Redhorse, Shapiro, Agee and Westerberg win Summit School District board race

Candidates who campaigned on equity, social wellbeing prevail

Courtesy photos
From top, left: Consuelo Redhorse and Gayle Jones Westerberg. From bottom, left: Julie Shapiro and Vanessa Agee.
Courtesy photos

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the year Julie Shapiro was appointed to the school board.

In the race for four Summit School District board of education seats, incumbents Consuelo Redhorse and Julie Shapiro, as well as candidates Vanessa Agee and Gayle Jones Westerberg, prevailed in their campaigns.

By 11 p.m. Tuesday, 9,791 ballots had been processed with the top four earners each receiving roughly 15% of the vote. The four candidates who lost earned between 9% and 10% each. Summit County Clerk and Recorder Taryn Power said these results capture the last upload for the night.

“I am excited to really know that the voters — the community is behind the work that we’ve been doing in the district,” said Redhorse, the current board president.

“We’ve been doing a lot of equity work, which is really making sure that all of our students regardless of their backgrounds or where they come from have the support that they need to succeed, and our community’s behind them.”

Redhorse, Shapiro, Agee and Westerberg all had the backing of the district’s teachers union, the Summit County Democratic Party and Voces Unidas, a Latino-advocacy nonprofit, amid an election that highlighted ideological differences between the eight contenders — some of whom accused the district’s equity work of taking away from academics.

Voters ultimately endorsed candidates who championed social-emotional support along with academic performance while those who campaigned against the current direction of the district failed to win any seats.

The four other contenders, Leigh Sargent, Danielle Surette, Jenniffer González and Michael Atkinson, had pledged to improve student success if elected. They took issue with achievement gaps for English language learners and the district’s state-issued accreditation scores, which have dropped year-over-year since 2014.

During their campaigns, they also spoke against bringing attention to gender identity, sexual orientation and systemic racism in classrooms — topics the candidates said were not appropriate in schools or conducive to learning.

Shapiro, the other board incumbent to win reelection, said despite candidates’ differences, “I think there is a lot of common ground in our community across all the voters. … We want to see our students succeed academically. We want to see them succeed personally. I think we can come together around that.”

“For me, that’s the work of equity, and so I hope we can continue to come around and together on that approach,” continued Shapiro, a current leader for the Keystone Policy Center who was appointed to fill a school board vacancy in 2022.

Agee, who currently serves as communications director for the town of Frisco, said the election is a mandate for the district to foster safe environments for students regardless of their identity.

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“I think the community said, ‘We don’t think anybody should hide who they love or who they are. We want our students to feel belonging, and we know if they feel that, and are respected, they’ll be able to have the space to learn,” Agee said. “I think that’s exceptional.”

Voters “know that we are looking ahead, looking forward, and they appreciate what the school district is doing now,” said Westerberg, an education consultant who served in various capacities with the district in prior years including as an elementary teacher, dean and principal.

Westerberg added that while the current board and its newcomers are “like minded in so many areas, we also bring expertise from a wide-range of background knowledge.”

“I’m excited for the growth in Summit School District and for working collaboratively with some very smart people,” she said.

With the retention of two incumbents, and the addition of two newcomers, current board members Kate Hudnut and Chris Alleman will be moving on from the district with their terms now at an end.

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