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On-the-ballot candidates share why they should be elected to school board

With the election for the four open seats on the Newton Community School District’s Board of Education taking place Tuesday, incumbents Andy Elbert and Sherri Benson are seeking to retain their positions and Joe Klingensmith is trying to become a board member for the second time.

All three of them are on the official ballot and are joined by the three write-in candidates, Robyn Friedman, Darrin T. Hamilton and Travis Padget.

Elbert, who is also the current board president, laid out his case for re-election in a recent interview.

“I do it for the kids really, not just my own two kids, but for all the kids in the Newton community,” Elbert said. “I’m not a person that does it for the glory or to get my name in the paper or hear my voice on the radio or anything like that.

“There’s something special about going to the classrooms and walking around the buildings and seeing those kids and knowing that you had a small part in making their education possible. That’s why I want to do this,” he continued.

He also touched on what he felt were some of the biggest highlights during his tenure on the board.

“The new superintendent, bringing in top talent like Bob Callaghan,” Elbert said. “The 1:1 Initiative at the high school, our reading scores at the high school, our math scores at the elementary schools. Those are all things that are big accomplishments for us.”

The 1:1 Initiative is what allowed all Newton Senior High School students to receive iPads this year, and none of the district’s elementary schools are on the SINA or Watch Lists for math. NHS was removed from the Watch List in reading this year as well.

Benson also has her reasons for why she should be re-elected.

“I would serve well if re-elected because I am accustomed to the different voices that have opinions about how the school district should be run,” Benson said. “I also have the ability to shake out those voices, step back and make an unbiased decision on what is best for the school district.”

Like Elbert, Benson shared a few of her highlights as a board member.

“I approved the partnership with DMACC for the DMACC Academy,” she said. “I approved the policy to bring preschool to the district. I was a part of the decision making body meeting to make the anti-bullying policy. Also recruiting and hiring a new superintendent.”

Klingensmith is seeking to win his seat on the board this time around; he was appointed a member previously in 2012.

“The main reason I want to serve, besides the civic duty, is to be a good role model to my two boys and show them how important education is to me,” Klingensmith said. “(I) just (want) to bring the knowledge that I have and to be able to govern with some common sense — that is important to me — I think that is lacking in some of the governances nowadays.”

Klingensmith explained his platform as well.

“I’m running on the experience that I already have and the continued education that I have,” Klingensmith said. “Being active in the community — whether through the PTA or extracurricular activities or the special programs that they have at school — there are always going to be ways to be involved, whether I’m on the school board or not. I just think that I can have a bigger impact (by) making some well-rounded decisions on the school board.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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