Sandy Stark has seen a lot during her 30-year run on the Keokuk School Board. She openly admits she considered calling it a career when her current term expires in a couple weeks, until she thought about what she calls the "great work" being done throughout the district.
Stark said she wants to continue to be a part of that, which is why she tossed her hat in the ring and chose to seek one of the four open seats on the Keokuk School Board. She said she's really excited about the work done in the last couple years, especially when it comes to the district's graduation rate.
"Our graduation was 81% and it has went to 92.8% in three years," Stark said. "And our drop-out rate went from 3.9% to 1.4%, so that's really, really exciting."
Stark said that effort required a lot of hard work by students, teachers, administrators and the school board.
She said when she looks at the district as a whole, the high graduation rate is one of the district's greatest strengths. She also touted the administrative team for creating a positive work environment.
"We have young people who really relate well to students," Stark said. "They are making such a difference. In the last week, I have heard so many positives from all the schools."
On the other hand, Stark said the district's biggest challenge is open-enrollment, a practice that allows students in the Keokuk School District to attend classes in a nearby district.
Last year, Keokuk saw 21 students open-enroll into the district but watched 114 go elsewhere.
Stark said Superintendent Tim Hood has written letters and held meetings to encourage parents and guardians to keep their children enrolled in Keokuk. Stark said the next step might be to "cheerlead" for the district.
"I think what it is going to come to is that we need to be positive," Stark said. "We need to be positive about our schools and it will carry in other areas."
She said that includes more community outreach to show parents and guardians that Keokuk is the best place to educate their children.
Stark said the budget is another big challenge for Keokuk. She said her priorities are areas that put direct education first, such as more options for students who are not going to college after graduation.
Stark also wants to improve communication with the public if given four more years on the board.