Julie Jette: 2021 candidate for Cary District 26 School Board
Five candidates are running for four seats on the Cary District 26 School Board in the April 6, 2021, election.
Occupation: Adjunct Faculty, Western Governors University
Civic Involvement: School board since 2009, PADS
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: During my first term, I am proud to say that I was part of a very dedicated Board that was successful in leading the District through a tough financial situation and restoring financial stability. I am proud of the financial status of the District and hope to see the stability continue. I am most proud that the District will be debt free by 2025. The District and Board will continue to need strong fiscal leadership to manage the District expenses including building maintenance, curriculum materials, technology and new expenses due to COVID. COVID has proved that a 1:1 technology program for students is here to stay. I am committed to working with the Administration, teachers and technology committee to continue to develop the technology skills of D26 students.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: This was foreign territory to everyone. As a current Board member, I feel that the Board listened to the public and challenged the Administration to provide both in person and remote learning options that were reached by a committee of stakeholders.
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: Schools provide family and community stability. When our students can safely return to school, parents will be able to return to their normal work routines and we all gain some of the normalcy that the pandemic stole from us. My email account received numerous emails from parents, staff and teachers advocating for all possibilities: fully remote, hybrid and full attendance. I read each email. The emails included passion, scientific research and media information to support their view, During Board meetings, I felt it was important to follow the direction of the McHenry County Health Department, CDC and Governor to form my view and vote. I appreciate and respect the opinions expressed in the emails and I try to find solutions that can accommodate the most students. Unfortunately with COVID this was difficult. The Board decisions that I voted on were emotional as it was difficult to provide every family with their preferred choice. Our Board votes were not always unanimous and I respect my fellow Board members' decisions as I know they do not take their voter lightly and put thought and research into their vote.
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: The children most likely to be affected are from our low income families, early childhood, and Special Education students. To facilitate remote learning, hot spots were provided to those families not having internet access. Special Education services were continued during remote learning. Related services such as Speech, OT, PT, social work, vision itinerant, hearing itinerant, behavior specialist were provided as remote services either within the general education remote classroom, by small group or individually. Service providers consulted with parents and home visits were conducted on an as-needed basis. Specialized programs were brought back full-time (all day, 5 days per week) when the metrics allowed for safe return. This included ECE self-contained, Transitional Kindergarten, TLC/autism classrooms, Bridge (social/emotional) classrooms. But all special education services continued throughout the remote and now in the hybrid model. These students will be assessed during the spring term to determine the need for summer school placement. District 26 has an outstanding record of providing special services and as we return to in person learning we will work hard to help our students to meet their IEP goals.
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: On a positive note by election time, most teachers will have had at least their first shot which should provide a measure of confidence to be in the classroom. I think that the hybrid model will continue for the remainder of the school year with mask wearing, social distancing and contract tracing measures. Whether students are in the hybrid in person model or the remote model, I am concerned about the student's academic progression and this is being measured by Star360 testing individual achievement testing.
The Star360 data as posted on the District website from fall of 2020, indicated that our students were not sufficiently impacted by the partial remote Spring 2020 semester. Students were given Star360 testing in fall 2020, winter 2021 and will be tested in spring 2021. This measures a student's independent achievement and growth. This helps teachers and principals determine what areas in reading and math that each student might need remedial work or accelerated work.
Assessing the academic process is only part of my obligation to the students. Student social emotional development is also important. To this end, I would like to see limited club activities at the K-5 buildings and Jr High as well sports return in a socially safe manner.
This fall has taught me that despite the exceptional efforts of our teachers, administrators and staff Zoom education was not successful for everyone. We need to have students back in the classroom as much as possible. We can't promise what the fall plan will be but it is my hope that we return full time. I think that we might still have to have some form of remote offering depending on the level of vaccinations.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: Did not answer.