Question 1). What educational or other education specific based community work or experience do you have to bring to your role on the school board?
JC Ruddy: I have not had direct experience serving on a school board or in a public education building. However, I am proud to have two of my four daughters enrolled in Southeast Polk and have the opportunity to understand a parent’s perspective in education. Additionally, I have a long track record working throughout our community, and other communities in Iowa, educating families specifically on “financial education.” I have worked with thousands of clients over the last 17 years in business. This is including educating clients on “how money works” and showing them strategies that can improve their overall financial well-being, short term and long term. In doing so, I have learned to listen to the client, understand their objectives, find out where their understanding of certain areas might be falling short, and then helping implement a better solution to improve that situation. In addition to that, I have spoken at local colleges explaining the importance of understanding finances beyond college. I have had the opportunity to speak to several groups, including my home town high school, as it relates to personal development and mental toughness. I pride myself in making a positive impact in people’s lives, both personally and professionally. I know that if I am elected to Southeast Polk’s school board, I will be looking into different ways we can increase our children’s overall knowledge of “how money works” beyond just learning how to balance a check book. It is valuable to also understand compounding interest, how to pay off debt, budgeting, etc. I am confident I can add a lot of value to our district in this capacity, as well as bring a positive energy in the district as a whole!
Question #2: In your opinion, what are some of the district’s strengths and weaknesses? How do you feel you could support the strengths and turn around the weaknesses?
JC Ruddy: I think one of the district’s strengths is the way we have been handling our finances. It is my understanding that this has been much improved over the years. I believe several years ago our solvency was -19% which is now been turned into a +16% or higher. A “good” solvency ratio is +5% - +10%. This, combined with our “unspent authority” funds being at a +14.6% is a big strength we have as a district. With my financial background moving forward, I could add an even more balanced approach as to how we allocate our current budget, as well as the overage of funds we have. I have been in wealth management for many years and feel confident on how to see continued growth while still being conservative when it relates to spending. There are wants and needs, it is just a matter how to prioritize those specifically to continue to add overall value to our district.
While we are in a good place financially, I think one of the district’s weaknesses is transparency. Specifically, when it comes to where the communities tax dollars are being spent. We need to do a better job of not just communicating where we are spending money, but also WHY and HOW. In regards to the new football stadium and the $91 million bond. Many people assume all of that money is going towards a football stadium. However, only approximately $22 million is going towards that specific project. There is also a certain percentage going to the 6th and 7th grade building, as well as the softball field etc. Again, having an extensive background in finance, it is important to me to make financial transparency one of my top priorities if I am elected.
Question 3). Are you willing to listen to various viewpoints with an open mind and weigh all sides prior to making a decision? Are you willing to work with others to reach a common goal?
JC Ruddy: Absolutely, I believe we all have a similar goal: to ensure our children receive the best education they can get, while being surrounded by the best environment. This may look differently to various sides so to make sure that happens you must be open to all logical viewpoints. Everyone is going to have their own ideas as to how things should be done, as well as how they should be implemented. I believe that in order to make sure that common goal is getting accomplished we must hear from and consider all viewpoints, and ultimately discern what is best for the overall district. My slogan is “putting students and families first!” That pertains to ALL student’s and family’s viewpoints in the district, as well as all of our teachers. We must work together to be successful. Throughout my experience working with and training hundreds of people in the financial industry, I’ve learned to work well with all types of people, with a variety of personalities and beliefs. It is because of these experiences I feel that I can bring people of this community together to accomplish the common goal of ensuring our children are getting the best education and experience here at Southeast Polk!
Question 4: What do you feel is the bigger obstacle facing school districts today; proper funding or proper spending?
JC Ruddy: I would say it is proper spending. It seems to me that school districts have proper funding as home values continue to rise which in turn raises property taxes. I think we, at SEP, have done a great job to this point, but can always do better! I also believe the tax payers don’t mind their tax dollars going towards certain areas, as long as it is adding value to the district. “Cost is always absent in the presence of value.” It’s just that we need to do a great job at communicating what value those funds are adding to our district. In addition to that, being able to spend wisely without having to increase our costs which would then in turn raise taxes. I think everyone can agree that increasing taxes on households is not a good thing. With proper spending and innovative ways to cut costs without cutting jobs or any other necessities, we can continue to grow while remaining fiscally responsible. If I’m elected to school board I would be very conscious on how we are spending the funds we have and feel I can add a ton of value in this area!
Question 5: What are your feelings regarding equality and inclusivity? What are your strategies to make sure all students and families are treated with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation, ability, race, religion and socio-economic status?
JC Ruddy: In my opinion, a student is a student regardless of their sexual orientation, ability, race, religion and socio-economic status. They are a student first and the number one job of the schools is to ensure our students receive an appropriate education. I will always be a firm believer that our main focus in public education is educating the child to the grade-level and subject-level standards. That being said, everyone should be respected and allowed to express themselves the way they see fit but within reason. I think we need to provide a clear understanding of what is permitted and what is not permitted on school grounds and inside our buildings. We need to make sure that is fully communicated to the students and the parents. I believe everyone should be respected, but I also feel that the district’s guidelines should also be respected by the students and parents. If elected, I will make it a point to see if there are clear guidelines on what is permitted and if it is being communicated to everyone. If not, I will get to work to make sure that we improve in that area.