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Five candidates contest three open school board seats

Incumbents Cantu, Cook, Leonard seek re-election

Five candidates are vying for three open seats on the Newton Community School District Board of Education.

All three incumbents — Josh Cantu, Donna Cook and Ann Leonard — are running for re-election; however, newcomers Mark Thayer and Nat Clark also want to claim their spot on the seven-person school board. By the end of the election, at least one incumbent will retain their seat.

Clark has lived in Newton for almost 13 years and has previously served as a member of the NCSD Board of Education. Although he did not grow up in Newton, Clark said he still has a passion for the town’s youth and wants “everybody to go into discussions (at school board meetings) with an unbiased opinion.”

He added, “One of the reasons I decided to run for school board again was I don’t bring any personal agendas to the board table. I believe that a fresh opinion in comparison to some of the existing board members that are only there for their personal agenda and doing a disservice to the board table.”

Thayer came to Newton in 1996 and said he “can’t think of anything more important to the future of Newton than the quality of the community school district.” He added that his daughter just graduated from Newton High School and he has a son attending Berg Middle School. Thayer is also a member or president of several boards in town.

“I think I have a special talent in developing and assisting management and leadership and sustainability,” Thayer said. “I do think the administration of the Newton Community School District performs at a very high level and I would like to see that continue. That is one of my main motivating factors.”

Cantu joined the NCSD Board of Education in 2015 and has lived in Newton since 2002. He said the current school board is doing a lot of good things and he wants to continue seeing the district do well. Continuity within the board, he added, is good but he also has no problem with some fresh eyes.

“I appreciate folks also joining the race to help maybe bring some different perspectives to what we’re doing,” Cantu said. “One of the things that I’ve learned over the past four years is we really have to set priorities for the district and trust that our administration can help execute on those things.”

Leonard has been a resident of Newton for a little more than 19 years and has only served one term on the school board. The No. 1 reason she wanted to run for re-election is the school board’s interest in the culture within the Newton Community School District.

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in that space,” she said. “That is an area of interest of mine. I do it at my work, as well, so I feel the experiences that I have at Corteva (Agriscience) would benefit the district specifically in this culture space.”

Cook has lived in Newton for most of her life and has spent a great deal of her time serving as a member of the NCSD Board of Education. With a passion for education, Cook said she wants to continue working toward improving instruction and student achievement.

“It’s actually an exciting time to be on the board,” she said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress and this board is willing to do the work to make more.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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