Considering the turmoil that has surrounded the Ankeny School Board over the last few years, no one would blame Katie Claeys if she decided not to run for a second term. However, she is not afraid of a challenge.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Claeys said when asked why she was running again.
There are five Ankeny board seats on the Nov. 7 ballot and 10 people running for a spot, including Claeys, whose first term ends this year.
Claeys thinks her record on the board more than qualifies her for another term.
As a board member, Claeys voted to hire Dr. Erick Pruitt to be the new superintendent in July 2021, which she called an instrumental moment for the district. Pruitt, a veteran educator and administrator, is the first person of color to ever lead the Ankeny School District.
Pruitt developed the district’s 2022-2027 strategic plan, which Claeys voted for.
The plan accounts for future student body and facility growth and how the district can smartly manage it. One aspect of that plan is the creation of an Innovation Hub, which will provide more hands-on, career-based learning opportunities for high school students.
“It’s not a third high school, but it’s a third building that will pull kids from Ankeny High School and Centennial High School,” Claeys said. “Kids could maybe go there all day or maybe for half a day, but that’s going to offer an opportunity for us to expand career pathways.”
Some proposed programs at the hub include electrical work, plumbing, and welding, and expanded versions of the existing construction trade and culinary programs.
“I’m really proud of that,” Claeys said. “I think that’s really innovative thinking for this community and it’s really going to serve our growing and diversifying population well.”
Claeys, who lives in Ankeny and has spent her career in education—including a previous stint teaching in the district—works full-time as the director of teaching and learning for the nearby Ballard Community School District. She said because of this, she has been called an “insider” by some detractors.
“I actually think I have a lot to contribute as an educator and kind of an understanding of the inner workings of the system and helping my fellow board colleagues have some insight into what does the actual day-to-day implementation of this work looks like,” Claeys said.
Even though it has only been four years since her last race, the world around Iowa school board races has shifted and the famously nonpartisan races are increasingly less so, something Claeys has acknowledged.
Claeys won her seat in 2019 with a little more than 2,000 votes, but the politically-fueled 2021 Ankeny School Board race, which included a then-rare gubernatorial endorsement, saw some candidates capture more than 8,000 votes.
Because of how much the growing spotlight on school board races, Claeys has had to do more fundraising and be more calculated in how she campaigns.
“I can’t get to 15,000 doors by myself in this campaign period,” she said of door-knocking. “We have to be more strategic around how we are choosing to allocate resources like people, money, and time. A lot of campaigning, with municipals, is just getting people aware that there’s an election and that they need to get out there and vote because they are, typically, pretty low turnout.”
Still, despite the extra work required to try and retain her seat, Claeys really wants to stay on the board. She finds the job rewarding and notes the things she experienced over four years—from hiring a new superintendent to navigating a global pandemic—are bigger issues than some school board members might ever tackle over decades of service.
“We’ve had a wide range of challenging situations, but I’ve never regretted it,” Claeys said. “I always felt like it was a gift to have a voice at the table and I needed to take that very seriously.”
AT A GLANCE:
Name: Katie Claeys
Position: Ankeny School Board candidate (incumbent)
Education: Graduated from Waterloo Columbus High School in 1996; earned a bachelor’s degree from Loras College in Dubuque in 2000; earned a master’s from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls in 2007; earned a master’s from Drake University in Des Moines in 2015.
Experience: Has been a professional educator since 2000; served on the Ankeny School Board since 2019; volunteers at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic Church in Ankeny; was a member of the Ankeny School Improvement Advisor Committee.
Family: Husband, Michael; and three sons, Brady, 16; Charly, 14, and Jack, 10.
Interests: Reading, traveling, spending time with friends and family, and working out.
In the fall of 1972, I was a shy ninth-grader entering Mt. St. Ursula in the Bronx. My legal name was Mary Bernadette, but I always went by my...
A second lawsuit against portions of an education law passed by Iowa Republicans and signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds just dropped this week. Penguin...
The nights are getting longer, and the days chillier, and there’s never a better time to get lost in a new book (except maybe the dead...
Classic, vintage, iconic, and just plain cool, we found some old movie theaters sprinkled across the state—many of them long-time staples on the...