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Update: Two dead after police pursuit, rollover in Mason City neighborhood, officials say (with video)

MASON CITY | Two people have died after a car rolled and struck a tree in a Mason City neighborhood Thursday afternoon.

Police confirmed an adult man and woman died at the scene of the crash, which was near North Jefferson Avenue and Third Street Northwest.

Photos: Two dead after police pursuit, rollover in Mason City neighborhood, officials say

Their identities have not been released.

It took Mason City firefighters nearly an hour to remove the people from the vehicle.

A deputy at the scene said that officers initially thought there was only one occupant in the vehicle.

The crash was reported around 12:45 p.m. The crash occurred after a brief pursuit, Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Dana Knutson said Thursday afternoon.

“It started north of here and went southbound,” Knutson confirmed.

At some point during the pursuit, the vehicle rolled and struck a tree in front of a residence on the 200 block of North Jefferson Avenue.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City Police, Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Office and Iowa State Patrol investigate the scene of a crash where a vehicle being pursued by police rolled over and struck a tree on 200 block of North Jefferson Avenue in Mason City on Thursday.

A witness at the scene who declined to give his name said he saw the white car barreling down Jefferson “like a bat out of hell.”

The vehicle, which sustained heavy damage, appeared to be a white or cream-colored Chrysler 300.

Police barricaded the entire block of North Jefferson Avenue from Second to Third Street and later extended the barricade to Fourth Street Northwest. Yellow police tape had been set up around the area.

The Iowa State Patrol is handling the investigation. The Mason City Police Department and the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Office also provided assistance at the scene.

Mason City School Board candidates discuss transparency, audit

MASON CITY | A crowd of about 70 listened to five Mason City school board candidates express their views on various district subjects in Mason City High School's FEMA Room Thursday night.

Current members, President Janna Arndt and Jodi Draper, are running for their second terms on the board. Richard Haas, Jacob Schweitzer and Alan Steckman are all seeking their first term. Three of the five will be elected.

The candidates answered questions submitted from audience members concerning a range of topics, from the board's transparency to district funding to their past experience in Mason City classrooms. Katie Koehler, a fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary who has worked in the district for 32 years, fielded those questions and asked them to each candidate.

One of the first questions asked concerned how "open the district is with its dealings." Last month, the state auditor found that the district had improperly disbursed $109,073 of its funds.

Arndt, 37, said that while the board can always improve, transparency has greatly improved since she became a board member.

"When I first started on the board, you weren't even to speak about wages," she told the audience. "You got slapped on the hand and told to be quiet."

Schweitzer, 41, agreed with Arndt, saying that all school board meetings are public and videotaped. Draper, 46, said transparency is especially important with money, because people deserve to know how every penny is spent. Haas, 65, and Steckman, 70, added that the board works for the public, and thus should be as transparent as possible.

Multiple questions revolved around wages, salaries and contracts, including what candidates feel should happen when current teacher contracts expire in two years.

Schweitzer said the issue involves a 40-year history of collective bargaining in the state, and ultimately boils down to basics.

"If I can be an advocate for the teachers, that we can maintain a respectable, livable wage, with good benefits, this is going to retain the teachers that we have," he said. "And possibly recruit teachers from other school districts who have decided to completely gut their contract."

Haas expressed a similar view, stating that studies into other working contracts with teacher unions could be beneficial.

"Look at other surrounding states with equal-sized communities and make sure we're comparable to them," he said. "So our teachers feel comfortable with their wage, and know that we care and are open to communication."

Arndt and Draper both said they have made the issue a priority during the past year, and are continuing to work on it. Steckman said one of the complex aspects of working with teacher unions is what must be determined outside of official negotiations, including when teachers can come in, leave and how many hours they must work.

One of the last questions asked was what the future of the district should look like. Steckman said that despite his lack of experience, solving the district's problems shouldn't be too difficult.

"I don't know, because I haven't been involved with a school board," he said. "But I'm intelligent enough to figure out from those that have been involved what we need to do. It's a common-sense approach."

Draper said maintaining objectives and knowing how to use the district's resources is paramount.

"We have a set goal, it's not that we're just going to do better," she said about the district's future. "I believe the next step is the utilization of the classrooms for our children, that our teachers know where we want them to be, where the children need to be, and where they want to be."

Haas advocated for streamlining the agenda at board meetings to make them more efficient. Arndt suggested that there be more internship and job education opportunities for students, and Schweitzer said the new board should have a planning session, especially considering there will be at least one new member.

The election for the three four-year terms is next Tuesday. Superintendent Dave Versteeg, who started July 1, urged Mason City residents to vote next week.

"I think it's the ultimate test of democracy," Versteeg told the Globe Gazette. "This is the most basic election that a group of citizens can have, is to elect a group of citizens for school board."