BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Education Association held a candidate interview forum on Thursday night and are endorsing three candidates out of the seven for the upcoming Nov. 2 city/school general election.
The FMEA picked the three based on answers to questions that were provided to the candidates prior to the forum and they are siding with current board member Brad Menke, and two open candidates Mio Santiago and Paul Wilkerson.
“We were looking for candidates who have an understanding of issues that are important to our teachers and families, locally. That would’ve been the number one thing. As a union we’re just looking for candidates who are pro-education locally and universally,” said Cory Byrne, the FMEA president.
He said the panel scored each candidate on responses to a questionnaire that was provided several weeks before the forum.
“These three were the ones that, based on our questions, showed they had an understanding of the district, it’s needs, the positives and the negatives, and had goals and plans for what our needs are,” Byrne said.
The questionnaire had six questions focusing on major issues facing the district, perception of the district’s learning environment, perceptions of transparency and relationships with media, master contracts under pre-2017 collective bargaining laws, living wages for support professionals, impact of the pandemic, and usage of state and federal relief packages.
In a release issued on Friday, Byrne wrote on behalf of the union that they were impressed with the number of people willing to serve on the board.
“At a time when local school board meetings are in the news for the hostilities expressed by some, we appreciate so many stepping up to seek an elected position. We are happy to have candidates for school board who are interested in a broad range of issues and have ideas about how to improve and enhance our education community. Decisions made by the school board impact the educational experiences of thousands of students now and for decades to come,” Byrne wrote.
He said the interviews were informative and revealing.
“They all had strengths and I’m not just saying that. It was a hard decision for us,” he said. “There were some surprises in the way they presented themselves, but Mio has some good ideas that align with what is important to the people in the district and Paul has a lot of educational knowledge.”
The other four candidates are incumbent Brian Steffensmeier, David Allen, Aleena Garr, and Jadi Zioui.
Fort Madison Partners will be be holding another candidate forum on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall. The event is scheduled to be livestreamed through the Council Chambers.