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Meet your school board candidates

SOLON– There will be three choices to fill two seats.
Voters in the Solon Solon Community School District (SCSD) will decide Tuesday, Sept. 13, on two members for the district’s board of education.
Incumbent Dean Martin will be seeking re-election, while Dan Coons and Jeremiah Sinnwell are also seeking seats. The candidates will be running to fill two at-large seats for the expiring terms of current board members Martin and Tim Brown.
All three candidates were presented with a set of three brief questions by the Economist and asked to respond.
Here are their replies:

Dan Coons
Tell us about your personal history, background, or interests that have prepared you to serve on the school board.
I have lived in eastern Iowa for 17 years and have been a resident of the City of Solon for the past seven years. I have the unique distinction of being the only candidate or current board member that lives within the city limits. We moved to Solon intentionally to be in the school district when my oldest child was starting kindergarten. We have four children; three of which are currently in the school district. Jake is in seventh grade, AJ is in fourth grade and Katelyn is in third grade. Our youngest, Kyla, is two-years old and attends daycare in town. My wife Kerri, of 14 years, just accepted the Extended Learning Program teaching position this year at Lakeview Elementary. Prior to that, Kerri was a stay-at-home mom.
I am currently employed at Steindler Orthopedics in Iowa City as a Physician Assistant, and have been there for nine years. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biology from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Lindsborg is a town of about two thousand people and has many similarities to Solon. I also have my Master’s degree in Physician Assistant studies from the University of Iowa.
I was raised in Arvada, Colorado a suburb of Denver, where my mother taught school for almost 30 years. I have numerous aunts, uncles and cousins who teach at various levels, from elementary education to college. These experiences have taught me about the educational system and will be a resource I can draw upon if elected.
I have also served on a variety of committees in my church, vocation, and throughout my education. While serving on these committees I have conducted meetings and have been an integral member of the team helping organize, present ideas and make tough choices.
I enjoy my family and take my role as husband and father very seriously. I enjoy the process of assisting my children in learning how to work hard and improve in their education and extra-curricular activities. I value education above all other school activities. But, I believe extra-curricular activities help mold students and build character. This is why I volunteer as a high school football coach and coach youth sports.

What’s done well in Solon schools? What are they doing right?
I think the Solon School District and School Board have done a good job in promoting an atmosphere where students excel in a variety of areas. We continue to elevate our national test scores and focus educational resources to improve academic achievement. We must continue to do this if we want to be one of the best in the state. We have been recognized for our excellence on the athletic fields and courts, our jazz band, vocal music and art departments where our students have seen success at the state level.
The board has done a good job of navigating the talent pool. They have been able to hire and keep several great administrators, which have poised Solon to be one of the best school districts now and into the future. Administrators have been willing to be creative and make tough decisions, putting the district in a good financial situation despite state budget cuts. We are also improving our staff communication and collaboration to better help our educators come together to give our students the best education possible. Finally, we have made it a priority to improve our facilities so student learning environments are improved.

What improvements can be made in the school district and what will be your priorities if elected?
As the Solon School District continues to grow difficult decisions will need to be made. We must develop priorities to provide better communication and transparency, from the school board and administration to the students and families of the district. This will allow us to continue building trust as we work collaboratively to provide the best education possible. We must update our mission statement to guide our school district into the future, and continue to put the students first. New technology and resources should be explored to provide unique and current information while continuing to keep our students cyber-safe. We must also embrace the need for additional vocational resources, to better equip our students to become productive members of the community, state, nation, and world. I believe we must ensure that all students have the opportunity and encouragement needed to achieve their greatest academic potential, while keeping ideas and discussions student focused and refraining from our own agendas. Finally, I believe we need to continue to provide facilities in conjunction with our mission statement and complete our current projects.

Dean Martin
Tell us about your personal history, background, or interests that have prepared you to serve on the school board.
My wife Carole and I have been married for 21 years and have four children attending Solon schools. (Noelle– ninth grade, Marcus– seventh grade, Lance– fifth grade, Garett– second grade) We have lived in the Solon district for 17 years. I have a B.A. in Physics, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and am employed as a Lead Engineer by Whirlpool Corp. My interests include football, coaching, golf, theatre, reading, travel, and spending time with family.
I have served a three year term on the Xavier School Board, and served two years on the Solon Board Governance Committee. I am currently finishing a four-year term as a member of the Solon School Board.

What’s done well in Solon schools? What are they doing right?
Solon is a vibrant and growing district. Solon continues to outperform most other districts in academic achievement. This is a testament to the district’s administration, teachers, staff, parents and community support. Solon schools are seen as a safe and challenging environment in which students can learn and grow as individuals. Solon has placed an emphasis on continuing to improve academic achievement through curriculum enhancements, initiation of Project Lead the Way, professional development, analysis of data, and collaborative learning teams. Solon has also invested heavily in technology to provide students with the tools for a 21st century education.
Solon has made significant strides in facilities in the last decade. Providing quality facilities is an important part of a students learning experience. The recently renovated middle school, the soon to be completed renovation and expansion of Lakeview, and the work to date on the outdoor events center are examples of Solon’s ongoing commitment.
Solon has built a reputation and tradition of top notch extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Whether it is in sports, fine arts, robotics club, etc., people across the state know that Solon students will compete with class at a high level.

What improvements can be made in the school district and what will be your priorities if elected?
If we do not strive to continually improve, then we will soon fall behind. We must continue to focus on enhancing academics for all our students. In addition to the initiatives we currently have, I would like to work with the administration and staff to further enforce a culture of learning throughout our district. I would like to look at increased sharing of programs/resources with neighboring districts/universities to tailor our course offerings to meet the needs of students. I would like to use the data available to us to provide instruction to meet the needs of students at both ends of the academic spectrum. As a board member I feel we need to work with the administration, staff, parents, and community to help develop a long range academic plan for the district. The board will then need to provide the district with the necessary resources, staff, incentives, and support to achieve this goal.
The current financial conditions are a struggle for all districts and will continue to be a challenge in the future. I plan to work with the administration and staff to manage the district’s budget and keep the district in strong financial health. I will provide leadership in finding areas of cost savings and reductions while trying to maintain small class sizes, programs, and quality staff.
I feel the district needs to develop a new five-year facilities plan. The renovation and expansion at Lakeview will soon be completed and the outdoor event center will need to be completed in the near future. As a district, we need to determine where our projected growth will be, and what that means for our facilities and infrastructure five years from now. Parents and the community should play a key role in this planning.
We need to focus on maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment in our schools so that students are eager to come and learn. We need to provide honest leadership and open communication with the administration, staff, and community. We need to support the district staff by finding ways to give them the tools they need to implement plans to provide a quality education for our students.

Jeremiah Sinnwell
Tell us about your personal history, background, or interests that have prepared you to serve on the school board.
I have lived in the Solon school district for the past 11 years.  I am married to Lori (Lawrence) Sinnwell and have a son in kindergarten and a daughter in pre-school.

What’s done well in Solon schools? What are they doing right?
Solon is a great small-town school district and I want my kids to graduate from Solon.

What improvements can be made in the school district and what will be your priorities if elected?
My priorities are to lower property taxes, finish the football stadium with donations, and of course, education.