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There are no winners in the recent revelations that a Mid-Prairie school volunteer was convicted 20 years ago for filming a girl in a western Iowa classroom where he taught.
Trent Yoder has been volunteering in the Mid-Prairie Community School District since 2015 when Superintendent Mark Schneider reversed an earlier decision to reject Yoder as a volunteer after numerous community members argued that Yoder had rehabilitated himself and was no longer a threat to students. Yoder wanted to be a part of the education of his children who attend Mid-Prairie schools.
Schneider had earlier denied Yoder’s application to volunteer after the conviction showed up on a background check done by the district. Schneider reversed that decision with the stipulation that another adult always be present when Yoder volunteers in the schools.
On April 16, the school board received emails from one of Yoder’s victims who told the board about the conviction and questioned why the district was allowing him to work with children. The board previously was unaware of the conviction.
That victim met with the school board in a closed session on April 23 and then talked with the Des Moines Register, which published a story online April 26.
That chain of events left many people hurt in its wake.
Trent Yoder was hurt. By all indications, he has led an exemplary life since his conviction. The recent news stories have caused emotional turmoil for him and his family. It is a lesson for others that you can never escape mistakes in your life.
Yoder’s victims of 20 years ago were hurt. Incidents like this often cause victims to relive the horrors suffered as children. Coming forward in an effort to protect other children was important to them yet doing so may have dredged up memories that they have tried to suppress all of these years.
Superintendent Mark Schneider was hurt. Schneider has a reputation as an excellent superintendent who has built a district renowned across the state for its innovative programs. Now Schneider faces a vote of confidence by the board at its next meeting May 14.
Schneider has a reputation for doing the right thing. He clearly thought that the risks of allowing Yoder to be part of his children’s education could be mitigated with stipulations of having an adult present whenever Yoder was with children.
Parents in the district were hurt. Many feel betrayed by a decision they think is not in the best interest of students. They were further hurt when the school board denied them an opportunity to voice their opinions at a Saturday morning special school board meeting. While they will have an opportunity to speak at the May 14 board meeting, there was clear frustration of many of them attending the Saturday meeting.
The school district was hurt. There are many important issues facing the district including how to configure classrooms to handle an influx of kindergarten and first-grade students in the coming years. Those issues are no longer in the forefront and may not be for a while.
Mid-Prairie has a reputation for excellent education programs. Evidence can be seen in the influx of students who live outside district boundaries but open enroll to get their education in the Mid-Prairie district. This year 40 Mid-Prairie students open enrolled out to get an education elsewhere while about 280 students open enrolled into the district.
The district’s reputation has been tarnished and needs to be rebuilt.
When the vote of confidence in Superintendent Schneider comes up May 14, the school board needs to return with a resounding vote in favor of the superintendent. Losing Schneider as superintendent would be a further loss to the district. There is nobody better to rebuild the reputation of the district and the confidence of parents who entrust their children to the district for their education.