URBANDALE, Iowa — Dan Gutmann’s life revolves around education, and the Des Moines Public Schools elementary teacher hoped to make an impact in his hometown of Urbandale. Gutmann got his wish when he was elected to Urbandale’s school board this week.

Gutmann defeated Steve Avis 56 percent to 44 percent in a special election for Judy Downs’ vacant school board seat on Tuesday.

“Teaching and being on a school board, that’s all part of the same mission,” Gutmann said. “We want people to be smart, we want them to be informed.”

Gutmann and his family live in Urbandale while he teaches special education at Mary Jackson Elementary School in Des Moines. He said the tensions between some members of the public and school boards during the pandemic helped motivate him to run for leadership in Urbandale.

“Teachers and public education have been under attack for too long now,” Gutmann said. “I really feel that public education is the foundation of our democracy.”

This is Gutmann’s second time on the ballot; he came in fourth during last November’s election for three open Urbandale school board seats.

He’s confident his perspective as a teacher will add value to the school board, especially as some educators reconsider whether they want to continue their career.

“We have to make sure we have enough qualified adults in the building, we can’t do anything if we don’t have enough adults in the building,” Gutmann said. “As one of the folks with boots on the ground, I’m aware of what’s going to work and what’s not going to work, and I can certainly advise the other school board members and the superintendent. We’ve got to support our kiddos. We’ve got to support our teachers. We’ve got to be vocal about it.”

Urbandale’s next school board meeting is scheduled for August 22.