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Three people, including two incumbents, running for Cedar Falls school board

CEDAR FALLS — Two incumbents and a newcomer have announced they will run for three open seats on the Board of Education in the Nov. 2 election.

Jeff Orvis, of 3407 Veralta Drive, and H. Alan Heisterkamp, of 1215 Amelia Drive, No. 1, are seeking another term. They are joined by Brenda Fite, of 1716 Campus St. All board positions are elected at-large by Cedar Falls Community Schools’ voters.

Orvis is finishing his first full term on the board. Heisterkamp was elected in June 2019 to fill out the term of Eric Giddens, who left to serve in the Iowa Senate.

The third seat up for election was held by Sasha Wohlpart until her April resignation, and now Joyce Coil serves in the position. She was appointed by the board to serve until the election, but doesn’t plan to run.

“I had a couple of former school board members reach out to me to encourage me to run,” said Fite, 52. Through webinars and meeting with district officials, “I’m in the process of learning about what the school board does.” She is a former software developer who now works as a consultant in the field.

Fite noted the district’s work on diversity, inclusion and equity last year and said she would be interested in being part of any ongoing process with those efforts.

“I really want to be a voice for inclusion for all of our students,” she said. “All of our students have value and worth – and I don’t think they all know that, sadly. ... If we don’t have students who feel safe and healthy in our schools, then learning is not going to happen no matter how great the curriculum or beautiful the schools.”

Orvis praised the district for efforts like dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our school administration has handled it well,” he said.

“I’ve had a wonderful experience during the first four years,” he added, working with the board. “We’re generally good about coming to consensus.”

The 61-year-old, a teacher and instructional coach for Waverly-Shell Rock Community Schools, is involved with the Iowa Education Association and has “been able to bring a lot of the concerns of educators from across the state to the board.

“As someone who teaches every day, I have a good idea of what it looks like from the inside (of a school),” he explained. “I’d like to continue to have that input.” He’d also like to serve another term to see the construction of the new high school – which got underway this year – through to completion.

Heisterkamp, 59, is director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Violence Prevention, describing himself as an “advocate for public education” with decades of experience in the field. He decided to run again because, after serving a partial term, “my time on the board has been a bit limited.”

He praised the district’s work in addressing “important issues that help our kids and schools succeed” like access to mental health services. In addition, the administration and Cedar Falls Schools’ equity committee members have “done a great job” with looking at challenges of sexism and racism, “particularly bullying, harassment against non-gender conforming students,” said Heisterkamp. “We need to continually be aware of and have our antenna up ... to decrease those instances from happening.”

Among his concerns are “losing ground each year” in school funding and “losing some aspects of local control” with state measures like a ban on mask mandates. “I would love to see more diversity on our board,” he added. “If I’m elected, that’s something I would work towards.”

Others interested in running for a seat on the board can file nominating petitions with the board secretary through Sept. 16. Learn more online at blackhawkcounty.iowa.gov/211/Current-Elections.

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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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