There are nine people trying to fill the four open seats on the Keokuk School Board. Janne Long said if she's elected on Tues., Sept. 8, she will make sure to listen to every resident of Keokuk and bring their ideas or concerns to the entire board.
"I just really feel I am a good listener," said Long. "I know enough people, a cross-section of the community, and I think that is where we are failing. We are not listening to the community. We are not meeting the needs of the community."
Long said the listening problem cannot be solved by holding a brief public input session at the start of each school board meeting, especially when the board members do not have to respond to the comments. That's why she wants to see administrators and school board members hold monthly town hall meetings so Keokuk residents have more opportunities to weigh in.
Long, who is a retired teacher, said running for the school board is a no-brainer for her because it combines her passion for education with her desire to provide community service. She believes the district's strengths are its faculty and staff, its vocational technology and dual credit programs, and its extracurricular activities.
Long said by contrast, the district's budget and its financial outlook are the most significant challenges.
"Last year, we lost 114 students to open-enrollment. That's over $750,000 [going to other districts]," said Long.
"That's one place to recoup money, but where do you get free money? Grant writing. That's where it comes from and we all need to be prolific grant writers. We need to tap the local AEA [Area Education Agency]. We pay a lot of money to them and they have grant writers. [The AEA] should come lead our committees on finances. We [also] need teachers to tell us what they need and we need the community to tell us what we need."
Long said when it comes to halting the flow of students leaving through open-enrollment, Keokuk needs to do more than send out a letter to parents and/or guardians. She said the district needs to personally contact parents to show them what is now offered compared to when they took their students out of the district. She said Keokuk can't fix the problem without knowing what it is.
Long said one recruitment tool might be the use of "virtual classrooms."
"I think we could stream teachers," said Long. "For example, Central Lee has an FFA program and [Keokuk] does not have an agriculture program. Could we have a classroom that is open in Keokuk and stream their teacher and help pay for their teacher? Then we could have the program without having to bus."
Long said she's more hesitant, though, about sharing faculty or staff with another district.
She said another goal for her is to record the school board meetings so they can be posted online and through social media.