wonderful things. They’ve shouldered a pretty big load. And, I want to be a part of something like that,” Broghammer added it is one thing to sit back, watch, and become interested. “And you say, ‘what’s it like to do that?’.”
“I really don’t like being on the sideline any more than I have to, but sometimes you just have to get in and get the work done.”
Due to time constraints, Broghammer was asked a greatly abbreviated list of questions. Hennes noted that Broghammer had been to many of the board meetings. Broghammer also had concerns about increasing student numbers.
“Well, the thing that I see coming up, that may hit us real quick is the attendance and enrollment, and I don’t have an answer for that right now,” said Broghammer. “It’s a good problem to have when you look at some of our school districts without that growth, but how are we going to handle the students? Where are we going to put them?”
“That’s a good question,” Hennes said. “We all ask that.”
The complete session will be posted for viewing on the CCA website: www.cca.k12.ia.us/  or www.ccaschools.blip.tv/ . All Clear Creek Amana school district voters may vote on all of the district seats.