Meet the Candidates


Sophia Cordoba

Seven school board candidates sat down at the Ames Public Library to answer voter’s questions.

On October 7, the League of Women Voters hosted an open forum for the school board candidates to answer questions and promote their campaigns. The Web summarized and compiled some of their responses to give voters and students alike an idea of the type of change each candidate is vying for. 

Candidates did agree on some topics, such as the fact that while the federal laws must be followed, curriculum and other school decisions should originate from local committees to meet the unique needs of the community. Further, all candidates agreed that while creation theory should not be taught in science, it may have a place in a social studies classroom. Most also mentioned the importance of representing opposing viewpoints (e.g capitalism and socialism) so students can decide the merits of both sides for themselves.

Here’s where the candidates differed:


Amy Erica Smith

Background: Mother of 2 kids in the district and associate professor of political science at ISU


“A school where every child is safe and can learn and can thrive.”

Smith values equity, transparency, diversity, and public health. She believes her job will be to deliberate, and when she deliberates, she hopes to listen to diverse voices to achieve better outcomes and to take scientific research and data into consideration. 

Thoughts on Covid-19 protocols: She is supportive of the district’s current requirements and acknowledges that the CDC may not be perfect, but still supports the recommendations of U.S public health officials. 

“It’s not about emotions or divisiveness, it’s about keeping kids in school.”

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better* (more info at the bottom of the article): None

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Having clear, definite consequences for wrongdoings. Also, creating a culture of inclusion and a curriculum that shows diversity. 

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: Despite low performances last year, Amy feels that the more important issue to address is the huge disparities in academic performance between different groups. Her approach for improving achievement would involve more therapists and consulting more data and research. 

On SROs (school resource officers): She believes that SROs can help stop fights and build relationships with students, but should not be involved in disciplinary actions. She would also prioritize having counseling and therapists in the building over an SRO. 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent: Amy is searching for a candidate with the strong leadership skills necessary to boost the current low morale, as well as address staffing and disciplinary issues. She also wants a superintendent with an academic background, one who understands research to make schools better. Lastly, a candidate who understands the unique nature of Ames and its diversity. 

Click here for more information.


Brett Becker

Background: Comes from a long family of teachers, is a preacher at the Collegiate Presbyterian Church. 


If we forget our history, we imperil our future.”

Becker believes in broad-based, complete education, showing respect to all stakeholders, advocating for all students to have equal and equitable access to district resources, and prioritizing support for students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.

Thoughts on Covid-19: Masks can save lives, vaccines can save lives. He explains that as long as people have an opportunity to help someone, their convenience should take a back seat. If lives can be saved, such as the immunocompromised, then the district should continue to require masks. 

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better: None. 

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Mr. Becker believes that the first step is representing all students. He also believes in using Anonymous Alerts as a resource for students who may be afraid to report. 

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: Becker believes that achievement can be improved by meeting students’ social and emotional needs, as well as addressing learning disparities between POC and other students. 

On SROs: In favor, but believes they should have further training in addressing the mental health and social needs of students. 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent: A candidate who has a vision, and is willing to express themselves and take risks. Someone with:

“experience dealing with conflict and controversy.”

His ideal candidate would also have a compassionate heart, and love students more than anyone else. Finally, someone willing to learn. 

Click here for more information.


Kelly Winfrey

Background: Mother and assistant professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication

Values/Motivation: Winfrey values public service and “[does] not share the dire view” of some other candidates regarding the state of ACSD. Her priorities include electing a qualified superintendent, advancing diversity, and making decisions based on research and evidence. 

Thoughts on Covid-19:

“It’s a science issue, it’s a medicine issue.”

Kelly explained that there is no evidence that masks hurt children, however not wearing a mask can undoubtedly hurt kids. She supports the district’s decision. 

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better: None.

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Winfrey believes in teaching diversity as part of the curriculum, educating kids about social issues, and supporting staff as they monitor these issues. 

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: She believes the key to academic improvement lies in the school climate and retaining and recruiting talented teachers. She also believes that these issues can be addressed by tackling disparities, adhering to research, and potentially changing the curriculum accordingly. She agrees that students who are truant:

“need accountability, but we also need to acknowledge that truancy is a symptom,”

not the root of the decline. 

On SROs: Winfrey does not view them as a necessity seeing as there is “no solid evidence” to indicate they improve the school. However, she does not think they should be removed without some replacement. 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent: She is looking for two main qualities- demonstrated leadership and experience. Someone with experience dealing with climate, disparities, and with a commitment to engaging with all stakeholders. 

Click here for more information.


Kira Werstein 

Background: Mother of 3 kids in the school district, associate teaching professor of kinesiology at ISU. 

Values/Motivation: Werstein states that she cares deeply about the excellence of education here in Ames and believes that public schools should be places of hope, somewhere to learn without fear of being labeled. She also values transparency and fiscal responsibility. She wants Ames to produce:

“learners who lead and succeed.”

Thoughts on Covid-19: Werstein is opposed to ACSD’s current COVID-19 protocols. She cited this CDC report in her explanation that “schools that required mask use among students [are] not statistically significant compared with schools where mask use was optional.”  This is the CDC’s most recent report (Sept. 24, 2021) on the topic. She also explained that kids with spectrum disorders have difficulty living in an environment without facial cues.

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better: Not financially supported. She emphasized that she is only funded by the community. 

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Werstein believes one of the root causes of bullying is the lack of staffing, so she hopes to hire more subs, EAs, etc.  

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: Werstein attributes the decline to a shortage of staff including teachers, EAs, custodians, and substitutes. She said that ACSD needs to recruit and retain more high-quality staff. 

On SROs: Werstein supports a thoughtful implementation of SROs, one which promotes positive relationships with law enforcement. 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent:  A candidate who clearly articulates their vision for bringing the district together under common humanity and respect. Also, someone who can improve school spirit. 

Click here for more information.


Rolf Duvick

Background: 6 kids who graduated from AHS, one 2nd grader. 

Values/Motivation: Duvick is running for the school board to restore trust in Ames schools. He is concerned about a current lack of academic achievement and excellence, and wants kids to have a “safe, structured, and disciplined learning environment.” Finally, he wants to address public concerns about transparency. 

Thoughts on Covid-19: Duvick disagrees with ACSD policy.

“The subject of masks generates intense emotions.”

Duvick believes ACSD should take these emotions into account. He also cited the WHO while explaining that some individuals are threatened by the use of masks. Here are the WHO’s latest recommendations.

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better:

“Depends on what you mean by affiliated.”

He explained that while he is not financially supported by ADB, he agrees with their platform. 

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Duvick emphasizes consequences for all sorts of bullying. He also views teachers as essential and hopes to empower them to take action. 

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: Duvick emphasizes the need for structure, order, and discipline for both teachers and students. 

On SROs: Duvick supports SROs, he believes they are very important in promoting trust between officers and students. This is based upon his interactions with parents whose children have been helped by SROs. 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent: A candidate who does everything to support teachers. He believes any superintendent is only as good as the people working under them. 

Click here for more information.


Tom Purl 

Background: Local business owner in financial services, little league and football coach, father of 2 children


“I’m a dad, not a politician.”

Enjoys Ames’ diversity and wants to listen to the needs of the community. Purl is primarily concerned with the recent drop in enrollment, grades, and safety of students. 

Thoughts on Covid-19: Purl is against the ACSD’s current protocols. Believes that COVID-19 is a divisive subject.

“I am against vaccine mandates, it’s your body, your choice… that’s not America.”

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better:

“I can’t say a simple no.”

He emphasized that his funding is transparent. 

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Purl believes that teachers need support to have control over their classroom. He emphasizes the importance of consequences, discipline, and respect. 

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: Purl acknowledged that while Ames does a great job with accelerated students, he believes that students in the middle are often left out. 

On SROs: In favor of SROs. While he is sympathetic to students who have had negative experiences and are afraid, he has spoken to SROs and finds that they are trained, take their job seriously, and do tend to build positive relationships. 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent: He is searching for a candidate who fulfills four main qualities:  responsibility, discipline, accountability, and respect.

Click here for more information.


William Scott Dryer

Background: 28 years of experience in education, including being a principal. Currently works at the Department of Education. 


“[People] tell me there’s got to be better things to do with your time. There isn’t.”

He is impressed with the previous work done by the school district but hopes to find new solutions for the current problems. He also values a truly robust education, with “thick and deep discussions.”

Thoughts on Covid-19: Agrees with ACSD protocol.

“[The data] clearly showed masking makes a difference.”

Affiliation with Ames Deserves Better: None. 

Strategies for supporting LGBT+ students & children of color: Dryer believes that a school with the right culture and climate is one in which people will report and understand the consequence of bullying. He emphasizes that consequences must be made clear to all.  

Thoughts on potential academic performance decline: Dryer argues that people should be less worried about the awards (e.g Blue Ribbon) and stay focused on the quality of education. 

On SROs: In favor, but does not believe they should be involved in disciplining students (only crime). 

Qualities to search for in a superintendent: Did not mention specific qualities but has experience hiring 3 superintendents.

Click here for more information.


  • Ames Deserves Better is a conservative PAC believed to be sponsoring three candidates (there is no confirmation of this). The organization is chaired by Eve Lederhouse, an Ames resident who appeared on Fox News last February to denounce the district’s Black Lives Matter Week.


The Web encourages every student who is able to vote to do so. Your vote makes a difference. Click here for a list of polling locations.