NEWS BY TAYLOR PERSE POSTED ON 03/18/2021 THE EUGENE WEEKLY
It’s a busy spring for Eugene School District 4J.
As schools and students transition from virtual learning to hybrid in-person instruction for the first time in a year, the 4J Board of Directors is preparing for its May 18 election, where several board positions are up for reelection.
Two candidates have filed to run for position three on the board. incumbent Judy Newman… is seeking a second term…. After the past year of remote learning, both candidates highlight the need for equity and representation when it comes to taking care of students and teachers — an issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newman is endorsed by Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, current Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, as well as several local state representatives.
Newman, who started her term on the board in 2017, says she decided to run again because her work isn’t done.
She says her first few years on the board have helped her attain a broader level of experience that she wants to continue to use moving forward.
As the director of Early Childhood CARES of Lane County, which provides early intervention and special education to young children, Newman says she’s learned to be a good listener to parents and students from various situations. She says she’s worked with children whose parents are incarcerated, children of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and kids with disabilities. If re-elected, Newman says one of her priorities is to continue building and supporting wrap-around services for schools, so that all students have resources moving forward, especially post COVID-19.
“This past year, COVID has been a huge focus and push to work with partnerships to make sure students’ and families’ basic needs are met,” Newman says.
She says the pandemic showed the importance of giving students access to technology. Now that they are returning to classrooms, Newman says staff should adjust their approach, ensuring 4J schools have the right social and mental health services available to meet students’ needs, because some may be struggling after all those months at home.
Both candidates say they believe the district needs to take large strides in addressing equity. Newman mentions the importance of wrap-around services again. The district’s outside partnerships need to be expanded, she says. And because these systems in schools were built on a system of white supremacy, 4J needs to be working with consultants on how to restructure services so that all students benefit.
“To me, equity and inclusion isn’t a stand alone thing. Whether it’s food service or mental health service, it’s not a separate initiative,” Newman says. “It’s got to be front and center.”
And to be inclusive, there must be representation. Newman says the district has made progress on hiring BIPOC teachers, but there is a long way to go.
“Our student population is really changing and becoming more diverse. Students are really seeing themselves in the staff and the school,” Newman says.
Newman also serves on the district’s budget and legislative committee. In creating policy for the district, she says it’s crucial to hear and respect different perspectives.