CEDAR FALLS — When Brenda Fite’s son switched to a parochial school two years ago, she didn’t imagine it would ever be necessary to defend her family’s decision.
But as a first-time candidate for the Board of Education, she has encountered Cedar Falls Community School District voters who question the choice.
Fite, 52, is a software consultant who works on installation in retail stores. She is one of six candidates vying for three at-large seats on the board in the Nov. 2 election. All district voters can cast ballots for the positions.
When her son started fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary and the class size went from 16 to 28 students “he just really struggled and wasn’t happy. ... “He’s just one that needs a more intimate atmosphere to thrive.” That is now happening in a smaller class at St. Patrick School.
Fite has explained the situation to people while out door-knocking.
“Most people have been totally understanding,” she said. But some “are not shy with me about their concern that I did move my child to a private school. It’s a bit of a sticking point.”
Higher class sizes in later elementary at district schools are “about where they allocate their teacher resources,” she said. “They try really hard to keep younger grades in particular at a much more manageable size of 20-21. ... I know they do the best they can, so all we can do is to continue to ask for more money to hire more teachers and figure out where to put them.”
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Fite is clear that she “would not advocate to the statehouse” for private or charter school funding over public schools. She said taxpayers dollars shouldn’t be going “where we can’t have oversight.”
On another issue, Fite expressed appreciation for the district’s efforts related to equity and inclusion during the past 1-1/2 years, including creation of an equity resources section on its website. “I know that there are kids struggling,” she said. “I think it’s a great start as long as they are able to have conversations in school as needed.”
Regarding COVID-19 protocols, she said, “I was surprised to find that the board did not vote on the return to learn” plan. That was developed and implemented by the administration under board policy, as were the more recent limited mask requirements at the elementary schools.
Fite would like everyone in the schools to wear a mask at this point to help minimize coronavirus exposure. She understands the view of board members who “feel it’s an administrative role” to make such decisions, but “I struggle with that.”
As far as remaining federal COVID-19 relief funding, she believes it should continue being used to “make the facilities safe and clean” and help with any student learning gaps. She suggested “one-on-one help” to “alleviate some of those learning struggles.”
Fite is an Ohio native who, along with her wife Jennifer Waldron, has lived in the Cedar Valley since 2003. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pop culture from Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in library information sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is an active volunteer at her church, St. Timothy’s United Methodist.