Election, new appointments signal change for school board

Tanya Keskar | The Chronicle

(From left to right) Mason City School school board Vice President Desiree Batsche, newly elected member Ian Orr, and President Connie Yingling.

The Mason school board is continuing to reflect the evolution of the Mason community.
On January 11th, 2022, Ian Orr was sworn in as the first person of color on the Mason City School Board. On top of that, Connie Yingling and Desiree Batsche, both women, were elected as the president and vice president of the school board.

Connie Yingling, Mason City Schools Board of Education President, has been serving on the board since 1999. Yingling has been a major part of adapting the schools to reflect the growth of the Mason community. Throughout the last 20 years, she has seen Mason’s farming areas transform into residential communities and the number of students in Mason High School (MHS) increase from about 1400 to nearly 4000.

Yingling said that she is thankful for the community’s continued trust in her as she was re-elected for her fifth term.

“It’s just incredible to see how we have evolved,” Yingling said. “I feel very happy, very humbled, that the community has put me on the board yet again.”

Desiree Batsche, Mason City Schools Board of Education Vice President, was first elected onto the school board in 2019. As she watched her kids go through the Mason school system, Batsche appreciated the opportunities given to parents to be involved in their child’s learning and said that she wanted to continue her involvement and contributions to students’ learning, and decided to run for the school board.

She said that when she ran for the school board, her goal was not to target a specific problem, but was instead to help the school district continue creating an amazing experience for students.
“The schools are such an important part of the community,” Batsche said. “It’s almost like the heart of Mason.”

Ian Orr was elected as the first person of color on the Mason City Schools Board of Education in November of 2021. Orr said that he is looking forward to hearing from the community and representing Mason’s families.

“I’m very humbled and honored to be in [this position]. I feel like it’s a wonderful accomplishment, not one that I intended to make when I decided to run, but I’m very proud to have made that history because there’s always a first,” Orr said. “It shows others that our race doesn’t have to be a barrier to any accomplishment or achievement.”

The school board’s purpose is to represent the voices of the community and students, which requires adapting to the many situations that the Mason community has faced over the years, including the pandemic and the growth of the district. Batsche said that flexibility is key in making the best decisions for the school district.

“I don’t know what my future holds,” Batsche says. “[We] just have to have an open mind and have [our] thumb on the pulse of the needs of our community, students, and families, and make sure we’re serving the best we can.”

The new Mason School board team is set on expanding opportunities for students who are following the non-college track. Consequently, the district has created programs that connect students to local businesses to learn trades or help them pursue military opportunities. Yingling said that she is excited to see Mason continue to help students pursue their passions.

“There are a lot of opportunities to just be educated and trained in so many different fields,” Yingling said. “I’m hoping that we’re able to pull that off and do more for our kids and families, just give them more opportunities.”

Personalized learning is making its way to the front line of the district’s focus because it prioritizes individual student success regardless of their future track. It is one of the school district’s Three Big Rocks (personalized learning, inclusive excellence, and culture). With the personalized learning rock in mind, the school board’s goal is to allow students to learn in a variety of different ways, which allows all students, regardless if they are on the college track or not, to study what they are interested in.

Orr said that the personalized learning rock’s purpose is redefining what success means for individual students, which is key in representing all students.

“We want to support our students in the pursuit of their success,” Orr said. “[We’re] making sure that we let students know that those things are options and that they’re viable options if that’s what they want to pursue when they graduate from Mason.”

The Mason City School Board made history by electing the first person of color, and for the second time ever, elected women as both officers on the board. As the community in Mason evolves, the leadership of Mason will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of the students and the community.

Batsche said that the inclusion represented on the school board has led her to appreciate all of the different perspectives brought before her by the diversity of the community, and plans to continue to represent the evolving community to the best of her abilities.

“Our community is so diverse and it’s great to see a representation on the board of that diversity,” Batsche said. “It’s a wonderful place.”

Photo by Tanya Keskar