Living in Society

Haying and the School Board Election

Hay Bales

Haying is a social and economic movement and around here farming takes precedence over schooling.

There’s a school board election Sept. 12 in farm country.

Farmers are buying 9,000-foot spools of Brazilian baler twine, windrow teeth, left and right handed rake wheels, baling wire, reels of bale netting and a lot more.

Tens of thousands of straw and hay bales have been harvested the last couple of weeks. Some went into bunkers and barns, some sit in large round rolls near the field, and some were sold and trucked out.

Because of Thursday’s rain showers more farmers than usual came to town. I got an update on the season from several of them at the home, farm and auto supply store. Not one talked about the school board elections.

Thursday was also the school board election filing deadline in Iowa. I live in the Solon Community School District where activities of the school board continue as background noise to a number of large construction projects. Since 2000, district resources have been invested in a new high school, a ready to open middle school, a new performing arts center, a new football stadium and a new sports complex. Except for the graduates who stayed in town, public works projects are the most visible aspect of recent school board activities.

I tried to get the skinny about who was running for three seats in the Sept. 12 election but no one seemed to know, including current and former board members, the newspaper, and local political activists. I found out from the county auditor after the filing deadline. Four people filed for three open seats.

The terms of Dick Schwab, Rick Jedlicka and Tim Brown are up this year. Jedlicka and Brown filed for re-election and barring controversy should be easily re-elected. Former board member Dan Coons and newcomer Nichole Pizzini also filed. Schwab decided to end his long service on the board, opting to move out of state before the next school board term would have ended. That leaves his seat open for either Coons or Pizzini in this non-partisan election.

A few years back a local group, many of whom were associated with Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, made a successful, concerted effort to take control of the Solon school board. Coons and Brown were candidates the group supported. Both are registered Republicans according to Johnson County Auditor records.

Pizzini’s family has long been interested in politics. Her husband, Shawn Mercer, filed for state representative as a Democrat when Ro Foege retired in 2008. He withdrew once party leaders indicated Nate Willems of Mount Vernon was the insider pick to replace Foege. Mercer is a current member of the Solon City Council. Pizzini is a registered Democrat.

In school board elections personality matters more than politics, so the advantage goes to Coons over Pizzini from the get-go because he organized for previous campaigns and has name recognition as a former board member. There is a stunning lack of controversy about the school board today. Because of the positives of a new middle school and sports complex, the political environment favors incumbency.

In recent years, the highest vote getter in a Solon school board election was Don Otto in 2000 with 1,118 votes, according to the county auditor’s website. Word of mouth is the most effective tool to get information from the candidates to voters. Pizzini is the underdog as a newcomer, however, with smart work she could get the votes needed to win a seat. That makes the Coons – Pizzini match up interesting. The expectation is voter turnout will be low, even with a contest, so either Coons or Pizzini could activate the number of voters required to win.

In Solon there is living memory of attending the one-room school house at the edge of town. For many we are not far removed from that time and its deep roots in farming. Nonetheless, in addition to qualified teachers, adequate, modern facilities are important. Recent school boards in Solon have delivered.

I look forward to learning more about the candidates as the campaigns progress.