A conversation with Ankeny School Board candidates

Where do candidates stand on the issues?


Alissa Hansen

The Talon News team held a press conference with five of the seven candidates running for Ankeny School Board election on Thursday, Oct. 28 at Ankeny High School. Candidates spoke on a wide variety of topics including the importance of empowering leadership, diversity and inclusion, and providing safe and welcoming environments for all in the Ankeny Community School District. Candidates pictured from left to right: Lori Bullock, Joy Burk, Shelly Northway, Lori Lovstad, and Sarah Barthole

With local elections approaching, the Talon news team met with five of the seven Ankeny School Board candidates looking to fill the three open seats. Candidates Joy Burk, Lori Bullock, Sarah Barthole, Lori Lovstad, and Shelly Northway sat down with the Talon to discuss where they stand on issues important to the Ankeny community, district, and members of the Hawk Nest. From educational philosophies to the focus on community engagement and equity and inclusion in the classroom, candidates share backgrounds and influences that will guide their potential future roles. Who will represent students, teachers, and the community?  Find out on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Note: Candidates Trent Murphy and Christian Mathew Holtz were not available for comment as of yet.

Meet Joy Burk:

By Vivian Wu

Joy Burk is a former Ankeny alumni, teacher, taxpayer, and mom, now running as a candidate for the school board election. She runs a nonprofit organization along with her husband and has raised over one million dollars to give back to the community. Burk plans to use experience from all of her previous and current roles to give back to the community she’s been a part of for so long. 

“One of the big things I’m passionate about is recruiting and retaining effective teachers… Teachers have the most direct impact on [a student’s] academic success,” Burk said. “It’s the teacher’s job to make [students] feel safe, to make their classroom an environment and a climate that [students] look forward to.”

Burk supports diversity and states that all students have worth, deserve a chance to succeed, and deserve support. In order to give more support to students and teachers, Burk plans on advocating for more involvement.

“A school board functions best when there’s community engagement… So what I want to do is I just want to be visible in the community… I’ve been very open to meeting with people, talking with people, and figuring out what we’re trying to do,” Burk said. “I’ve tried to take action on things.”

Currently, Burk is working with Terrace Learning Center to give the children a playground. After finding out her youngest son, who currently attends Terrace, did not have a playground, she took action. Burk wants to create a future not just for her own children, but for all students in the district.

“Right now my kids are little. We’re teaching them empathy. We’re teaching them kindness. We’re teaching them ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’ and those kinds of things,” Burk said. “So as kids grow up through the district, we need to make sure that we’re still doing those things and building on all of the stages in your lives to make you successful.” 

Ultimately, it all boils down to the students Burk says.

“Our [school board] job as a district is to give you [students] a world-class education. What that looks like for you and your neighbor are going to be entirely different,” Burk said. “We just need to make sure we’re giving you the classes, the resources, the support to set you up for success.”

Meet Lori Bullock:

By Luke Mora

Lori Bullock is a mother of two daughters and a civil rights attorney in Ankeny. She is active in both the community and its education system and has been president of multiple Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO). She was PTO president at Terrace Elementary for six years and created a PTO at Heritage Elementary after it was added to the district where she serves as PTO president. In addition, she is a member of the equity committee for the Ankeny Community School District (ACSD). In her career, she helps represent victims of harassment in both school and the workplace, and families of children with special needs. 

“I think it’s very important to make sure you’re giving back as much as you are taking from the education system,” Bullock said.

Bullock has the drive to acquire diversity and equity in the ASCD. She would like to see more students feel welcome and accepted at all Ankeny schools and believes that all students should have a voice at the table, regardless of their race, gender, sexual identity, or personal beliefs.

Students being left out of the table and the conversation, need to be a bigger part of that conversation,” Bullock said. “We need to provide access to better education and remove those barriers.” 

She would like to see a third high school give opportunities for classes more closely aligned with trade careers. 

“[A third high school focused on the trades would] service the needs of vocational career options for students who would like to exit school and go into the job force,” Bullock said. 

Bullock states that there is a role and set of responsibilities that a school board must fulfill.

“Micromanaging and interviewing in the classroom is not the role of the school board, it’s to listen, set the tone, and listen about policies,” Bullock said. 

Bullock says that it is important for the school board to advocate for the community, as well as stay involved in their state government.

…Advocate not just to take concerns and address them within the school district, but to go advocate for those concerns,” Bullock said. “Maybe better funding for or against a proposed bill, if we don’t weigh in on how it’s affecting us, representatives don’t actually know what will happen.”

She reminds all that time spent in the classroom can impact futures in big ways. Putting the students first and making sure that they get the most out of their educational experience, and making sure that school challenges kids to do their best and learn to problem-solve is at the top of her priority list, she says.

“School is where you learn a lot about how to behave in society, interact with peers, and set them up to be successful in the professional world… ” Bullock said. “At the end of the day what we’re teaching our kids is how to engage the world, but my educational philosophy is just to make sure we review the curriculum and engage teachers about what’s working and what’s not… and overall producing well-rounded students.” 

Meet Sarah Barthole:

By Jemma Bullock

Sarah Barthole moved to Ankeny seven years ago and grew up in Northwest Iowa. She is a mother of two young boys, both in elementary school. She has been involved in her kid’s schools. She has served on the Parent Teacher Organization(PTO) board at Southeast Elementary for three years and has served as a homeroom mom.  She continues to advocate for her children’s education, she says. She is passionate about students feeling safe in the classroom and wants to make ensure all students have a great educational experience.

Sarah Barthole’s top two platforms are fostering connectivity and guiding the curriculum. She believes that it is important to reintegrate the community into the schools and get the parents back into the classroom.

We’re all better when we work together,” Barthole said.

Her second platform about guiding curriculum is centered around offering programs like ORBIS to all students, including elementary school students.

“[The school district] needs to think about how we can bring kids real-life [job] examples to make sure that all students have the chance to learn how to be critical thinkers,” Barthole said.

She believes that we should teach students how to think rather than what to think.  As a member of the school board, Barthole describes her understanding of her role as a representative voice.

“[I would ] Be a voice for the community, be a voice for the teachers, be a voice for the parents, be a voice for the business owners, and of course be a voice for the student,” Barthole said.

She also thinks that it is important for school board members to be responsible and make sure taxpayers’ money is going to improve the district and education.

My educational philosophy is that it takes a village, it takes all of us to create a safe welcoming environment to make sure that kids have the chance to achieve their dreams and passions,” Barthole said. “[We need to] help the students be their best selves, especially when they leave Ankeny.” 


Meet Lori Lovstad:

By Abby Stephenson

Lori Lovstad has been on the school board since 2017 and is running for re-election. Lovstad says she sees promise in each student and will continue her work of supporting Ankeny Schools and staff in their roles to achieve success with every student. Lovstad seeks to be a strong advocate for public education and recognizes the value of teachers and staff at Ankeny, she says.

“Being on the school board has been a fantastic experience,” Lovestad said. “I’ve been a powerful voice to ensure our diversity and equity.”

Lovstad wants to make sure students at Ankeny Schools have the tools they need for the future. Lovstad says she is invested in the success not only of her children, but every student enrolled in the district.

“Our district has many challenging decisions to make and we must have board members who reflect the priorities of the families we serve,” Lovstad said.

Lovstad says that with her work over the past two years, she has narrowed down the inflection point about where Ankeny is going in the future and has a plan that prioritizes students’ education and experience.

“I felt it was important to have that perspective at the board level. It’s my job as a school board member to advocate, even when it’s not popular or convenient, for community leaders, community members to advocate for,” Lovstad said.” “This is what our school board needs.”

Lovstads says her biggest challenge while serving on the school board is the rapidly increasing student population combined with reduced state funding. Per pupil expenses create a situation where our budget is millions of dollars behind in funding before the school year even begins. Lovstad recognizes that district growth is not just about keeping up with building new facilities, but also recognizing that growth brings demographic changes that must be factored into how we educate students and support the whole family of our students. 

“Our district is good, very good, but we can be great!” Lovestad said. “We need leaders on our school board that are willing to do the hard work it takes to commit to that greatness for every student and family we serve.”


Meet Shelly Northway:

By Autumn Mulford

Shelly Northway graduated from Ankeny High School (AHS) in 1988. She has four children, three of whom graduated from the Ankeny School District, and one who is currently in high school. In the past, Northway was a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president at Terrace Elementary. Being a former AHS student and watching her own students grow up in Ankeny Schools, she has noticed a change in the district, and there is a big divide occurring, she says.

Northway hopes to improve the divide by having conversations and making sure everyone at the table is listening to one another. Northway believes her job is to listen, motivate, put together a plan, and help with accountability. She is determined to bring those things to the school board, she says. Northway says bringing in diverse teachers and staff, as well as making sure those teachers and staff, as well as students, feel supported and worthy, is critical. 

“Making sure that they [students, teachers, staff] know their worth and they are supported is what’s going to keep them here and bring more here,” Northway said. 

Northway hopes to play the role of the school board member that everyone is able to have an open-minded conversation with. 

“One of the major roles that I want to be able to play is being that person on the board that you, your parents, members of the community, would be able to talk to and have a conversation with,” Northway said. “Having open-minded conversations is how we’re going to make changes happen.” 

Northway’s philosophy when it comes to education is to provide more options and information for students to reach their full potential and be successful. 

“I would like to see our schools integrate more of the trades aspect into our curriculum,” Northway said. “We also need to make sure all of you students have the support that you need and access to all the information that you need regarding the outside sources or even other programs that are here in school.”

Northway says she wants all students to be who they are and not conform to be anything other than themselves. 

“You need to stand up, be loud, and take up space,” Northway said.