Get to know who's running for ADM School Board and where they stand on the issues

Allison Ullmann
Dallas County News

Five individuals will appear on the ballot for the ADM School Board.

There are five candidates, including one incumbent, running for two open seats on the school board.

The election is Nov. 2. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Care strongly about a particular topic? Skip to it here: 

Editor's note: Candidates' responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Who's running for the ADM School Board?

Bart Banwart (incumbent)

Bart Banwart

Age: 43

Office sought: ADM School Board

Where they grew up: Adel, Iowa. 1996 ADM Graduate

Where they currently live: Adel, Iowa

Past political experience: ADM School Board 2010 to Present – Current Vice President

Melissa Dohlman

Melissa Dohlman

Age: 38

Office sought: ADM School Board

Where they grew up: Van Meter, Iowa

Where they currently live: Adel, Iowa

Past political experience: None

Shanlyn Doll

Shanlyn Doll

Age: 42

Office sought: ADM School Board

Where they grew up: Osage- A small town in northern Iowa.

Where they currently live: Adel, Iowa

Past political experience: None

Ross Freeman

Ross Freeman

Age: 40

Office sought: ADM School Board

Where they grew up: Grimes, Iowa

Where they currently live: Adel, Iowa

Past political experience: I have not previously held an official political office. 

Kale Smith

Kale Smith

Age: 26

Office sought: Adel DeSoto Minburn School Board

Where they grew up: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Where they currently live: Adel, Iowa

Past political experience: No political experience or office held. Currently serving as the President of the ADM Fine Arts Boosters

Where do ADM School Board candidates stand on mask mandates?

Bart Banwart

I do not support a universal mask mandate at ADM. As a school board, we’ve used ADM data along with continual communication with Dallas County Public Health to guide our mask policy. As a school board, we’ve made decisions based on what’s best for our community. Families are best equipped to decide about masking their children.

Melissa Dohlman

I don’t support a universal mask mandate. I believe parents know what is best for their children’s health and well-being, including whether to wear or not wear a mask. I believe the current school board has done a good job collecting and using data to guide their decisions. They have not seen a significant increase of cases or impact on community health with their mask-optional policy. Attendance rates have remained high, very similar to pre-COVID attendance rates. It is clear people are divided on masking and each parent and child should be allowed a choice.  

Shanlyn Doll

The most emotionally charged question of this election is how each candidate will vote in the future on masking. Because of its complexity, it would be irresponsible to say I’m always for or always against it. When there are decisions to be made on this or any other issue, I’ll research relevant data and varying perspectives and listen to what stakeholders have communicated. I will be fully informed and current but open-minded and willing to shift gears if necessary. I’m as ready to be done masking as anyone and hope the time is near when it’s no longer a conversation.

Ross Freeman

I support the current mask-optional policy in place at ADM. I appreciate that the current administration and board have worked to gather and monitor data as well as work with the local health departments to ensure the safety of our students and provide a safe place for our students to learn. I support data-driven decision making as well as working with local health officials to be able to make the best decisions for students, teachers and staff based on the best data available in our community. 

Kale Smith

My ultimate goal as a school board member will be to keep students and staff safe while learning in a classroom environment. I believe that science and data should be reviewed and consulted to determine if masks should be implemented. For the time being, I believe the decision regarding masks rests with each family.

Where do ADM School Board candidates stand on parental control — and how individual interests can be balanced against community needs?

Bart Banwart

Strong families make strong communities. At ADM, we believe parents are the most powerful and influential teachers in a child’s life. Parents are best equipped to make decisions for their children. Family need drives community need. It is the responsibility of the school and families to work together, identifying necessities and working as a team to create a learning environment where students thrive.

Melissa Dohlman

Parental control acknowledges that a parent knows what is best for their child’s health and well-being and school boards should consider this when making decisions or enacting policies. Parents should be considered a partner in their child’s education. Good communication between the district and families ensures that parents are not only aware of their child’s education but feel involved in it. A school board is elected to consider the needs of the whole community, so surveying the district’s families before important decisions are made would be an important tool in making sure balance is achieved. 

Shanlyn Doll

My first thought when I hear the term “parental control” is the screen time limits we set on our children’s devices. When it comes to our schools, of course a strong parent partnership should and does exist. Parents know their children best and will always be their best advocates. Working together with school staff and administration will lead to the best outcomes when they bring their education expertise to the table and a win-win solution can be found. 

Ross Freeman

I’m grateful that I have the freedom and option to send my child with a mask or without to school. Since the start of the school year, my children have chosen not to wear masks. For some who choose to wear a mask, I support their choice to help protect themselves or loved ones who may be worried about contracting and spreading COVID-19. Current data supports that our schools are a safe place to learn. Attendance rates are currently trending up which demonstrates that the current policy balances the needs of the community and individuals today. 

Kale Smith

Parental control means having a voice and seat at the decision making table. As a board member, my goal is to listen to our community and represent everyone so that our school and our children can reach success. As a board member, I’ll be an accountable voice who listens to the community's needs to make the best informed decisions for our school district.

Where do ADM School Board candidates stand on diversity and inclusion efforts in classrooms?

Bart Banwart

Relationships and learning promote diversity and inclusion. At ADM, we have passionate administrators, teachers, and staff who pursue inclusion and diversity in appropriate and holistic ways. From a rigorous curriculum that challenges and supports critical thinking to extra-curricular activities that include a variety of students, ADM approaches diversity and inclusion both academically and relationally.

Melissa Dohlman

The district should promote diversity and inclusion by creating a culture and climate in our schools that has a no tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. ADM should purposefully create a culture where differences are understood, accepted, and valued while still promoting unity as a community. Diversity is promoted by focusing on each student’s diverse needs and then providing what each student needs to be socially and academically successful. 

Shanlyn Doll

I think of diversity as human differences or variations in cognition and identity. Inclusion refers to engagement within a community where the equal worth and inherent dignity of each person is honored. An inclusive community promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it affirms the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members. Embracing student inquiry and including opportunities for storytelling, empathy, and listening skills are a good approach. Teachers should celebrate joy and genius in all people and groups and highlight resiliency as an excellent way to promote student connection and support of each other. 

Ross Freeman

I believe in being a model for how students should behave. I believe in recognizing that we can express our opinions sometimes without agreeing. I believe in celebrating our differences and that that we should not be judged or treated differently based on our sex, race, religion or beliefs. We have excellent teachers and staff in place that model this behavior. I’ve met several that have been models for my children and know many others also. It is my hope that we adults, parents and educators can continue to model this behavior in and outside of the classroom. 

Kale Smith

Promoting diversity and inclusion starts at the top, and that is why attracting and retaining the highest quality of educators, staff, and administrators is key in making sure all students and families feel welcome in our growing district. Our educators are the greatest asset our district has and I will work to make sure our staff and educators have the tools and resources to achieve more for our students—especially centered around diversity and inclusion. When our educators and staff are continuously trained and given the proper resources to be successful professionally, that leads to student safety and success.

What student group do ADM School Board candidates feel needs the most help, academically, and what can the district do to help them?

Bart Banwart

Having four children educated at ADM, I have witnessed first-hand the academic supports provided by our school district. Some students need academic support to reach grade-level standards while other students need to be challenged beyond those standards. As a parent and school board member, I am proud of ADM’s mission of “engaging ALL students in a challenging and supportive environment that ensures ALL students learn at high levels.”

Melissa Dohlman

The district has been transparent in sharing literacy data and currently 24.6% of PK-11th grade students are not proficient in literacy. The district has a goal to decrease the number of non-proficient students, and I agree with this focus. The district has a good plan to intervene with extra literacy support and continue to closely monitor the data and change instruction if needed.  As a Reading Recovery teacher, I’d love to come alongside the district as a board member and use my literacy expertise to support and make sure the district remains committed to achieving this goal. 

Shanlyn Doll

Increasing student reading proficiency is the laser focus at ADM right now and I agree with that goal. Our students must be excellent readers (be fluent, comprehend, decode, and all the other intricacies that go into this complex skill) as a foundation so they can succeed in every other area. As new students come to us from other districts, we should also be assessing them to determine if they are exceeding in some areas and need enrichment or have skill gaps that need to be addressed through intervention.

Ross Freeman

Currently, there is an effort to reduce the number of students identified as “not yet proficient” in reading. This is measured by identified state assessments by grade level. I support this initiative and believe it deserves to be a primary focus of our district. Credit to our administration and current board for driving this initiative. Reading is vital for lifelong learning and communication. This is a fundamental skill that I hope all ADM kids can master to their highest potential. 

Kale Smith

The student group currently needing the most academic help in our district are juniors and seniors who are trying to make the decision of what comes next after school. There is a lot of pressure on their shoulders to make the “right” decision after graduation and as a board member, I want to make sure every student has the resources and knowledge to make the most informed decision. The future is ever-changing and we must prepare our students for whichever path they choose to follow.

What additional measures do candidates feel the district could take to accommodate rapid growth in the community?

Bart Banwart

Communication and relationships between the city and school are essential in managing the continued growth in our school district. Over the past decade of my service on the school board, the district has managed growth through school growth projections, community input, open-enrollment oversight, classroom expansion at each district campus, and the opening of Meadow View Elementary. As the school district continues to grow, I anticipate the same proactive methods to accommodate future growth.

Melissa Dohlman

The district will need to make sure they have good projections of future enrollment in order to plan ahead for growth. In Iowa, allocations for funding are based off the previous year’s enrollment, so it will be important to be fiscally responsible to ensure quality facilities and teachers for students. I also believe being committed to attracting and maintaining the best teachers, as well as keeping class sizes small, will be important aspects to consider while planning for growth. 

Shanlyn Doll

The most important thing is that we look at growth as an exciting opportunity that we are blessed to be a part of! Many Iowa districts are shrinking and we are lucky to not have to deal with that. We’ll keep a close eye on open enrollment and make sure we have the staff and space to accommodate additional students and still keep class sizes manageable. Being creative in our use of funding and space is an opportunity for innovation in how we do business and we should always be looking into the future to be two steps ahead.

Ross Freeman

I support the continued management and oversight of finances and responsible growth in terms of facilities, staff and resources within our district. As I’ve watched other districts grow, it seems that district finances becomes an ever-increasing area of difficulty and in certain cases mismanagement. I am a data analyst and personal finance hobbyist. I’m certain that these skills would help me to be an asset to the school board in governing responsible growth in our district. 

Kale Smith

I plan to bring my professional experiences as a small business owner to the table to help manage the forecasted growth in the district. Keeping sound budgeting practices in mind, which I practice at all times, I’ll be a strong district advocate and ensure property taxes stay low without sacrificing the tools and resources our district needs to succeed.