December 09, 2021

SCHOOL BOARD Q&As: Cody Muhs

8 candidates compete for 4 seats on Newton school board

Name: Cody Muhs

Age: 44

Occupation: Senior consulting engineer and corporate paralegal

1) Please introduce yourself and explain why you are running for school board.

I have called Newton home for the last 20 years. I have worked at Pella Corporation for the last 21 years in different engineering roles. I am currently an engineer on Pella’s legal team.My wife, Sarah, works at SHARE preschool, and my sons, Owen and Cameron, attend NHS and BMS respectively.I believe our schools are the heartbeat of our town.I participated in board meetings for about a year before getting on the board in order to better understand the work and role of the board and to better understand the issues of our district.I have been on the board for the past four years and Board President for the last year.I am honored to serve.I enjoy talking to people about our district.I enjoy solving problems.I’m running again to continue the work on board governance and to work on items that improve the results of the district.

2) What is a parent’s role and how does it fit into the school district?

Parents are crucial to the success of our students.As a district, it is imperative to find more ways to involve parents in education.I urge parents to understand what is happening in your children’s’ classrooms and schools.It is our job as a board and in the district to invite parents to be a part of the decision-making in schools.Recently, we created a board subcommittee to investigate the reasons why families that are open enrolling students out of the district, and we encouraged lots of parents to join the SIAC to help us to find ways to address and combat this issue.The parent involvement is a key to the success of this subcommittee.From a board standpoint, we have started broadcasting our meetings via Cardinal TV to try to make our meetings available to more parents and will continue to look for ways to increase engagement.

3) How do you think the district is recovering from the 2020 school year?

Just like many districts across the country, our district has a long way to go in our recovery from the 2020 school year.All districts learned that outcomes for in-person learning were far greater than outcomes for students engaged in remote learning.We continue to work on ways to help students recover from the learning loss that happened during this time.I believe we have the right framework in place for continuous improvement toward our goals in the High Reliability School (HRS) model.We need to encourage the continued use and advancement of this model and continue to find ways to support programs like our summer reading program that have proven to increase outcomes for the students that participate.

4) What’s the best quality of Newton schools? What can the district improve on?

The Newton Community School District has lots of fantastic qualities.I have had the opportunity to work with dozens of passionate and hard-working teachers and administrators who were willing to work with my family on meeting the needs of my family’s very different learners.At the board table, I have heard from many of our amazing teachers and administrators on how they are supporting ALL of our students.And we have celebrated the many great accomplishments of our students at school board meetings as well.Our district is large enough to offer top notch programming, and a diversity of offerings.We have extracurricular activities for lots of different groups and are open to hear about areas where we can continue to support our students’ unique interests.We have a great offering of college level classes at the High School.I think the schools all do good work in their own buildings, but I think we can continue to improve on providing services that are complimentary between schools.We need to work together to provide the best handoffs from the elementary, middle schools, and high schools to ensure we are efficiently meeting the needs of students throughout their schooling in Newton.

5) What other school issues are you most passionate about?

I have a passion for school board governance and measuring success.As far as Board governance is concerned, I am interested in continuing ongoing work with the board on defining our roles and responsibilities to ensure that we have effective decision-making in the district.We need to continue to ensure the board gets involved in issues only in ways that are in line with our responsibilities. We need to continue to ensure we do not undermine those who are responsible for their work.To that end, I have created a school board handbook that lays out some of our responsibilities and communication protocols and continue to work on refining this and providing training to ensure alignment.I am also passionate about continuous improvement.Through our goal setting this year, I have worked with the board on setting measurable outcomes so that we can agree to the degree of success of all of our different programs.I believe we need to continue to lean on the data to see what works and doesn’t work in our district.I want to be held accountable for results in our district, and this will help us publish performance vs. district goals to better communicate our high-level progress to the community.

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.