BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Current Fort Madison school board president Timm Lamb has done just about everything inside and outside the walls of a Fort Madison School District building and on Sept. 25, he will step back from any official capacity with the district after 43 years.
Lamb did not seek re-election in Tuesday’s race for the Fort Madison Community School District saying it’s time to officially retire. He retired from teaching about eight years ago, took a year off, and then ran for school board and won. He served the last three years as the board president and the two years prior to that as vice president.
“I’ve got about 47 years in this district as a coach, Athletic Director, and other things,” Lamb said. “You’re idea of what it means to be on the board changes. As a teacher you’d say, “Why are they doing this…or why are they doing that. But a lot changes when you sit in the other seat. You start to understand things.”
One of the things that Lamb is most proud of as a board member is the reconnection of the board to the staff and the community. Lamb said there was sentiment that the board was disconnected and it was his goal to reestablish that connection.
“I’ve been excited to watch the board get back with the teachers and the community. We didn’t pass a bond, but you see we had 25% to 30% of the voters turn out when typically you get 5 or 6%. But even with that 25% we had 56% say they wanted a new building and I think we’re one of only four states that require that supermajority so I think we’re doing a much better job at communicating.”
He also said bringing the Lighthouse workshops through the Iowa Association of School Boards has helped the board redefine its objective and goal strategies. It also helped the board work toward a goal of aligning its development with the staff and teacher development.
The Lighthouse sessions were part of a second monthly meeting that Lamb and the board brought back.
“My first five years on the board we only met once a month, but I thought we should have a workshop and back when I was teaching they had those workshops. What we’ve accomplished in those workshops and in our Lighthouse sessions has been fantastic,” Lamb said.
As a result of the ramped up efforts to increase communication between the board, the staff, and the community, the board was recognized as one of five selected state boards at the annual IASB convention in Des Moines. They were also written about in a national education magazine.
At the 2016 IASB convention, state education officials recognized the Fort Madison board for their efforts in personal development and their focus on increasing the role the board plays in the district. Along with the awards, 6 of the 7 current board members received personal recognition for their individual efforts as well.
When the district first decided to move forward with trying to pass a bond referendum to build a new elementary school on the campus of the Fort Madison Middle School, the board had a public meeting and invited the community in to discuss the project, prior to voting on whether or not to put a referendum on the ballot.
“When we did that we got a write up in a national magazine commending us for our process and engaging the community in the discussion,” Lamb said.
Lamb said he told the board he was leaving despite what happened with the bond. But he said now he can actually do more for the district with regard to the bond issues because there are rules prohibiting board members from soliciting specific votes on a bond issue, but can only encourage people to vote.
“I’ve had a wonderful 45 plus years here,” he said. “Sometimes I go back and sit and think of the things that have happened to me as a teacher, a coach and AD, and now as a board member and president. I don’t have any regrets. We have a great superintendent and I guess on regret would be not being able to work with Erin (Slater) for another year, but I just don’t have another four years left in me.
“I’ll always be here for the district and, frankly, now I can do more to help with a referendum because I can go out and say more. As a board member there are laws against soliciting votes to pass a referendum. You just can’t do it, but now I can be more of a voice for them.”
He said now that he will be totally retired, Lamb said his wife Kate doesn’t think he’ll have enough to do, but Lamb said he will always be there to help the district where he can.
He said the board has great people on it and he would like to see them keep going in the same direction. His only counsel was to listen.
“We have great administrators… great staff. Just listen to them. We’re going in the right direction. .I’m not sure I could tell them what they should or shouldn’t be working on because it can change week to week, but listen to what these principals and staff have to say, they’re the ones that are in the trenches,” he said.
“They bring stuff to us and we have to listen and then vote your conscience. But when you walk out the door, we all have to be supportive of the direction of the board.”