Pleasant Valley school board candidates in their own words
According to unofficial results, Brent Ayers, an incumbent, was leading in the 2nd District with 250 votes, while challenger Jon Kundert had 63 votes. A total of 364 votes were cast across two precincts. There were 51 write-in votes.
Doug Kanwischer had 368 votes in the 7th District, while Aaron Hawk had 297. There was one write-in vote. The total votes cast was 666 across three precincts. Hawk and Kanwischer are both newcomers. The sitting board member for this district was Jean Dickson, who pursued a seat on the Bettendorf City Council.
In the 1st District, incumbent Kathryn Kunkel ran unopposed after her challenger Sara Bennion dropped out of the race. Bennion’s name was still on the ballot but she said and also posted on Facebook that she was no longer running.
In interviews with the Quad-City Times, the candidates said:
“I feel that I am a great leader within our community and have been for the last 23 years and I feel that I am the best candidate for district number two,” Ayers said of why he wants another term. “I also feel that people in our community need someone that is approachable, that’s able to listen to, truly, the good, the bad and the ugly and I’ve been able to do so for the last four years.”
He said he did not back down when times got tough, citing the district’s efforts to weather COVID-19 as an example.
The board had to sometimes make tough and quick decisions, including on what instruction model to use and how to get devices to children so they could participate in online learning, Ayers said.
He also voted for a masking requirement earlier in the pandemic.
“I did vote for a mask mandate at the time because of the numbers that we were exhibiting and had within our community,” Ayers said. “We felt and I felt that we needed to protect as many students — and their family members that they were going home to after school — as possible.”
The big challenge for the district is the consistent annual growth in its enrollment, Ayers, who is the associate executive director of child care and family services at the YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley, said. There are a lot of neighborhoods popping up in the school district.
With new housing comes new children, he said. The district has to accommodate them while trying to keep class sizes smaller.
Some of the solutions so far have been a new school and additional classrooms, and capital projects will continue to be part of the answer to the increases in the size of the student body, he said.
Keeping up with the growth while keeping spending under control will involve forecasting, Ayers said. The district CFO, working with Bettendorf, has been able to predict the level of the growth the district can expect based on the development that is underway in the city.
Kanwischer said he saw the board’s role as setting the tone and the vision for where the district needed to go.
“In order to stay ahead and continue to be one of the most desired school districts to attend, you have to keep moving ahead,” Kanwischer said. “You just can’t be wasting time on small, little issues. You need to focus on the long vision and preparing the roadways so the district can basically move ahead.”
For example, he would like to expand a partnership Pleasant Valley has with business that gives high school students an idea of what is going on in the business world and somehow make it work as an educational experience.
One of the things he would like to understand better is what is going on with the district’s multiyear plan, Kanwischer said. The district’s growth is huge.
“That’s one of the things I am keenly interested in is figuring out how to smooth this road map out,” Kanwischer said.
It could help the district avoid building too many facilities and the difficulties of potentially having to close one later or have a plan should the need to close one arise.
Kanwischer cited the difficulties that people went through a few years ago when the Davenport Community School District talked about closing schools.
His background includes technology, security and privacy work and he’s worked with educational institutions before, including for Purdue University, Kanwischer, who is an IT product owner with Deere & Co., said when asked why he decided to run.
“I have, actually, a lot of background that might really help advance PV,” Kanwischer said.
Concerning masking, he said the law has drawn the lines pretty clearly for school boards.
As a parent, when the state ended the school’s ability to require masks, his family arranged for his daughter — who was unable to get a vaccine at the time — to attend school virtually.