The Iowa Association of School Boards has designated May as School Board Recognition Month with this year’s theme being “Leading through Uncharted Waters.”
“Over the past year, leadership at the board table has come with challenges and decisions no one could have anticipated,” stated a press release from the IASB. “School boards have made tough choices that impact the health and safety of students, staff, and the school community, while continuing to prioritize student achievement and educational equity.”
Davis County’s school board members — Rod Lynch, Doug Dixon, Joni Helton, Sheryl Wright, Alan Bodkins, Josh O’Dell, and Nancy Hougland — are involved in establishing a vision for the education program, ensuring the schools are accountable to the community, advocating continuous improvement in student learning, and creating a positive atmosphere for the district. To accomplish those tasks, board members spend countless hours studying information and attending meetings.
Profiles submitted by five members of the Davis County School Board follow:
Rod Lynch has served as a board member for 14 years and is currently board president.
“I ran for the board to give back to our community and to help our school continue to provide a safe and outstanding education for our children,” he said.
Lynch agrees his toughest year in the position occurred this past year due to the pandemic. Lynch felt 100% in-person learning would provide the best education, but he also weighed that opinion versus the health risks to staff and students.
“I voted to start the school year with hybrid learning to allow our children and staff a chance to get back to school and work through the change,” he said. “I later voted to discontinue hybrid and go back to school full-time.”
Lynch noted this was a difficult decision, especially with the public opinion split on the issue.
“It came down to that I felt we had good processes in place to control COVID and that our children were falling behind in their learning,” he said.
Doug Dixon is serving his third term as a member of the school board.
“At the time I first ran for the board, there was a real need for good representation in my district and I was urged to run by Marty Owen, who was resigning the position,” Dixon said.
He enjoys being a part of guiding the school district and “keeping Davis County Community Schools a great place to educate our students.”
Dixon, too, spoke of the challenges placed in the hands of the school board this past year in establishing COVID protocol as the district went from virtual learning, then to hybrid, and finally to in-person learning.
“Everything was in flux, and nobody had definitive answers on what was safe or unsafe. I voted to go virtual and stay virtual.”
Sheryl Wright of Pulaski is in her 12th year of serving on the school board and has announced her retirement at the end of this year.
Wright first ran for the position when she heard a lot of complaints about the new high school. She felt if she got on the board, she could explain the issues to her constituents. “Dan Maeder came to Pulaski for a morning meeting and answered a lot of questions,” she said.
Wright also said she taught her kids to volunteer and she felt it was important to give back to the community.
Wright agrees this has been her most trying year on the board. “I’m not big on technology, but Zoom has been positive for us. I felt bad for the parents who didn’t have grandparents to help while the kids were on virtual learning. We wanted to get back to school, but we had to take the health and wellbeing of everyone into consideration. The only way I voted for going to school in-person was to require masks.
“I commend the administrators for all their work. It has been a really stressful year!”
Alan Bodkins has also served on the school board for 12 years. “I felt it would be a good chance to understand the school process as well as give back to the school that gave me 13 years of education,” he said.
Bodkins found it stressful to have to stop school during the onset of COVID and then go to an abnormal learning schedule. “I voted in favor of this because I felt it was the right thing considering the circumstances,” he said.
When Joni Helton retired from teaching after 31 years at Davis County Schools in May of 2019, she knew she still wanted to make a difference in the lives of Davis County children. She ran for school board in November of 2019 and was pleased that she would be able to assist in making the decisions that would positively impact the young people in the community.
“Who could have predicted what was to happen to schools in 2020?” she asked. “It broke my heart for the kids to not finish the 2019-20 school year.”
Helton said when August of 2020 rolled around, she wanted the children to go back into the classroom, but she spoke in favor of starting the year using the hybrid model (students alternately attending 50% of the time during the school week).
“I knew how difficult it would be as an elementary classroom teacher to implement all of the new requirements set in place due to COVID along with building relationships and establishing rules and routines at the beginning of the school year with a classroom full of new students,” she said.
“I knew many families who wanted their children back in school 100% of the time, but I believe we, as a board, made the right decision in starting hybrid and continuing with it for the next several months.”
Members of the public who wish to thank local school board members for their service may visit the Davis County Schools’ Facebook page and leave a comment on the school board post.