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Outgoing Sioux City school board member outlines why she doesn't want to run again

A lady with dark hair and eyes is wearing glasses and wearing a blue blazer and necklace.
Genelli Studio
Rob Ownby
Monique Scarlett has lived in Sioux City for most of her life. She was elected to the Sioux City Community School Board in 2019.

Monique Scarlett faces mixed emotions leaving the Sioux City Community School Board.

"It’s a bittersweet time for me,” she said.

Scarlett, who won a director's seat on the Sioux City School Board in 2019, found the role rewarding, but challenging.

"... you have arrows coming at you from every direction."
Monique Scarlett, Sioux City Community School Board Director

“Simply because you have arrows coming from every direction, and you feel targeted at in some sense because everybody wants you to fix it all," she said.

Scarlett says the board felt backlash surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in Iowa law.

"Those are challenges statewide," she said. "We had to deal with legislation changes and the voucher and the attack on the LGBTQ+ community, and those were just, to me, ridiculous bills that should not have passed, you know? Book banning and things like that. We're smarter than that."

Scarlett also says personal reasons also influenced her decision.

As the only person of color on the board, Scarlett, who is Black, hopes voters will pick candidates who reflect the community. The school district is a minority-majority district.

"And this board. It's way overdue for more diversity."
Monique Scarlett, Sioux City Community School District Board Director

“When children and other parents who don't speak English, when they look at the board who is governing, taking care of their children's future education, we must be relatable," she said. "And this board, it's way overdue for more diversity.”

Scarlett started the local organization Unity in The Community after the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. Her goal as an activist was to improve the relationship between the public and law enforcement. She plans to get involved in city government in the future.

“There's more things that the city can do with the perspective of a variety of cultures and ethnicities,” she said. “The input of that would be tremendous and successful for the growth of our city.”

Current board members Taylor Goodvin and Bernie Scolaro have also decided not to run. Even so, there’s still plenty of interest in Sioux City’s School Board race. Eleven candidates are vying for five open seats.

Nine are competing for four full terms of four years. The candidates are Margo Cortez, Lance Ehmcke, Philip Hamman, Jebediah Hibbs, Treyla Lee, Earl Miller, John Meyers, Dustin Rhoades and Trisha Rivers.

Hamman, a retired teacher, was appointed to fill the seat of Perla Alarcon-Flory, who moved out of the district.

Two candidates are in the running for a two-year appointment: board president and incumbent Dan Greenwell and Semehar Ghebrekidan, who is the community inclusion liaison for the City of Sioux City.

Voters in Sioux City will also pick a city council member. Incumbent Julie Schoenherr and Tom Murphy won a primary election in October. Schoenherr is a businesswoman and former restaurant owner. Murphy retired as Sioux City’s chief building inspector after working for the city for more than 30 years.

Turnout for the primary election was low, at less than 8%.

Sheila Brummer joined the staff of Iowa Public Radio as Western Iowa Reporter in August of 2023. She knows the area well, after growing up on a farm in Crawford County, graduating from Morningside University in Sioux City and working in local media.