Blog Year In Review – 2021

Looking at the moon rising in the east at sunset.

Eight of the top ten new posts on Journey Home were about the Solon School Board election. It demonstrates that when a blogger covers something in which people have interest, there will be views. I’m thankful for people who follow all of my writing.

To get a fairer picture of which blog posts garnered views, I include my work at Blog for Iowa. If I mix the two together, here are my top posts for 2021.

10. Book Review: Equity. Aug. 30, 2021, Journey Home. A book review of Equity: How to Design Organizations Where Everyone Thrives by Minal Bopaiah.

9. 2021 School Board Candidate Forum. Oct. 21, 2021, Journey Home. This post was coverage of the only school board candidate forum prior to the election. It includes a link to video of the forum.

8. Solon School Board Election. Sept. 19, 2021, Journey Home. My first post about the Solon School Board election.

7. Here Comes Carbon Capture Technology. Nov. 24, 2021, Blog for Iowa. One of a series of posts about Carbon Capture and Sequestration plans of Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures in Iowa.

6. The Climate Crisis is Accelerating – Now What? July 6, 2021, Blog for Iowa. Encouragement to act on the climate crisis. “While we need to do everything possible to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis, the longest, most complicated journey begins with a single step.”

5. Solon School Board Election Update. Oct. 3, 2021, Journey Home. A newsy post with facts about the Solon School Board election.

4. Is Jessica Reznicek a Terrorist? July 15, 2021, Blog for Iowa. “Jessica Reznicek, a 39-year-old environmental activist and Catholic Worker from Des Moines, Iowa, was sentenced in federal court June 30 to eight years in prison for her efforts to sabotage construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.”

3. SSB Candidates Respond. Oct. 9, 2021, Journey Home. A verbatim reprinting of Solon School Board candidate responses to my questions via email.

2. Book Review: The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. Jan. 19, 2021, Blog for Iowa. “In The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class, Thom Hartmann recounts three periods of increased hegemony of oligarchs in American society.”

1. A Nonpartisan School Board. Sept. 25, 2021, Journey Home. A look at the Solon School Board election through a partisan lens. Disclosure of party registration of the seven candidates.

Thanks for reading. Hope you will continue in 2022.

Living in Society

Reaching For Status Quo

Voter turnout was high during the recent school board election. The result wasn’t what many had hoped. The election was revealing, just in case we weren’t paying attention during the 2020 general election: conservative voters are rising.

In our school district there were no claims of fraud in the election and almost everyone appears to have accepted the results. One candidate decided to pursue removal of their child from the district after seeing what the electorate had wrought. The simple truth is we live in Iowa and this election result mirrors the state more generally. People have created a life around what they know and don’t want to change. They prefer the status quo.

Change is coming, like it or not because what society is experiencing with extreme weather, agriculture, and work life is not sustainable. The impact for the electorate will be for the majority to further entrench themselves in conservative values. It goes beyond the school board to include religion, women’s rights, agriculture, shopping, coping with this and other infectious disease outbreaks, greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather, work life, LGBTQ+ rights, the whole shebang. Iowa is in for tough times ahead.

Conservatives I know are good people. The disconnect comes in avoidance of politics in everyday discourse. It is not surprising conservatives feel the litmus test for a candidate is whether or not they approve of abortion. What is surprising is how well this belief is kept hidden and how little people talk about their politics in society. We shouldn’t be surprised when these attitudes show up at the polls.

There is not much to do except go on living. For me that means talking more to neighbors and engaging in community activities as a first priority. I used to work to influence people statewide yet I’m not sure I would do it again.

When I was on the county board of health we addressed the challenges to health of coal-fired power plants with board of health members statewide. I sent a letter to many of them. One chiropractic orthopedist wrote back, “While I can appreciate your immediacy to the proposed power plant, I take exception to the global warming spreading paranoia over an unfounded politically contrived ’emergency.’ We as humans do not control the warming or cooling of the earth. The research is bogus that claims such… In my opinion the global warming paranoia is a Democratic manufactured ploy to simply increase government control of its people.” At least I got him to say what he really means.

I don’t know what “status quo” is other than a good headline. It is malleable, yet people have their limits. There is a lot to do in modern lives and many don’t want to reach much beyond their comfort zone.

To make progress as society, we must.

Living in Society

2021 Solon School Board Election Results

Election Day in Big Grove Precinct, Nov. 2, 2021.

Tim Brown, Dan Coons and Cassie Rochholz bested the field of seven candidates for directors of the Solon School Board. Here are the unofficial results from the Johnson and Linn County auditors.

Combined unofficial results from Johnson and Linn Counties.

I congratulate everyone who ran for school board and wish the winners good luck in their upcoming terms. Thank you readers for following my coverage. God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll do it again in 2023.

Living in Society

After Satellite Voting

Satellite Voting at the high school on Oct. 22, 2021. Photo Credit: Johnson County Auditor Twitter feed.

On Friday, Oct. 22, 263 voters cast a ballot at the Solon High School satellite voting site hosted by the county auditor. Most were locals. According to John Deeth from the auditor’s office, the party breakdown was 63 Democrats, 121 Republicans, and 79 No Party. School board is supposedly a non-partisan election yet we obsess over party affiliation. In 2019, 1,225 voters (24.3 percent of those registered) cast a ballot and two Republicans won. This cycle voter turnout is expected to be high yet about the same.

That Republicans were the largest group of voters is not surprising. Something that attracts new people to the Solon Community School District is how K-12 schools are run. The community made significant investments in school infrastructure, an attractive feature of the district. Before the coronavirus pandemic, school infrastructure was a main focus of the school board. This is both an adjustment to population growth and feeding it. When I review voter registrations of people living in newly constructed subdivisions, there are plenty of Republicans. Newcomers seem to favor Republican voter registration although I’d like to see a formal study.

We are a community where some voters cling to the Trump administration. If he ran for president in 2024 many would vote for him again. I avoid political conversations unless I know to whom I am speaking, which is typical for many. As a community we get worn out by political talk and seek to avoid it when going about our lives. When I posted a selfie wearing a Biden-Harris t-shirt on social media, a neighbor who planned to vote for them told me they couldn’t do something like that because of social connections at church, work and the schools. The new buzzwords in the community are about running the schools “for the benefit of all students.” This is code for white privilege, increasing insularity of our lives in an age of mass media, and personal disagreements with neighbors and area residents about politics.

Since the 2011 political redistricting, the northeast corner of Iowa’s most liberal county has been turning conservative. In 2012, voters in House District 73 chose a Republican state representative and reelected him four times. In my precinct 2020 voters picked the Republican congressional candidate over the Democrat for the first time since Dave Loebsack first ran for office in 2006. When we moved here there were more Democrats, yet political considerations mattered less than being some distance from work with access to good roads to get there. Good schools were also important. If I were to move again, it would be to a place where being a Democrat would be more accepted.

A local group formed a political action committee to advertise three Democratic candidates for the school board as a change slate supporting school safety during the pandemic. The satellite voting statistics can be understood as a referendum of how well that is going. The low Democratic numbers do not bode well for the Nov. 2 election. There has been a lot of Facebook activity on school board candidate campaign pages, but actual voter turnout among Democrats is lagging expectations.

Despite community uproar about changes in collective bargaining for district employees before the 2019 school board election, voters chose incumbency over change. We’ll see if that’s still the case on election day.

Editor’s note: There were two home football games at 4:30 p.m. (freshmen) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity) the day of satellite voting. The first was not well attended (it was raining). The hope was holding satellite voting at the high school during the Friday games would increase turnout. It is difficult to draw a correlation between the satellite and the games. During the 2020 election cycle, satellite voting at the public library was also well-attended with no such event correlation. I believe increased turnout at the satellite has more to do with promotion during the week immediately prior, combined with high interest in this election.

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.

Living in Society

2021 School Board Candidate Forum

Audience at the Oct. 20 Solon School Board candidate forum.

The Solon Economist hosted a school board candidate forum at the Solon Center for the Arts on Oct. 20. About 80 people were present at the beginning and more than 100 by its end. A majority of seats in the large auditorium were empty.

The winning candidates of the 2019 school board election, Adam Haluska and Jami Wolf, received 447 and 444 votes respectively. Based on last night’s attendance, the 2021 election will be decided by voters who were not at the forum. People appeared to arrange themselves in clusters according to for whom they planned to vote. I doubt many minds were changed by the forum.

Solon Economist editor Margaret Stevens opened the event with remarks. Dean Martin, a former school board member, moderated the event and asked the questions. I counted eight questions in addition to opening and closing remarks by all the candidates. No candidate made any major mistakes and each one demonstrated something positive. Stevens said the forum was being recorded and would be posted on YouTube. Here is the link. I do not plan to get into question by question analysis since voters can look at the hour and a half video for themselves.

This post is biased, as has been all my coverage. My main discussion of the forum was at home with my spouse and will remain between us. My goals in writing in public about the election were stated in my first post:

  1. Make sure there is adequate, timely coverage of relevant events in the election process.
  2. Include all the candidates.
  3. Elect another woman to the board to work toward gender equity.
  4. Make sure no political extremists are elected to the board.
  1. There has been adequate coverage of the candidates by the Solon Economist and Iowa City Press Citizen, including candidate questionnaires. While candidates were asked to respond to a questionnaire from the League of Women Voters, if responses were posted, they are not accessible to me or to other voters in the district. The technical glitch was raised with the League, however there is no resolution as I write. I’ll let readers judge whether my writing contributed something to the coverage.
  2. I did include all the candidates in what I wrote, giving each equal opportunity to choose whether or not to participate in what I did.
  3. Two of the three women are strong candidates, Stacey Munson and Erika Billerbeck. Both have credentials and experience that would add something positive to the school board. They presented themselves with confidence and answered questions directly and thoughtfully. The third woman, Cassie Rochholz, seemed ill-prepared for the forum. When asked how many school board meetings she had attended, her answer was none. It is difficult to understand why a school board candidate would not familiarize themselves with a few meetings given the availability of on-line and recorded options. In addition, Billerbeck and Rochholz were interviewed on air by KCRG-TV after an outbreak of COVID-19 at the schools. Rochholz appeared to be parroting language from others about mask-wearing in schools. In my judgment there are better female candidates than Rochholz to improve gender equity.
  4. Based on what I discovered while writing my posts, I don’t believe any of the seven candidates is a political extremist.

Overall, the forum did little to change my view that this election will pivot on whether or not voters want change on the school board. A mailer from a group called Solon Parents and Teachers to Keep SCSD Safe arrived at home yesterday. Erika Billerbeck, Kelly Edmonds and Michael Neuerburg were advertised as change candidates. Without the mailer or inside information, a voter wouldn’t know they are on a slate. Tim Brown and Dan Coons are incumbents and their re-election would indicate voters are happy with the way things are going. Who is the third no change candidate? There may not be one as the incumbents are strong enough to stand on their own. It is possible voters will pick who they believe is the strongest from the remaining five candidates. A prominent Republican in the district, who was active in the previous elections of Brown and Coons, is displaying a Rochholz sign in their yard. That may be a sign (pun intended).

The county auditor is providing satellite voting at the High School from 2:30 until 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22. I intend to vote then because if we don’t turn out, it may be less likely the auditor will hold satellite voting here in the future. Whatever you do, if you live in the Solon Community School District, get yourself to the polls on Oct. 22 or Nov. 2 and vote.

Click here to read all of my coverage of the 2021 Solon School Board Election.

Living in Society

School Board Election Coverage – 2021

My coverage of the Solon School Board election can be found at this link.

I’ve written what I intended before the election with the exception that I will attend the Oct. 20 candidate forum. If there is anything to report, I will write a post. I learned what I need to know to pick three. After doing so, it’s hard to be unbiased in my coverage, so I’ll stop. I will wrap up the election once the results are known.

Thank you so much for following along. I hope readers in the Solon Community School District vote and encourage their friends and neighbors to do likewise.

Click here for all 2021 Solon School Board Election Coverage

Living in Society

School Board Conflicts of Interest

In the many and complicated discussions between voters, social media users, bloggers and candidates the 2021 Solon School Board election has generated some concerns about conflicts of interest. They can be addressed.

The Iowa Association of School Boards has specific guidelines about conflict of interest for school board members. I clipped the following image from their website.

Concerns about conflicts of interest were raised about Dan Coons, Stacey Munson and Cassie Rochholz. I’d point out the district has counsel that could guide the board through potential conflicts of interest and how to handle them. I’m not an attorney and am just reading information that is commonly available to voters. Here’s where we are:

In his response to my questionnaire, Kelly Edmonds asserted the following:

Dan Coons and Stacey Munson have spouses who work for the district, they would have to recuse themselves from voting or even being part of the upcoming 2023 contract negotiations.

Kelly Edmonds via email Oct. 8, 2021.

The Iowa Association of School Boards addresses this directly. “Iowa law does not prohibit a school employee’s spouse from serving on the school board.” While it may make some voters uncomfortable to have a school board member with a spouse that works for the schools, in my reading of the IASB site, it is permissible. If this matters to a voter, there are plenty of good candidates from which to choose.

What about upcoming contract negotiations in 2023? Wouldn’t spousal relationships affect them? We can look back to the communications disaster that was the 2019 negotiations and learn.

In 2017 the Iowa Legislature removed much of what could be collectively bargained with public employee unions. The way the board presented contract options in 2019 in light of the new law was more the problem. Every school employee had an opportunity to know the legislature gutted the collective bargaining law. The school board chose to bludgeon employees in the represented bargaining unit with the fact the law changed. As we saw in the 2019 school board elections, despite whatever anti-incumbent movement was created by contract negotiations, voters chose incumbent Adam Haluska for reelection. The school board’s handling of contract negotiations alienated teachers and community members.

Conflict of interest, in my view, is low on the priority list of issues as it relates to collective bargaining. Communications between parties is a more important issue. If I had advice for that school board it would be to avoid use of legal counsel to state the obvious.

The question of whether Cassie Rochholz’ employment with Edmentum represents a conflict of interest is more relevant.

At Edmentum, a single mission guides and inspires us as it defines our core purpose and the contribution we make to society: Founded in innovation, we are committed to being educators’ most trusted partner in creating successful student outcomes everywhere learning occurs. To help us work toward that mission while operating business, our key values guide our priorities and are evident in everything we do.

Edmentum mission and values statement from their website.

Edmentum sells learning solutions to schools, including those in the district. Cassie Rochholz has worked there as a director since December 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile. According to the IASB website, the restriction regarding conflict of interest is specific: “prohibiting being an agent of a textbook or school supply company selling to the district.” Rochholz was asked about this on her public Facebook page and I clipped the following discussion:

Cassie Rochholz campaign Facebook page.

I confirmed Edmentum products were used in the Solon School District. The basic framework of this concern is accurate: there is a potential conflict of interest in that Rochholz’s employer, where she is a director, sells to the district. Rochholz has addressed it. It is now up to voters to decide if her explanation is sufficient.

Conflict of interest is “in the weeds” of what voters look for in a school board candidate. Voters do appear to be interested in learning more about the candidates in 2021. Not many vote, though. 1,225 voters went to the polls in the 2019 school board election. The candidates got votes as follows:

Johnson County Auditor website.

If the 2021 school board election is like 2019, every issue will matter to voters. In my view, concerns about conflict of interest are reasonable. Candidates for office have a responsibility to address voter concerns on this or any topic. Any board member may have to recuse themselves for a number of reasons. Administrative staff has the resources to determine an appropriate course in specific situations or on specific votes. Concerns about these specific conflicts of interest, in my opinion, don’t rise to the level of being actionable. They certainly don’t disqualify anyone. In any case, voters should look at the whole person when selecting three on Nov. 2. There are seven candidates, each of which has much to offer and could be considered for the board.

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.

Living in Society

SSB Candidates Respond

On Oct. 1, 2021 I mail merged a letter to each of the seven announced candidates for school board. Below is the text of the email. Following it is the verbatim response I received from each candidate in alphabetical order by last name. It is all good information.

Dear (Insert name),

I am a retiree who lives in the Solon School District. I’m reaching out to you for information so I can make an informed decision in the Nov. 2, 2021 school board election. I’d appreciate your direct answers to the following questions by return email.

I am asking all seven candidates the same questions. I plan to post the responses, without editing, on my website on Saturday, Oct. 9. If I don’t hear back from you, I will say so in my post.

Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Regards, Paul

Paul Deaton, Solon

1. Why are you running for school board?

2. What experiences qualify you for this office?

3. What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected?

4. Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

5. Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

6. Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

A couple of notes about me:

I am taking a non-partisan approach to my reporting and am interested in providing information to district voters. I will not formally endorse any candidates and don’t plan to say who I am supporting on my website or in other public places before the election.

During the 2019 school board election, some of my posts about the election campaigns got more than 700 views. The highest vote-getter, Adam Haluska, got 446 votes.

I got your email address from the Johnson County Auditor website.

Email sent to Solon Community School District board candidates Oct. 1, 2021

Erika Billerbeck

  1. Why are you running for the school board?

I grew up in a family of public school educators. My mom was an art teacher and my dad was a high school principal. My desire to run for the board is partially influenced by my upbringing which always placed an emphasis on education. I was raised to be a critical thinker and to serve my community.

As a parent of two kids, who are both different in terms of their academic and social/emotional needs, I want to see my own children thrive in school. And, of course, I want to do what I can to ensure that all of our kids succeed in the classroom, regardless of their own backgrounds, interests, and individual challenges.

Learning about the many issues facing a significant number of Solon teachers also compelled me to run. In order for our students to be successful, we need to have teachers who feel empowered and supported. I’m interested in ensuring that the faculty has input on, and access to, quality curricula so that all state standards are being taught in literacy, math, social studies, science, and 21st-century skills.

As a school board member, I would strive to establish an environment of trust with the faculty, staff, and administration. Honest transparency is essential and one step toward achieving that goal is to revise the current school board policy, specifically that which dictates the “chain of command.” Rather than promoting an ethos of cooperation and mutual respect among all, as the policy is currently stated, school board members are dissuaded from engaging in open discourse with faculty, staff, and the public, and critical thinking is discouraged. This needs to change.

  1. What experiences qualify you for this office?

As a state peace officer, I have 21 years’ worth of experience serving in the public sector and resolving conflict. I understand the importance of problem-solving, listening, de-escalating stressful situations, enforcing and abiding by laws I may not always agree with, and having the ability to approach issues from more than one perspective. And the end, I must accept my share of accountability for the outcome.

During my career working for a complex state government system in a law enforcement capacity, I have had the opportunity to interact with a wide array of people in a variety of settings and circumstances. Almost every week, my job requires me to work, collaborate, cooperate, and compromise with people who often have very different values, beliefs, ideas, and priorities than my own.

As a sergeant, I’ve successfully helped lead and provide oversight for the officers in my district. I’ve learned how to push agency goals forward while maintaining respectful discourse with coworkers and the public. I believe my ability to listen and be an open-minded critical thinker will be an asset for serving on the SCSD board.

  1. What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected?

*Improve teacher morale and retention: A number of talented, experienced teachers have left our district as a direct result of a toxic work environment and the disrespectful treatment they’ve been subjected to. These problems have been exacerbated by an apparent lack of response by the school board. Numerous current and past teachers reached out to me to express their frustrations with the current board and superintendent, prompting me to make this one of my priorities.

*Improve communication: The prevalence of inadequate, untrustworthy and sometimes completely lacking communication from leadership to teachers, staff, parents, and students is a source of frustration to me as a parent and community member. I am quite aware that others share my frustration.

*Improve accountability: Currently, SCSD leadership avoids being held accountable when problems arise. This may be due to the present policy that discourages board members from performing their due diligence in terms of oversight.

  1. Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

I believe that everyone running for the school board is doing so with the same desire to lend a positive influence on the present and future SCSD and I have no doubt that one could find some common ground between my “platform” and those of other candidates. However, unlike some other candidates, I do not have any “conflicts of interest” such as a personal relationship with a school employee, nor am I employed by a company under contract with the district.

  1. Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

Currently, I cannot commit to seeking to negotiate another employment contract with Davis Eidahl any more than I can commit to seeking to terminate the employment contract. However, I do have concerns about the role he has played or failed to play in terms of addressing low teacher morale and the retention of our talented staff.

I think it is fair to say that the SCSD has a number of “hot button” issues that need to be addressed. From my perspective, experience, and in my discussions with Solon teachers and staff it is also fair to say that Mr. Eidahl has played a key role in turning up the temperature on those issues while failing to take any steps to defuse or resolve the problems.

  1. Do you have a website, Facebook page, or other places where voters can get information?

Tim Brown


It is good to hear from you again. I am catching up on email after being gone for the weekend and wanted to get back to you on your request. This year, there have been more request for questionnaire responses than in the past and I will not have time to meet the timelines for the ones that came in more recently. I have already submitted responses to the League of Women Voter’s questionnaire which I believe are posted online already and I am finalizing the responses in the questionnaire from the Economist before I have to leave town later this week. I will also be participating in the forum that the Economist is hosting on October 20th.

With existing work, personal and volunteer commitments, my bandwidth is very limited over the next month. I hope you can understand, and perhaps we can talk at the forum.

Kind regards,

Dan Coons


Thank you for reaching out and informing me about your need for more information to make an informed decision. Many of the questions you are posing will be answered in the Solon Economist by all of the candidates. We will also be having a live forum in October.

Please feel free to post the above response on your web page.

Best regards,
Dan Coons

Kelly Edmonds

Why are you running for school board?

Since moving to Solon and raising my family in this community, I have become passionate about improving the school experience for my sons and other children in our community.  My wife and I moved to Solon because we heard such great things about the school district. We were excited to be in a smaller community and in a district known for education and activities. What I have noticed now that we have lived here for several years is that Solon does have some outstanding educators and staff, a great athletics program, and there are lots of other activities that similar sized schools do not have. However, in speaking with parents in the school district, there is a lot of concern about current leadership, policy, and how decisions are made. I believe my experience as a business leader coupled with my passion to create a better future for our children and community makes me an ideal person to take an active role on the school board and can help the district make improvements to benefit students, staff, teachers and the community. 

What experiences qualify you for this office?

As a husband, father, business leader, volunteer, and board member of a nonprofit, I am always planning for a better future. The roles that I have assumed at this point in my life have taught me that an effective leader is a good listener and that nobody knows the strengths and weaknesses of an organization better than those on the front lines. To think that one can make the best decisions from afar or without consultation is foolish. I constantly strategize how to make the organizations or members I serve poised for growth, higher achievement, higher efficiency, safer, and more effective.  These are all the things that our district needs now, as it always has. Coupled with my passion for my own children’s education and wellbeing, as well as all of the kids in our community, I will work tirelessly to achieve the goals of the district as I do towards all endeavors that I pursue.

What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected?

I would like to see a greater level of transparency in our district.  From my perspective, decisions have and are being made by the administration or the board without seeking input from parents, educators or using guidance from experts. I have been made aware of numerous examples of educators and staff speaking up about current policy or practices in the district only to have their voices go unheard and, even more concerning, those who have brought forth these issues have been punished and/or humiliated for questioning the district’s leaders. I’ve spoken to many parents who have contacted the current board and superintendent and have gotten no response to their written concerns.  Additionally, I would like to review fiscal policy and make sure that our tax dollars are being used to the maximum benefit to students, teachers and staff.  Solon historically spends less than 80% of its annual allocated budget which highlights a “tax and save” policy, yet funding for programs have been cut, our teachers are paid less than neighboring districts, all while parents are being asked for donations for simple items such as playground equipment.  Investment in our district should be a priority.

Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

I believe voters deserve to have a public school in a community which listens and responds to them. The two incumbents do not have a good track record of responding to questions from parents. Additionally, this past week, the Iowa City Press Citizen published responses from all seven of the Solon School Board candidates. The two incumbents, Tim Brown and Dan Coons, plus a new challenger, Cassie Rochholz, declined to respond to their questions. The school district does not need more members who decline to respond to concerns from the community.

Additionally, because Dan Coons and Stacey Munson have spouses who work for the district, they would have to recuse themselves from voting or even being part of the upcoming 2023 contract negotiations. If they are both on the school board, this would potentially leave only three board members to decide on such an important issue. When deciding who to vote for, please think about the implications of what it will mean for your child’s educational experience if contract negotiations go the way they did in 2019 and more teachers leave the district.

Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

My current understanding is that Davis Eidahl has not been interested in listening to public health experts when it comes to COVID-19 mitigation in the school building. I have also heard accounts from many staff and parents that he rarely consults educators on educational decisions and since his tenure, Solon schools have been a “hostile work environment” and that he engages in “bullying tactics.”  I have heard similar stories from his tenure at the Ottumwa school district. In fact, there was an Ottumwa opinion piece that alluded to this issue (

However, I am willing to assess his performance as superintendent in more detail and work with him before making a final decision about his future as Solon’s superintendent.

Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

Stacey Munson

Why are you running for school board? 

I have given thought to running for school board for several years and decided that now is the right time. My background in healthcare management helps me to be uniquely positioned to understand complex finances, challenges with recruitment and retention of staff, and data driven analytics; all while maintaining an intentional focus on the people we are here to serve – our students and families.    

What experiences qualify you for this office? 

I am a 2001 graduate of Solon High School and am extremely grateful for my experience at Solon as well as my post-secondary education experiences. I am the daughter of a retired educator, and my husband is an educator at Solon High School; thus I have lived my entire life listening to educators talk about what they do and why they do it. My three children attend school in the district. These experiences as well as my professional experience working in healthcare management have helped me to be uniquely poised to understand our school district from a variety of viewpoints as well as to have the necessary financial and analytical skills to successfully function as a school board member.   

What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected? 

If I would be elected to the Solon School Board, I would want to focus on the following: 

  1. Increasing transparency and communication between the school board and community. This includes holding school board meetings in a larger space that is more welcoming for parents, students, and community members to attend. 
  2. Working to ensure that all students and families in our district are represented and heard by our school board. It is diverse experiences and opinions that build strong communities, and we must build confidence that not only majority opinions are heard and listened to by our board and administrators. We need to foster open dialogue about the issues that are controversial or concerning for our families.   
  3. A deeper evaluation of vacant positions that have not been filled is in order. Over the past several years there have been several positions that have been vacated and left unfilled. I would like to explore why this has occurred, what classes or services are no longer offered because of these vacancies, and the fiscal impact of these vacancies. In addition, discussing and understanding the potential barriers to reinstating these positions would be an essential component of this evaluation.  
  4. Understanding past and current spending practices, why these practices have continued, and discussion among administration and board members about if these practices should continue; namely discussion around any percentage of the authorized budget that is left unspent. 

Why should voters pick you over other candidates? 

My personal and career experiences as well as my commitment to Solon make me an excellent candidate for school board. I am moderate in much of my thinking and believe that in most issues, common ground can be achieved between divided groups.  I strive to understand situations and issues prior to making judgements, and seek this position only to serve my community.  

Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not? 

I cannot offer a fair and educated opinion on this matter at this time.  Prior to weighing in on the employment contract for any administrator, I would need to have the opportunity to work directly with that individual for a period of time.  

Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

Michael Neuerburg

Why are you running for school board?

I am a dad whose daughter has attended SCSD since kindergarten and she is now in the 4th grade. She loves attending SCSD, and I have been impressed with the teachers and the student achievement at the schools. However, I have heard from many teachers that they are not getting the support that they need from the school board at the SCSD. I believe we need to help our teachers so they can help our kids. That starts with making certain that they are appropriately compensated, valued, and have the support and autonomy that they need to do their jobs.

What experiences qualify you for this office?

As a lawyer, I have fought for the underdog in employment discrimination cases. One of the first cases that I worked on was a case in which an FBI agent from the Midwest was fired because he had a prosthetic hand. We took the case to trial in Virginia and after a jury verdict he was reinstated as an agent. I have represented many veterans with disabilities ranging from hearing loss to diabetes to PTSD in employment cases. As a member of the school board, I would represent the community and it would not be in an adversarial role. I would use my skills and professionalism to listen to all sides, seek to understand all sides, and reach common goals for our community. Additionally, I volunteer on the Board of the Directors of The Arc, an organization that helps kids and adults who have disabilities. Sometimes people who are not in positions of power need support to make their voices heard, and I am able to provide that support.

What issue or issues seem most important to address if you are elected/re-elected?

There are important issues to address in SCSD. We are doing many things well, but can do some things better. As mentioned, the most important issue is teacher retention. Many of our excellent teachers have been leaving the district. My daughter started in kindergarten at SCSD and is now in the 4th grade. Two of her four K-3 teachers have left the district as well as her elementary school principal—and Solon’s statistics show this is just part of a wider problem.

Another issue at SCSD is the program opportunities available for students with specific needs, so that every individual gets the help they need to improve. I have heard very positive feedback about Solon’s special education work, but also understand that sometimes things could be done better. There is a TAG/ELP program, but the students in this program do not meet regularly and I believe this is an area that could be improved. We can build on Solon’s successes to make the school work better for all students and expand our programs for specialized students.

Why should voters pick you over other candidates?

My goal is to make sure that every voice is heard, from teachers, parents, staff and students. We will not always agree, especially in these polarized times, but we can have open and respectful communication. My work in employment discrimination advocating for the underdog shows that I can listen well, ask questions until I have an understanding of all sides, and be an effective voice for our community.

Would you seek to negotiate another employment contract with Superintendent Davis Eidahl when his current one expires? Why or why not?

It is too soon to make a decision about Superintendent Davis Eidahl’s contract. I look forward to working with him as part of the school board and learning more. I would not prejudge him or others at the school, but would make decisions based on all the best information I can get at the time.

Do you have a website, Facebook page or other place where voters can get information? Please provide a link.

Yes, I have a Facebook page located at

Cassie Rochholz

Hello Paul,

Thanks for reaching out.  I am going to refrain from answering questions via social media, however I encourage you to attend the public forum on Oct 20th and review the candidates information being published in the Solon Economist.

Have a great week,


Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.

Living in Society

SSB Candidates Respond to Press Citizen

On Thursday, Oct. 7, the Iowa City Press Citizen published responses to a questionnaire sent to the seven Solon School board candidates. Because of technical challenges with Twitter and Facebook, I am posting a printed version from the online newspaper to which I subscribe here.

If readers subscribe to the newspaper, here’s a link to the article online.

I will have comments on the candidates once the responses to Journey Home and the Solon Economist are in. For now the Press Citizen responses can stand on their own. I will point out that the circulation of the Solon Economist is less than 1,000, and there are 3,541 registered, active voters in the school district. Those who didn’t respond to the Press Citizen may have missed an opportunity on their way to 500 votes on Nov. 2.

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.

Living in Society

School Board Campaign Conventions

Conventional wisdom in the Solon Community School District board election is there is a certain way of doing things. Call it a “Solon way” if you need a name for it.

From the filing deadline on Sept. 16 until election day on Nov. 2 there is not a lot of time. Candidates have to contact voters in a way that convinces about 500 of them they are the best person for the school board.

For the most part, conventional campaigns go something like this:

  • Planning, including finance and yard signs.
  • Strategy, including web presence, alliances with other candidates.
  • Filing.
  • Voter outreach via personal networking, U.S. Postal Service, in-person, and internet.
  • Submit information to organizations via questionnaire: League of Women Voters, Solon Economist, and others.
  • One large candidate forum, this year on Oct. 20.
  • Get out the vote.

There is an economy to conventional wisdom in that energy can be focused on a limited number of tasks. If one performs them all well, they have their best foot forward. If they don’t win, they can say they did their best and garner some satisfaction for having run.

Being on the school board doesn’t come with financial consideration, i.e. no pay. Most candidates have lives filled with work that needs doing to support themselves. There is not a lot of time for nuance in a campaign. Conventional wisdom supports busy people in that campaigns run by it have a well-worn path to conclusion, if not to winning.

Because of conventional wisdom, it is difficult for a candidate to break out from the herd. This year there are seven candidates, Billerbeck, Brown, Coons, Edmonds, Neuerburg, Munson and Rochholz. Brown and Coons are incumbents, each of whom was elected multiple times. The opening for a non-incumbent was created when Rick Jedlicka decided not to run for another term. In a calcified school board election environment, the competition would be for that one seat, assuming Brown and Coons would dominate because of their incumbency. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As I do the work to understand the seven 2021 candidates, I reflect on the campaign of Jami Wolf, who I view as a breakout candidate among six who ran for two seats in 2019. More than others, she devoted time and resources to networking throughout the community. She had a natural connection with school board election voters in that she volunteered at the school. She is outgoing and friendly. Her career in real estate reinforces qualities needed in a campaign: realism, public speaking, and poise. She was open to meeting with almost anyone. While she had a Facebook page, it appeared to me her focus was on person-to-person contact. She won the open seat on the board.

Who will be the breakout candidate in 2021? I don’t know. What worked for Wolf may not work for candidates with a different personality style. Effective voter outreach will make the difference on Nov. 2.

A lot has been made of the district’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Little in conventional wisdom about campaigns covers a public health crisis during a pandemic. Some like what the school administration has done. Others do not. It seems unlikely that the single issue of number of instances of COVID-19, managing outbreaks, and communication about COVID-19 cases in the schools will be the deciding factor in this election. Cassie Rochholz and Erika Billerbeck were quoted by KCRG on Sept. 29 in reaction to the district experiencing 67 positive COVID-19 cases in a single week. Their comments typify the division around the pandemic:

Some parents in the school district think the rapid increase in cases is a direct result of not requiring masks for students or staff.

“That’s in a population of about 1,500 students. And when you compare it to a system like Iowa City where they are requiring masks, right now I believe they have 36 active cases in a school system that’s 9 times the size of Solon,” Erika Billerbeck, a school district parent, said.

Billerbeck said, at the very least, she wants better communication from the school.

“I won’t find out until Monday evening what the statistics were for the previous week,” Billerbeck said. “So as a parent trying to make a decision day-to-day, we’re not receiving that information to make a good choice for our kids.”

Other parents, like Cassie Rochholz, say families and students should have a choice when it comes to mask-wearing.

“Parents need the option to choose what is best for their child, and no child fits squarely into a box, no child is the same as one another,” Rochholz said.

KCRG website Sept. 29, 2021.

It is not hard to line up the candidates for and against administration policy and its practice regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

If conventional wisdom makes it easier to manage a campaign, it does not assure winning. Innovative strategies and effective outreach to voters beyond one’s personal circle will be what decides the election. If the electorate is of a mood to replace the current board, three newcomers could win. We’ll see the mood of the electorate in the coming four weeks.

Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.