Seven candidates, three seats

Seven candidates are running in Tuesday’s election for three seats on the Fort Dodge Community School District board.

Randal Funchess, Lisa Shimkat, Troy Schroeder, William Offerman and John F. Williams are running, as are incumbents Stuart Cochrane and Brian Forsythe, both currently on the school board.

The board and its volunteer members, each serving four-year terms, play an important role in district functions, according to Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent.

“The function of the school board is to have oversight of the district, mainly as it relates to the development of policy, and the financial responsibilities of the district, to make sure we are functioning within the legal requirements,” Van Zyl said. “And to set the goals that they want to see for academic standards and for fiscal responsibility.”

School board members meet twice a month and are involved in all facets of district operations, Van Zyl said.

“We do get reports and updates from the different schools, different administrators on programs. We have committees they are a part of that deal with policy, finance, capital projects and facilities, to make sure we are doing the right things with the resources of the district. We take a look at short- and long-term plans, because it just can’t be about today it has to be about the future,” Van Zyl said. “And then we have the academic standards we’re required to try and meet, not only federally but they want to make sure they’re monitoring how we’re doing in comparison to some other surrounding districts and the start.”

Board members provide direction and insight in various committees.

“We’re going to have a communications committee. We also have a committee that deals with capital projects and facilities,” Van Zyl said. “And then there is a comprehensive school improvement committee that deals with the academic side of the district.”

More than anything, board members serve as liaisons between the FDCSD and the community.

“That’s a very important role they play,” Van Zyl said. “They’re elected by the community so they are that person that brings some information from the community and hopefully is sharing that information out.”

As superintendent, Van Zyl said the board has been an invaluable resource to him.

“Without the school board, my role would be much more difficult,” he said. “They are the folks that take a look at different areas and items that come up from different vantage points, from their own personal experiences but also as representatives of the community.”

He added, “They are very valuable in making sure our school district functions effectively.”

Van Zyl said it was encouraging that seven candidates are running for seats on the board this year.

“That’s the highest amount I’ve been told has run in the district for a while,” he said. “I see that as hopefully a positive thing, that people see the positive things we’re doing in the school district and they want to be a part of it. They want to continue to help us move forward not only as a school district but as a community.”