WATERLOO – A former educator is motivated by issues with the teaching and learning environment of Waterloo community schools in her candidacy to serve on the education board.
Janelle Ewing was a high school conductor in Houston, Texas for seven years before earning a law degree. The 44-year-old, who grew up in Waterloo, is now a lawyer and a partner of the Sayer Law Group.
She and her challenger Martie Heath-Sinclair are vying for a general seat on the board of directors in the November 2 election. Both are said to be new to the post currently held by Shanlee McNally, who is not running for another term. Voters from across the district can vote in the race.
“I’m passionate about what teachers do in the classroom and I think the teachers really want to teach,” Ewing said, and the students want to learn. She “would like to help facilitate” this process as a board member.
“Students learn better when there are fewer distractions,” she noted, which also impacts educators’ ability to teach. His goal on the board would be to eliminate these distractions, often by pushing for improvements to facilities. When classrooms are too hot because parts of a school don’t have air conditioning and the equipment is broken or collapsing, she thinks these issues interfere with learning.
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“I really think the key to student success is quality education and the ability of students to pay attention, and remove distractions from the classroom,” Ewing said. She would like the Waterloo schools to attract more master teachers to the district in order to continue to improve this quality. She described these teachers as long-time members of the profession who have the ability to inspire and engage students when they get the necessary support from their schools.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Ewing had no concerns about how the district handled it. This included an effort started in recent weeks to require masks in elementary schools based on a certain level of spread of the virus in the county and the rate of absenteeism in an individual building.
“I think the school district has done quite well on the midline, paying attention to everyone’s health,” she said. “I don’t hear much in the community protesting (about) the way things have been run.”
In terms of using the remaining federal COVID-19 relief dollars the district has received, “I think the district would be wise to take a lot of feedback from teachers on how these funds should be spent.” She said reducing class sizes would be a good way to help teachers and reduce the possibility of the virus spreading.
She noted that a new state law that bans the use of a voluntary diversity plan for the district and eases its open enrollment restrictions is not something “that I can change locally.” . However, the district can take action that would attract students who might otherwise leave. “We need to make sure Waterloo schools are a place where students want to stay and teachers want to teach,” Ewing said.
She is also thinking about the council’s need to hire a new superintendent as Jane Lindaman, the current district leader, prepares to retire.
“I would love to see a candidate with experience in our size (district) and socio-economic demographics,” Ewing said. It would foster a “progressive person” who would ensure that teachers have the planning time they need and that “our buildings and facilities are adequate”.
Ewing received a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Iowa and a law degree from the University of Akron. She spent a year and a half working for the law firm C. Kevin McCrindle before joining the Sayer Law Group approximately eight years ago.
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