Q&A: Summit School District board of education candidate Julie Shapiro

Julie Shapiro
School board candidate
Julie Shapiro/Courtesy photo
Summit Board of Education member Julie Shapiro.
Julie Shapiro/Courtesy photo

During spending discussions earlier this year, the school district was said to be at risk of hitting a budget deficit as early as the 2025-26 academic year. How would you seek to avoid this?

I champion fiscal responsibility and strategic investment in our students and schools. My top budget priority, which aligns with recent board decisions, is recruiting and retaining talented staff that educate, support and transport students. Staff are 90% of the general fund. District policy requires a 7% minimum reserve plus the 3% state minimum. I would continue to carefully monitor the budget to avoid a deficit and comply with reserve policies.

The board’s role is strategic, not micro-managing. To find efficiencies, I would look to district leadership for an operational assessment and recommendations. Budgeting begins early each year and should involve meaningful engagement of our finance and district accountability committees and other stakeholders.

The proposed budget should clearly articulate how expenses align with goals for academic and personal success for every student. I like to see multiple budget alternatives to understand major tradeoffs requiring a board decision.

On the revenue side, board members have a critical role in advocating for additional public education funding. Colorado is among the lowest in the country. Our high property taxes don’t directly increase education funding, but we’re lucky to have additional community-approved funding. It’s also important to pursue state and community grants and partnerships.

What are ways you would seek to improve students’ test scores?

There’s no silver bullet for raising test scores. There’s much work ahead and already underway to accelerate student achievement and growth. I’ve supported our new K-5 reading and math curricula; teacher coaching and development; interventions for students behind at any grade level; and student attendance efforts. Following years of leadership change and a pandemic, consistency and rigor are critical, as are learning from successes, being solution-focused, and emphasis on continuous improvement.

We need engaging, rigorous education for every student, challenging each to rise to the next level. We must meet the needs of those with the largest gaps in test scores: the 31% of our students that are multi-language learners, 44% that are minority students, 34% that are free-and-reduced-lunch eligible, and those with special education needs. We need strong classroom instruction responsive to our diverse learners, universal preschool education and early screening and interventions.

Test scores are an indicator of several important dimensions of success. However, not everything that matters is measured by these tests, including deeper learning, critical thinking, problem solving and interpersonal skills. Input from students, teachers, and families is critical for progress on the complex factors that define, motivate and demonstrate success.

Do you support or object to the district’s equity policy, which commits to identifying patterns of systemic inequity within the district and supporting the identity expression of students and staff?

I support it. Equitable systems are foundational to academic and personal success for every student. To achieve that goal, we need to meet the needs of all students — including those students whose needs have not historically been met.

Our data demonstrate that the largest opportunity gaps exist for our Hispanic, multi-language learner, free-and-reduced-lunch, and special education students. Solutions include academically rigorous instruction that is responsive to our students’ diverse cultures, race and ethnicities, genders, abilities, experiences, and languages. Inclusive curricula engage every student to see and value themselves and others in what they are learning. Also important are universal preschool, diverse and bilingual staff, and proactive strategies and resources to identify and support students needing interventions and/or extensions.

Academic excellence starts with learning environments that are physically, socially and emotionally safe, inclusive and welcoming. “We belong” is more than a tagline — it’s a commitment to valuing the identities of each member of our school communities. That’s why I support our efforts in social-emotional learning and our investments in mental health. I also support our efforts to enhance engagement with our diverse families.

What are some decisions that the district or board have made that you support, and why?

I support adoption and improved implementation of our new K-5 literacy curricula, acceleration of our new K-5 math curricula, and new efforts to: strengthen classroom instruction for all students; identify and support students needing additional interventions; improve student attendance; and strengthen post-secondary college and career technical education pathways. I’m also excited about our dual language, STEM, and outdoor education programming.

I support our ongoing efforts toward equitable and inclusive schools for every student to thrive. I value our work in social-emotional learning and mental health, as well as new engagement efforts like the student advisory committee and the Hispanic Families Council. I value school safety efforts such as vestibule and fencing improvements, lockdown kits, and even moose-on-campus protocols.

I support recent efforts to strategically align our efforts across schools so we are all working toward shared goals and learning from successes. I support our board’s move to policy governance to increase our focus on monitoring and accountability for student success. I’ve supported our efforts on competitive pay and housing solutions for our great teachers and staff. I also support strategic community partnerships such as Project Thrive, which is helping us increase opportunities for afterschool and summer programming.

What are some decisions that the district or board have made that you oppose, and why?

As a facilitator, mediator and collaborative engagement professional, I think we have opportunities to create more proactive and iterative community engagement to inform decisions. For major planning efforts, complex topics and new programs on key issues, we would ideally establish sufficient time and consistent process to dive deeper with students, staff, families and community members.

Approaches will vary based on resources, deadlines, and topics, and would generally include engaging prior to drafting plans, prior to finalizing plans, and during implementation and monitoring. Also important are sharing back to the community how perspectives were incorporated as well as gathering input to continually improve engagement processes.

We also have opportunities to continue to improve external communications methods and messaging. I’d like to continue to: enhance community understanding of district goals, priorities, activities, and progress related to creating academic and personal success for every student; provide clear information to help parents access support when they have concerns about their students; and continue to improve communications and engagement with historically underrepresented student and family populations including our Hispanic community.

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