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Cedar Falls school board member wants more local control as he seeks reelection

Voting

CEDAR FALLS — Jeff Orvis has been pleased with Cedar Falls Community Schools’ direction during his first Board of Education term, but he’d like to see some changes in decisions made at the state level that impact local districts.

Orvis, 61, is running again for the board in the Nov. 2 election, one of six people vying for three at-large positions. All district voters can cast ballots for the board seats.

In recent weeks, the educator has heard a lot from constituents concerning the use of face coverings in schools – something he’s very aware of as a math teacher and instructional coach at nearby Waverly-Shell Rock High School. A bill signed in May prohibited schools from imposing mask mandates as the state continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Orvis said he is “disappointed” with that legislation. “I think that was a mistake, and I think it should have been left to local control.”

Since mid-September, the law has been subject to a temporary restraining order that keeps it from being enforced. So Cedar Falls Schools has put in place a mandate for individual elementary buildings that depends on the rate of spread in the county and the percentage of people absent due to the virus. That was done by the administration without a vote of the board, something that mask proponents in the community have questioned.

“I’m satisfied with what the administration is doing now,” Orvis noted, adding that he understands mask proponents’ feelings on the matter. “Personally, I would have liked to see us stick to a more regimented mask mandate. But our board policy was pretty clear about who should be handling these situations.

“The reason that the board policy is there is so that we have a good understanding of what to do in an emergency situation. If we did not believe in those board policies, we should not have written them in the first place.”

Construction progress at the new Lowell Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa.

Orvis raised concerns about another new state law that prohibits teaching or mandatory training of certain so-called divisive concepts related to racism, sexism, diversity and inclusion. But he praised work done during the past year by the district and its equity committee, which includes two board members.

“I’ve been very satisfied with what the district has been doing,” he said. “I want to make sure that Cedar Falls is a school district that is welcoming and inviting to all students and that all students feel safe in Cedar Falls Schools. I hope we continue to move in that direction.”

Orvis, a Dubuque native, has been an educator for 35 years and lived in Cedar Falls during the 32 years he has worked for Waverly-Shell Rock Schools. He is active with the Iowa State Education Association and currently serves on the organization’s board.

Jeff Orvis

Orvis

He earned his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in computer science education at the University of Northern Iowa. He and his wife, Peggy, have an adult son and daughter who graduated from Cedar Falls High School.

There are areas where Orvis believes the state could offer more help to local districts like Cedar Falls Schools.

“I still want to see all of our Iowa public schools maintain and attract good staff,” he said. “I do think it’s become more difficult, not just for Cedar Falls but for districts across the state.”

He would like to see a statewide increase in base salary for educators, an increase of “at least 4%” in the supplemental state aid given to districts and investments in public universities to make tuition more affordable for future teachers.

Such moves would bolster the teaching profession, he said, and “make this a compelling career choice” for those coming out of college.

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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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