WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Election - Russ Derr - Keokuk School Board

Aug 31, 2015

The field in the race for four open seats on the Keokuk School Board is larger than normal with nine men and women looking to serve. Russ Derr said he entered the race because he brings an unmatched level of experience and knowledge to the race.

That experience comes from a 30+ year career in education, which Derr retired from this year. He spent the last 20 years as principal of several schools in Keokuk.

He said he wants to move the district forward and make sure students have top-notch facilities and a quality environment for learning. That starts with listening to ideas from everyone in the community, which Derr pledges to do if elected.

"At times, we forget that the school district, we don't have to just listen to those who have children in school," said Derr. "The majority of the town is made up of people who do not have kids in school and they have an important voice that needs to be heard."

Derr said people throughout Keokuk want school board members who will hold the district accountable, especially when it comes to spending. He said Keokuk needs to maximize every dollar available. That starts with looking to the community for help in preparing students for the future.

"We need to look outside, in our community, at our experts in local industry to maybe assist us in that," said Derr. "Not financially, but to assist us with their expertise in say welding. The would be able to influence that student into possibly taking that on as a career because they are going to walk in their shoes for a while."

Derr said the district's biggest strength is its PLC (Professional Learning Community). He said it allows for better collaboration and a never-ending process of teacher development. What Derr questions is the decision to share faculty and staff with the neighboring Harmony School district in Van Buren County.

"We need to do some more research on that," said Derr. "When we got into that, we jumped into that fairly quickly. In our situation here... one was really good,  one was not, and one was sort of in the middle."

Derr said he supports the school board creating a set of district-wide goals, based on the decision by Supt. Tim Hood to keep his annual goals private.