Nov. 1—Name: Kristina Meyer
Occupation: Senior accountant
Elected offices held: None
Office seeking: Newton School Board
1. Introduce/Reintroduce yourself to voters and explain why you are running.
My husband Cory and I have five kids in three different buildings here in Newton. Avery is a junior at NHS, Hudson is an 8th grader at Berg and Kinsley, Hadley and Landon are 4th graders at TJ. I am an accountant at Principal in Des Moines and an active volunteer in the community. I currently serve as the Treasurer for Thomas Jefferson's PTA and the Newton Area Soccer Association. I also serve on my church finance council and the Jasper County 4-H Youth Committee. I have had the opportunity to coach both NASA soccer and YMCA swim teams that my children participate in.
Growing up in a small school made Newton seem like too big of a district to raise a family in. Over the past 20 years of living here, I have grown to love and appreciate the opportunities and education that the district is providing to the students here. I have always strived to be an active parent, wanting to know what is going on at the school and how to help with challenges.
Running for school board has been a future goal when life isn't so busy. This fall I realized that my life will probably always be busy, and I'm blessed to have it that way! I want to serve the district now while my kids are here and I am invested in making NCSD a great place to be.
2. What is most important to you regarding the current configuration discussions for Newton Community School District's elementary buildings?
First and foremost, I look at this issue from the viewpoint of what is best for the district.
In past years, I have been a part of the district's SIAC committee as well as participated in the work sessions to explore what the future footprint of NCSD's campuses will look like. Information was shared about the current utility costs per square foot, capacity utilization and the future costs of improvements needed at each building. It is very apparent that our current configuration is not efficient given the state of our current and projected enrollment. My own 4th graders have had the luxury of having a class size of 14 kids in previous years and are now at the capped size of 23. Extremely small class sizes are not an efficient way to run a school. If we consolidated down to fewer buildings, teachers could be shifted as needed so class sizes could be more evenly maintained from year to year. Our current situation does not allow for this unless we move kids and/or teachers to different buildings. We need to create equitable experiences for students and staff in our district and I feel that consolidating into fewer buildings will enhance this as well as improve the financial outlook for the district.
3. Several legislative actions this past year affected public schools. How do you feel about these and future actions from lawmakers? Do they affect Newton?
The first action that I'll address is in regards to the school vouchers and I'll start by admitting that I have conflicting feelings about them. On one hand, I believe there is value in allowing kids to attend the school that will enable them to be their best self. Parents pay taxes, are the primary educators and need to do what's best for their children. The flip side of this legislation is that it does have an impact on NCSD financially. Funding for public schools continues to be a challenge for the district and when public money is going to families for private education, it's a hard pill to swallow especially when private schools choose which students they enroll, leaving a large group to be served by the public school district with limited funding. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle: supporting families while also properly funding the public school system.
On the topic of book banning, I don't believe that the books in our school libraries are pornographic. The district follows policies to ensure the integrity of the materials provided to students and I believe adequate review and policies are being followed.
4. Do you think the school board does a good job involving the community in its decision making processes? Please explain.
Board meetings are open to the public, allow for public comment and highlights are available to read. They also host work sessions that are open to the public. It is up to us to get involved and know what is going on. Read the paper, listen to the meetings, be active in your child's school and reach out to board members with questions and concerns. When large decisions like reconfiguring the district came about, the board was extremely interested in having community members a part of the initial discovery sessions and held two town hall meetings where every question was answered. Board members want to know how the community feels and I believe they make decisions with the community's best interests in mind.
5. Declining enrollment continues to be a major hurdle for Newton. What do you think the district can do to attract and retain students?
There are many awesome things happening in our district that aren't well known. Advertising these pieces of our district on social media and the newspaper would show families what sets Newton apart from other schools. I also think that people assume Newton has large class sizes. Publishing statistics about average class sizes could clarify those assumptions.
For those families who leave the school district, I'd like to see a more organized effort to meet with them to understand why they are leaving and establish processes to address those concerns.
6. In your opinion, is Newton schools meeting the academic needs of its students? Please explain.
It takes two to meet the academic needs of our kids — one being the schools and the other being the parents/guardians. I believe that every teacher wants their students to excel academically. I think the challenge is getting support for students at home. Elementary school teachers work hard to achieve reading goals and do everything possible during the school day. Parents and guardians need to be involved and engaged to continue the work at home. While Infinite campus updates can help families track student performance there needs to be more than that — ask questions, attend conferences, etc.
7. What is the best quality of Newton schools? What can the district improve on?
The best quality of Newton schools are the opportunities that the high school provides. Our high school is full of clubs and activities that are really fun and unique. The most unique one that I've heard of is Chess and Chocolate Milk club! Every year my high schooler finds new things to participate in to continue to explore new areas of interest. In addition to her FFA activities and sports, she has helped with the Courtyard Crew, Bulletin Boards, Student Council and the annual Christmas Meal project. I also can't forget to mention Red Pride Day. What an amazing way for the students to make an impact on our community!
I know there are concerns with the middle school housing 5th through 8th grade students together. I think that some great improvements were made this year to help with the 5th grade transition with schedules, recess time, etc.; however, more work can be done to bring staff and families together to work through concerns.
8. What other school issues are you most passionate about?
I think the district can continue to improve on communication. Great strides have been made to implement the new communication plan for the district and sending out monthly updates; however, I'd like to see more communication from the individual schools.With that said, it's important that parents take the time to read those communications and engage when something is unclear or they have concerns.
Regardless of the issues our district faces, success hinges on us (parents, the school board and NCSD staff) coming together to discuss what's best for the district as a whole. While some of these topics can become emotionally charged, it's imperative that we look at the long term viability of our decisions.