Julie Stone: 2021 candidate for District 129 School Board
Four candidates are running for three seats on the West Aurora District 129 School Board in the April 6, 2021, election.
City: North Aurora
Civic Involvement: Third year as PTO president at Goodwin Elementary; PTO Treasurer for three years; Superintendent's Community Advisory Council (SCAC); Community Equity Advisory Council (CEAC); Title 1 Parent Liaison in West Aurora School District; North Aurora Mothers Club (NAMC); active parent in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; student mentor with Kids Hope USA, in school classrooms reading with students as well as assisting where needed, and at church on Wednesdays and Sundays with children's programming; Safe Families for Children host family; help coordinate and distribute resources to adoptive families, foster families, and Safe Families in our area.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: I am very passionate about our community and our school district. I believe that quality public education is important and I want to do everything I can to help support academic achievement and social emotional health for all students in District 129. I want to see the rich history of West Aurora continue to grow as we promote opportunity and equity for all students. I also want to promote an environment of collaboration, trust and respect within our district and in our community. Additionally, my background in corporate finance and MBA in Finance will give me the tools to help make sure that our district continues to be fiscally responsible in the future.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges. However, through this I have observed collaboration, problem solving and resilience on all levels throughout our district. Our school board has worked hard this year and is doing a great job working with district leadership, the five unions in our district, parents, and local and state officials in deciding how to keep our students and staff safe while continuing to provide a quality education. I see leadership that truly cares about our students and community and I witness them working together with many community partners and other school districts to create options and solutions. While the challenges faced this year have been difficult, I have seen respect and trust between all of the different parties involved and I want to see that continue in our district so that West Aurora can be the best it can be.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: As a school board member, my role is to provide leadership while listening to constituents and following state and local guidelines. A school board has to provide leadership in unprecedented times like this by making sure every student in every situation has opportunity for learning and growth. I want to make sure that we are adhering to our district mission statement of "Fostering an environment of equity and opportunity" for all of our students. In addition, as a school board member I want to ensure that any equity initiatives in our district are addressed and that we take all steps necessary to ensure that we are truly living out our mission statement.
Q: Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: Our district works very hard to serve our students. Two of the many ways our district adjusted to continue serving students are technology and food distribution. Before the pandemic, District 129 had completed an initiative to provide 1:1 technology for all students so that each child had access to a laptop or tablet. This ensured that our district could quickly pivot to remote learning during the pandemic. West Aurora teachers and staff also adapted extremely quickly to the changes and worked hard to continue providing educational opportunities for our students. In addition, West Aurora partnered with Comcast to offer low cost or free internet access to families and students to ensure that all students could continue learning during this challenging time. On top of that, our district has provided students with almost 2 million free meals during this pandemic. We have had meal distribution sites set up since remote learning began with bus drivers and cafeteria workers helping distribute meals throughout the school year and summer to make sure all students had access to food. In summary, during the pandemic I have seen consistent and ongoing collaboration and problem solving to provide services for our students.
Q: Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?
A: In the spring, there are several things we can do to continue ensuring safety while providing quality education. First, it is important to keep offering families options of in person or virtual learning. While I have been very excited to see students returning to the classroom this semester, I also know that there are families who still need virtual options as we continue to navigate this pandemic. Second, I am very proud of the hard work our district and community partners around Kane County have done to prioritize free vaccinations for District 129 teachers and staff during the week of February 8th. This is an important step in the fight against the pandemic. And finally, our district needs to continue to work with state and local health officials to stay up to date with current information, keep promoting actions that slow the spread of the virus, and maintain all health and safety protocols so that we can move forward and not backwards. In the fall, we learned that we must provide options, prioritize vaccinations, and maintain and follow health protocols to maintain a safe learning environment. These initiatives will be key in bringing students back into our schools safely.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: I fully support moving forward with school sports as long as they can be done in a way that follow all state and local guidelines to keep students, staff, and spectators safe. I was pleased to see the recent announcements regarding school sports starting up again and I will advocate for them to continue as long as it is safe. School sports, clubs, and activities help enrich educational experiences and are important to the mental, emotional and physical well-being of our students. West Aurora has a strong and vibrant history in athletics. One of the many things I love about our district is the wide variety of sports and extracurricular activities available to students and I will encourage and support our district in continuing to provide these opportunities to students wherever possible.