Rob Barron looks to focus on preschool, equity and continuing the work he started four years ago.
Rob Barron is running for re-election to the Des Moines Public School Board as one of three at large candidates.
On His Education and Employment
Barron, 37, is a Des Moines native who attended Roosevelt High School and took classes at Central Academy and Lincoln High School.
“I never really felt tied to any one school,” Barron said. “More so, I just felt like I was a product of the school district.”
After high school, Barron attended Grinnell College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science.
Barron spent 13 years working for former Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, including four years in Washington as Harkin’s education policy advisor for all levels of education, preschool through college. In Iowa, he served as Harkin’s state staff director. He has also worked for NextGen Climate Action.
Currently, Barron works as the special assistant to the president for government and community relations at Grand View University.
“I have meetings with state and federal policy makers, and that’s a smaller part of my job,” Barron said. “The bigger part of my job is I do community relations. I’m building partnerships with organizations all across Des Moines that open up new avenues for our students and allow us to become even more integral to the greater Des Moines community.”
Grand View University President Kent Henning said he supports Barron in his bid for school board and that Barron is knowledgeable and thoughtful.
“Rob is bright, caring and committed to his community and the cause he believes in,” Henning said.
Barron is the co-founder of the Latino Political Network, a resource to help more Latinos run for elected offices in Iowa.
“I’ve always felt like the biggest impediment to more Latinos running and serving in elected office is a lack of a network to connect them,” said Barron.
Barron said the first step to running for office is typically sitting down with someone who has experience running for the same type of office, which is difficult if you do not have someone in your personal network who has done that. There are fewer than 20 Latino elected officials in the state of Iowa, according to the Latino Political Network, so the odds of the more than 170,000 Latinos in the state knowing one of those officials is slim.
“You have to build a network, and you have to build those bridges for people to do that,” Barron said.
On His Son in School
Barron said one of the reasons he initially ran for the school board was to have someone on the board whose child was not yet school age. He and his wife, Angela, have a son, Javy, who is now 4 years old.
“I thought that it was appropriate, and really ideal, to have at least one voice of a parent whose children aren’t school age yet,” Barron said. “There’s so many parents in that same position all across the school district, and their experience is so different than parents whose kids have already graduated or whose kids are already in school, and that voice needs to be heard out.”
Barron said he hopes the first-hand perspective of being a parent will help him be a better school board member.
On His Priorities for the District
Barron said his number one priority in the school district is to provide more access to preschool.
Barron said four-year-old preschool is not a universal right in the state of Iowa, so currently Des Moines Public Schools do not have enough spots for every four-year-old to attend preschool.
“I want to start exploring some more creative ways to fix that,” Barron said.
He also wants to focus on educational and disciplinary equity for students of color in the district.
“We’ve got a long ways to go, really, in terms of treating all of our students with equity,” Barron said.
He said he also wants to make sure the board makes the best decisions for the district.
On His Commitment to Minority Students
Barron volunteers for the Everybody Wins program at Monroe Elementary but said he is also passionate about the Al Éxito program, which provides mentoring for Latino students, and Dream to Teach, a program that works to diversify the teaching workforce.
Barron said he did not know what the future holds for undocumented students in the district after President Donald Trump announced he would be ending DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, on Tuesday. However, Barron said he thought DACA has been successful and was alarmed that the Trump administration had made the decision.
“It was a terrible misjudgment and is something that I hope the regret and fix soon,” Barron said.
On His Prior School Board Work
The district is also struggling with less funding from the state, which Barron said the board has been dealing with by more focused budgeting and lobbying of the state legislators.
“We’ve been, I think, more active as a school board and a school district up at the Capitol, and I think we will continue to be in years to come,” Barron said.
Barron said he is passionate about education because he believes it is the best possible way to serve the community.
“It is a great way to make sure kids have the opportunity to surpass their parents, because that’s ultimately what we all want,” Barron said. “I think that starts with making sure that they have a strong education, and the public schools are the best way to do that.”
Barron said he has enjoyed the experience of serving for the school board and that he believes he represents some constituencies that might otherwise not be represented.
“I think I’ve served the district well,” Barron said. “I’ve prioritized the needs of the district above the needs of any one community.”
Des Moines School Board elections are on Sept. 12.