Where do I stand on the issues? Here are a number of articles and websites that talk about my positions and those of the six other candidates. Check back soon — more profiles and newspaper coverage will be out in the next few days.
- The League of Women Voters profiled each candidate’s positions at Vote411.org/Ballot.
- Check out all the candidates’ responses to a question from Ames Pride on how to support and include queer and trans students.
- Sophia Cordoba, an Ames High student, wrote a great summary of the first forum.
- The Ames Tribune covered the second one.
- Here’s thorough coverage of different candidates’ positions in the Ames Tribune.
- The Ames Chamber of Commerce gathered responses from all of the candidates, which you can read here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should the people of Ames vote for you? What particular strengths will you bring to the board? What makes you stand out from the other candidates?
Three things set me apart from other candidates. First is my pragmatic, consensus-oriented, deliberative approach to solving problems. I value and enjoy working with people who disagree with me. One principle is fundamental: we will not agree on every issue, but every single member of our community deserves respect.
Second is my values. I care about making sure that all students have access to the resources and caring adults they need to be safe, learn, and thrive. My lifelong history of community service is rooted in my year working as an AmeriCorps VISTA on the Texas-Mexico border after college.
Third is my professional background. I’m a lifelong educator and a data-oriented social scientist. I care deeply about education, and I seek to make decisions based on peer-reviewed research as well as carefully evaluating the best available data.
What do you see as the most important challenges facing the district?
First, the district is going through leadership challenges and transitions. At this moment, we need to hire collaborative leaders who will empower and support our wonderful teachers, so that all children can get what they need. We need to look for a superintendent with a clear track record of building morale and supporting faculty and staff.
Second, we are facing challenges in adequately staffing teacher, substitute, educational assistant, counselor, and social worker positions. To address this challenge, we must proactively recruit, and we need to consider adjusting pay or benefits for some positions where positions have become more attractive in surrounding districts. It is also essential that we focus on mentoring, training, and support for new teachers as well as teachers who are new to the district, to guarantee the long-term success of the personnel we are investing in.
Third, our district is also currently dealing with issues related to behavior management. Strong, collaborative leaders will be able to address these issues through clear, consistently enforced standards and consequences, improved staffing, and addressing children’s underlying needs.
Fourth, we need to address disparities in how well our schools meet the needs of different students. Once again, this comes around to leadership and staffing. We need to look at innovative curricular models and improve staffing levels, so that we have greater capacity to work with individual learners.
How should we maintain Ames’ tradition of academic excellence?
Ames remains an excellent school system. This is indicated, for example, by the high school ranking 5th out of 339 high schools in US News & World Reports last year. But we have had a hard few years. We must reinforce a culture of academic excellence in which administrators support our top-notch teachers, and all school leaders expect our students to perform at their best. Just as importantly, we must do a better job of meeting the needs of students with whom our district has historically NOT done well. This will require increasing teaching and support staff, boosting morale, and addressing mental health needs and behavior.
How should we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic?
A huge body of research examines COVID-19 and education. The most important lesson for us is very optimistic: we can control COVID and keep schools open safely with basic public health measures. Right now, the most important measures in schools are masking and basic hygiene. As a school board director, I will follow CDC guidelines for our local area. Doing so will help our children and local families by keeping kids in school and learning. I hope that one day soon the CDC will relax its mask recommendations, and then I will eagerly vote to remove them in Ames.
There have been a lot of fights recently, especially at the high school. How should we address them?
We should all be worried about the stories we’ve heard from our children in recent weeks. To be clear, the fights involve just a small number of children, but when fights go viral on social media, it magnifies the problem. Every single child deserves to be safe, and to feel safe, so they can learn and thrive. We cannot address equity unless we also address behavior — this needs to be a top priority for the district.
The good news is that there are many things the district can do right away, and the district has already begun doing them. We need to create an environment and culture where fights don’t break out. That includes focusing urgently on leadership, adequate staffing, and staff training. We must also think carefully about how to create learning environments that meet the needs of every one of our students. The solution will also involve addressing students’ underlying issues, including mental health.
What do you mean by equity?
Equity means that every single student in Ames gets what they need to be safe, to achieve academically, and to thrive. Different kids need different things, and strategies that work for one child can hold a different child back.
Equity is not a month dedicated to a particular group, or a class in the curriculum — it is the core of everything we do. Sometimes people discuss using an “equity lens.” This metaphor indicates that equity affects how we see every issue.
Over the past few years, the Ames Community School District’s Equity Audits have revealed troubling disparities in how our schools meet the needs of different groups of students — including by race, socioeconomic status, and disability. We have great teachers who want to help address these disparities. However, the issue is bigger than any one person can address alone. Our district leaders need to adopt research-based educational strategies, and we need to develop creative approaches to behavior management and student and teacher engagement. Ultimately, we need to fix systems and processes in the district to make sure that every student can be safe, achieve academically, and thrive.
How should we promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the district?
Four broad strategies are all important. First, we must create a culture of respect and inclusion by teaching and enforcing guidelines for how we all treat each other. This needs to include safe opportunities for children to report bullying behavior, as well as real and swift consequences for bullying.
Second, it is critical for children to see themselves in the curriculum, by providing lessons that reflect the diversity of our students and families.
Third, we should teach about both diversity and historical processes of marginalization in the schools, so that students understand and can address the societal challenges we face. This is tremendously important for raising our children to be full citizens in the future.
Finally, diversity and inclusion is not limited to a week, or to specific lessons about diversity. Instead, we need to do a better job of making sure that our schools are addressing the unique academic needs of each of our children.
I don’t have kids in the school district. Why should I care about the school board and vote?
First, schools are critical when businesses and families make the decision to move to Ames. The quality of education in Ames directly affects our economy, sustainability and growth of the city.
Second, children in our schools today will be the leaders, business owners, and educators who are helping to address our community’s problems a decade from now, and two decades from now. We need to make sure that our schools give them the tools they need to reach their full potential.
Third, schools are the soul of our community. What happens in our schools spills over to affect the culture and atmosphere of our entire city. When children and families feel safe, included, and engaged, our whole community works better.
How do I get involved?
If you want to volunteer, get a yard sign, or make a donation, see this page. There’s a form at the bottom that you can fill out.
If you want to find me at an event or a forum, please see the Events page, or email me at VoteAmyErica@gmail.com.
Most importantly, please go vote! You can find lots of information about voting dates and procedures here.
Finally, please tell your friends and family about how important this election is!