By Adam Sodders
It wasn’t long after starting work at Marshalltown Schools 19 years ago that Marshalltown School Board candidate Karina Hernández found a passion for the district; now, she’s looking to help move forward as a member of the school board.
“I have a really good relationship with parents here in Marshalltown,” the Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) Every Child Ready coordinator said. “I’m a parent of three children; two are going through the district, one just graduated.”
Hernández’s experience with the district began when she moved to Marshalltown from Los Angeles. She was brought on as an English language learning (ELL) tutor at Rogers Elementary, and she said her passion for education increased from there.
“Working through the district is how I started going to school,” she said. “I got my degree during the time I was working for the district; they were one of the biggest supports for me going to school.”
She said she enjoys her role at MICA, which has seen her continue working closely with district students.
“I’ve been [at MICA] for five years, I worked for the district for 12 years,” Hernández said. “I was fortunate enough to partner with the district while working with MICA … the experience at MICA and my experience at the district has made me have this passion to help this district succeed.”
While partnering with the district though MICA, Hernández has coordinated programs lIke Rogers University, Pre-K Camp, and Munch and More. Stemming summer learning loss and increasing proficiency among students are some of the goals of those programs.
“All this is in partnership with our school district,” she said of the programs, adding she also volunteers at Marshalltown High School’s 4-H Leadership Club.
Additionally, Hernández said she has taught Abriendo Puertas, or Opening Doors, which is a parent engagement class. She’s also taught in a similar program called Juntos.
Both classes educated parents in working with their children; Abriendo Puertas focuses on parents with children up to 12th grade, while Juntos is focused on those with children looking into higher education.
She said the district has plenty of strengths, and that those strengths should continue to be spotlighted.
“My kids have enjoyed being part of the district,” Hernández said. “I’ve said it before: the diversity in Marshalltown is one of our biggest strengths; our kids are not only learning from our teachers, they’re also learning from their friends.”
The district’s extracurricular opportunities are another major positive, she said.
“All three of my kids have been in accelerated learning, had the opportunity to be in sports, had the opportunity to be in clubs like Battle of the Books,” Hernández said, adding teachers and staff are easy to work with.
In areas like early education and reading proficiency, she said she’d like to see continued improvement.
“I feel like we need to work on what we already have established, and if it needs change, we need to be open to change,” Hernández said. “At MICA, I’ve learned so much as far as research.”
Some of that research shows that quality early childhood education is one factor that increases success in high school and beyond, she said. The same goes for children who are at grade-level reading proficiency by third grade.
‘Bobcat pride’ was another area Hernández said is important, especially when talking about open enrollments out of the district.
“I think we need to pump it up,” she said. “When I say that, I don’t mean just walking through the schools and seeing it … why not see it all over town? We are a Bobcat town.”
She said promoting Marshalltown’s strengths may encourage families to stay rather than open enroll at nearby districts.
With a difficult funding situation predicted for the coming school year, Hernández said she would work closely with fellow board members in trying to solve issues related to lack of supplemental state funding.
“No, I don’t have the answer for it; is there really anything we can do about it? Probably not,” she said. “As a team, I think we can work through these problems and find a solution.”
Hernández said her children are the focus of her personal life. Her sons, Rogelio and Alonzo, are going into sixth grade and his sophomore year, respectively. Her daughter, Vanessa, is a 2017 MHS graduate and is going to the University of Iowa to study exercise science.
“I do enjoy watching movies with my kids,” she said. “I like documentaries, non-fiction.”
Taking road trips, even short ones within the state, is another activity Hernández and her family enjoys. Basketball is another.
“Every year, we go up to Minnesota and watch the (Los Angeles) Lakers play the Timberwolves,” she said. “I’m fortunate enough to have all of my kids love basketball, so I enjoy going to watch (their) home games.”
Overall, Hernández said she’s someone who is open to new ideas.
“I love to learn new things, I think the biggest strength that I have is I’m always open for change,” she said. “I’m here to work together toward a successful district.”
The Marshalltown School Board election is set for Sept. 12.
Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series of interviews with the five candidates vying for a seat on the Marshalltown School Board. To see the other interviews visit www.timesrepublican.com