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Forum held for MISD board member candidates
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · August 24th, 2017

A Marion Independent School District Board of Education election, scheduled for September 12, will include three open seats on the ballot. Incumbents Shari Funck and Bill Huntoon will appear on the ballot as well as a space for residents to write in additional choices. The top three candidates with the most votes will then be elected.

On Thursday, August 17, at 7 p.m., both Funck and Huntoon participated in a Marion Chamber of Commerce and Marion Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO) forum in Thomas Park's Safe Room. Former Linn-Mar educator Kent Stock moderated the event before a group of Marion residents and civic leaders. The candidates took turns answering relevant topic questions during the event.

Shari Funck

According to current board member Funck, she is a caring and approachable member who is an advocate for all students. In her four years on the board, she has had 100 percent attendance, and always comes to the meetings prepared. "It is a big commitment," she said.

Funck said her work on large-scale timeline projects at Verizon helped give her the necessary experience in the area of conflict resolution. As a board member, she has applied these leadership skills and committed conscience in problem-solving. Funck stated she believes it is essential to be transparent when communicating in situations. "You can never communicate enough," she said.

She also said she supports students by getting involved as both a Girl Scout Leader and school board member. Funck said she attends school sporting events and musical concerts and has the time to get into the district and listen to community concerns.

Funck said building professional development and consensus is essential within a fully defined process. The Board has clearly documented goals, she said. One goal, is funding new technology. "They have made tremendous strides in technology in the classrooms ... the new technology director is doing an amazing job," she said.

When asked, Funck cited personnel as a district strength and lack of funding for items such as school-wide air conditioning as its weakness.

During the session, Funck said it is important to prioritize spending when tightening the budget, and then follow the plan and not letting other things come in. For example, the MISD designed and implemented a plan that will save the district $312,000 over the next three years from several recent early retirements.

She also supports partnering with the City of Marion on projects such as refurbishing tennis courts and saving over $50,000 by having students build a home on a city-owned lot. Funck is also in favor of working with Kirkwood Community College and Grant Wood AEA as well. Other areas to explore may be in transportation and communications. "We have only begun to partner," she said.

According to Funck, MEDCO recently began a Community Promise Program, aligning students with community business opportunities other than college. This would give many students opportunities other than traditional paths, and these partnerships will encourage Marion area students to stay in the community, she said.

Funck said she is not opposed to anything when it comes to merging Linn-Mar and the MISD, but they need to look at all aspects of the benefits and challenges while meeting the needs of students in both districts. "Each school brings a niche to community," she said. "They need to make sure any change would not negatively impact student learning or the community."

Funck said she would be honored to continued to represent the MISD as a board member, and will remain committed to excellence.

Bill Huntoon

Huntoon said he grew up in the Marion community and graduated from Marion Independent High School. After graduating, he became a teacher. He taught in schools, coached, served as a school administrator, worked at the state penitentiary and on an Indian reservation. "I believe every child has the right to a quality education," he said.

As a current MISD board member, Huntoon said he understands the tremendous responsibility he has serving on the board. This is why he gets out among the people and talks with them about important matters before making decisions. "We have to learn to give and take and understand where the other person is coming from, and everyone has good ideas," he said. And once the board sets policies, the Superintendent carries them out. "We hire the best administrators" who are trained to evaluate the staff.

In addition, Huntoon said the MISD has done an outstanding job. "Our teachers and administrators have been super." They have done great in integrating the learning process, and there is no end to what they can achieve if they extend their hands to entities such as Kirkwood Community College, the City of Marion, the Iowa's School Board Association and others at the state level in partnership, he added.

In response to the question of a state increase at one percent being the norm, Huntoon said it may be the norm, but he does not have to accept that, citing lobbyist groups receiving more than their fair share, and over a billion dollars given in tax loophole subsidies. "It is time the party in power stands up and pulls that in," he said. "We have plenty of money in Iowa to take care of our priorities."

Also, Huntoon said his priorities in sharing MISD happenings with the community are changing current trends in education (such as in the field of technology), information about people, and school events. He also said a merger with Linn-Mar may be possible in the future, but it is necessary to first discuss the pros and cons of it. "We tried four times. Three times Linn-Mar was against the idea, and the fourth time Marion voted against it, while Linn-Mar voted for it."

Huntoon also said he is privileged to be an MISD board member and would be honored to be re-elected as such. And as to why more people do not run for the school board, Huntoon said they encourage people to run for the board, but time restraints may be one among many reasons they choose not to.
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