Des Moines Public School District voters will the chance to fill the five open school board seats on Nov. 2. 

Three of the seven candidates are vying for two at-large seats. The other contested race is for the single director district No. 1 seat. Four of the five terms are for four years. The director district No. 1 position is for two years due to a previous board member’s resignation. 

Those newly elected to the Des Moines School Board will be tasked with managing Iowa’s largest school district’s ongoing response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its goal of better academic outcomes for Black male students.

Related:Here are the 7 people running in the Des Moines Public Schools board of education election

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Editor’s note: The responses below were submitted by the candidates and have been lightly edited. 

Meet the candidates: 

At-large candidates:

Maria Alonzo-Diaz

Age: 49

Office sought: Des Moines School Board at-large

Where they grew up: I grew up in Mexico and arrived in the U.S. at the age of 13. As a migrant farmworker, I lived in Texas, New York and finally, my family moved to Muscatine, Iowa, my senior year of high school in 1990.

Where they currently live: Des Moines

Past political experience: I have no prior political experience. This is my first time getting involved in any political campaign. My experience in volunteer work has mainly been in the nonprofit/human services area, such as the community soccer program I co-founded and have coordinated for the last nine years.

Lloyd Elam

Lloyd Elam

Age: 47

Office sought: At-large Des Moines School Board 

Where they grew up:  Mississippi

Where they currently live: Beaverdale

Past political experience:

Board member of Dallas County Young Democrats of Dallas County, Texas, that oversaw red Dallas County turn blue in 2006 by organizing communities thru voter registration and issue outreach in historically disadvantaged communities.

Community Organizer for a faith based non-profit to eliminate blight in Black and Brown communities.

Vice chair of the Northwest Democrats working for progressive causes.

Working as a Weatherization Auditor/Inspector for a local non-profit who helps to reduce the energy load of people’s homes, who live 200% below the poverty line, which reduces the excess money needed to heat and cool their homes.

Jackie Norris

Jackie Norris

Age: 51

Office sought: Des Moines School Board at-large

Where they grew up: New York 

Where they currently live: Des Moines

Past political experience: While I have volunteered actively on a number of local, state and national elections, this is my first run for elected office. I am the mom of three boys attending Des Moines public schools, a former high school government teacher, former CEO of Goodwill of Central Iowa and former White House chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama. I am currently the owner and president of SPPG, a public policy organization.

District No. 1: 

Kim Martorano

Kim Martorano

Age: 43

Office sought: Des Moines School Board of Directors District 1

Where they grew up: Bensenville, Illinois

Where they currently live: Des Moines

Past political experience: I ran for the Des Moines School Board in November 2019. When Heather Anderson vacated her board seat I applied for the open seat and was appointed by the remaining board members. I’ve served as the District 1 Director since August 2020. Prior to that, while living in Illinois, I served on the executive board of Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504. My union leadership role afforded me the opportunity to serve on the negotiations committee, membership committee and political action committee.

Shelley Skuster

Shelley Skuster

Age: 36

Office sought: Des Moines Public School Board, District 1

Where they grew up:  Waverly, Iowa

Where they currently live: Windsor Heights, Iowa

Past political experience: As a news reporter, I covered politics for many years. From Iowa caucuses to former President Barack Obama’s visit to Northeast Iowa and dozens of city and state elections; politics has always been a passion of mine. Since becoming a mom and leaving my career in TV news, I became a registered Democrat. I’ve volunteered with numerous local Democratic campaigns, most recently state Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott and state Rep. Jennifer Konfrst. I’ve also spent time helping various national efforts to increase voter turnout and flip Georgia Blue.

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District No. 2

Jenna Knox

Jenna Knox

Age: 37

Office sought: Des Moines Public School Board District 2

Where they grew up: Des Moines

Where they currently live: Des Moines

Past political experience: First time candidate for elected office.

District No. 4

Teree Caldwell-Johnson

Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson

Age: 65

Office sought: Des Moines School Board District 4

Where they grew up: Salina, Kansas

Where they currently live: Des Moines

Past political experience: 

  • 2007, Elected to Des Moines School Board – At Large
  • 2010, Re-Elected to Des Moines School Board – At Large
  • 2013, Re-Elected to Des Moines School Board – District  4
  • 2017, Re-Elected to Des Moines School Board – District  4
Des Moines school bus driver Jim Booker hands out masks as he picks up kids Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.

At-large candidates

Maria Alonzo-Diaz

I support the mask mandate in our district because it is the best way to protect not only students in our schools, but also those responsible for supporting and educating our children.

Lloyd Elam

Yes, I do because the scientific evidence shows that N-95 masks can reduce the trajectory of droplets by up to 66%. While not a panacea, this will greatly reduce the possibility of children contracting the virus. More importantly, if we are to keep schools open without major disruptions in learning or possible closings, school boards must be willing to take the necessary precautions to protect both the emotional and physical health of our most precious asset—our children—until a vaccine becomes available. Let’s hope soon. If that means voting for mask mandate, the school board should! I will!

Jackie Norris

Yes. My first priority now and always will be the safety of our students, teachers and staff. As long as the vaccines are not readily available for students of all ages, I support fact-based mitigation strategies that can confidently keep students in classrooms, staff in school buildings, and parents at work. Given the reality of Iowa law, it is up to school boards to explore every means to ensure this outcome.