Biography

Name: Julie Light, Ed.D

Address: 4208 Marlborough Court, Minnetonka

Age: 61

Family: Four daughters, four sons-in-law, eight grandchildren

Employment: Retired Teacher/Leader; currently an academic coach primarily for G/T learners, G/T twice exceptional learners

Education: B.S., elementary education, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Master of Arts in Education and Gifted Education Certificate, Hamline University; Doctor of Education (Ed.D in Educational Leadership), Capella University.

Community involvement: Minnetonka Public Schools volunteer; community volunteer; undergraduate student mentor volunteer; volunteer HOA president, current member of professional collaboration group.

Previous experience: From 1993: Two years teaching preschool, Excelsior Covenant Preschool; ten years in Minnetonka Public Schools (three as a reserve teacher, seven as the High Potential Resource teacher at Minnetonka Middle School West); one year as the office manager at Billy’s Lighthouse Supper Club; eight years in Wayzata Public Schools as the Vision 21 Coordinator at Wayzata West Middle School; 1.5 years at Anoka-Hennepin Schools as the district Teaching and Learning Specialist for Talent Development.

Q&A

Why do you want to be on the Minnetonka School Board?

A life-long Skipper, I have deep roots in this community. With the exception of my undergraduate days on campus and a year near Hopkins, I have lived in the district since 1969. My husband, Billy Light, and I raised our four daughters near MME. Like my daughters, I (née Julie Munger) am a grateful graduate (class of ‘76) of Minnetonka High School. Throughout the decades, we have had – and still have – exceptional people in our schools educating, serving, and caring for our children. I celebrate the people and programs in our schools. But, for the past several years, I have been listening to voices and hearts of many of our community’s residents – residents who have concerns and need to be heard. I have read and listened to communication that is out of touch with what residents are looking for from their school district’s leadership. Recognizing that I have the experience, professional steadiness, academic fervor, a commitment to the voices of our residents, and a resolve to press for trusting relationships between the residents/parents and our district’s leadership, this is the time for me to run for a position on the Minnetonka School Board.

What is your view of the state of the school district?

Minnetonka Public Schools is outstanding in so many ways. Statistics, ratings, student performance data can support this. And we have stellar teachers and staff. However, data surrounding enrollment issues exist and we need to respectfully respond to it. I am listening to the voices of resident parents who have enrolled their children elsewhere in order to find settings that are not as crowded. I am listening to the voices of residents and parents who do not understand the rationale we have been given regarding our district’s enrollment numbers that the district claims are needed to keep our schools open and thriving. Regarding enrollment numbers and the effects they have on our learning environments, I support a full analysis of all types of data and a response to that data. In education, we design student programs, lessons, and interventions that respond to student needs based on gathered assessments; I adhere to this same philosophy in gathering input from all residents in our community and then responding to that input.

What would be your top priorities as a School Board member?

I believe in an inviting, trusting, and thorough communication style from the district leadership to parents/residents.

I believe open enrollment is an great opportunity for families to pursue options in school choices. I recognize that at a time this program has been valuable in our district. However, the number of students we have now been accepting has created other, concerning issues. With approximately one third of our students coming in from outside our district, I believe our resources and facilities are stretched beyond being able to fully provide promised excellence. The district currently claims that our large numbers are what we need to keep our buildings open and programs/instructions thriving; I believe these claims need to be questioned. I do not believe we need to consider physical expansions to our facilities in order to continue open enrollment practices that far exceed the requirements from the state or what our residents desire. Rather, I would question how we arrive at “capacity” levels for our schools, and I would propose sustainable open enrollment limits.

I believe we need to enhance the resources available to our school counselors, psychologists, and social workers as they strengthen the social and emotional well-being of our students.

What, if any, areas in the district budget should be adjusted?

The area in which the district budget should be adjusted is the need for complete clarity and transparency. Data and numbers and budget issues should be shared in a manner and in such a way that the community can easily understand them. Budget generalities can only become irrefutable to the extent in which they are fully transparent and available.

What should be done to address the achievement gap?

While there are several “achievement gaps” or disparities between or among certain groups of students, I will assume that this question refers to the most common one, which is considered to be between white/Asian-American students and those of color (African-American and/or Hispanic). This issue persists in our nation’s schools despite immense amount of resources poured into student programs and professional development. I have had the privilege of working with strategies, families, students, and staff/admin learning and teaming together to provide professional development, implementation of instructional strategies/programs to students who have been more underrepresented in advanced programs and academic success. I have not shied away from tough questions around this issue. I offer two specifics: 1) Minnetonka Public Schools could evaluate the value of piloting a Young Scholars Program (YSP) – or hybrid of this program – as an early intervention that might have merit for some of our district’s students, and 2) I believe there is a gap in how we, as educators across the country, communicate with the parents of these students in order to establish trust and subsequent full support for programs and strategies that might best ensure strong growth for their children.

What skills should be added or emphasized in classrooms to educate students for a 21st-century career or workplace?

Our district leads in preparing students for the 21st century. We do a stellar job of providing use of technology, computer coding, visual/performing/digital arts programs and courses, mentorship programs, VANTAGE, a thriving language immersion program, Tonka Online, advanced academic options and STEM opportunities (Honors, accelerated math and science courses beginning as early as elementary school, advanced learning programs such as Wings and Navigators, AP and IB programs, Project Lead the Way etc.) As important, we have developed our elementary literacy program to reflect the MN state statute that promotes early literacy development. My grandchildren in the district have already benefitted from some of these opportunities. Further, I worked on implementing some of these offerings while I was in a leadership role at Anoka-Hennepin schools; what a joy to look to Minnetonka Schools as a model of a district that provides varied and extraordinary offerings to its students. We have an outstanding reputation in academic areas. If elected to the board, I would embrace all these relevant programs and continue pursuing new options. However, I would also advocate for a study to determine if we have sufficient options and levels for students who may not be seeking a four-year post-secondary education.

How should Minnetonka Schools ensure the safety of its students?

We comply with required drills and have in place security entrances designed to keep our students and staff physically safe from intruders. However, the hallways and common areas in our schools are often so over-crowded that the physical – and arguably emotional – safety of our students has been compromised. Hallways have been used for storage and for direct instruction with groups of students. Some elementary students have walked outside unattended after recess using alternate doors due to hallway space constraints. This over-crowding is not something that is outside of our control. Further, “safety” not limited to physical safety. Emotional safety is a massive issue in our nations’ schools. Educational leaders must respond, assuming responsibility to adequately assess and measure our schools’ climate, culture, and issues in this area, develop systems that are carefully developed, supported with adequate resources, and then monitored and evaluated. Pursuant with Minnesota statutes our district has in place curriculum and a bullying prevention program, but a major platform of my campaign and that of the three candidates I deeply support, is that if elected, we will enhance the resources to our schools’ outstanding professionals who work with students experiencing social/emotional challenges and or mental health conditions.

Have you ever been charged with a gross misdemeanor or higher, or been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy or foreclosure?

No.

Getting to know you

Favorite book or movie?

Books: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee; and "Night" by Elie Wiesel

Last live show or concert you attended?

The “Happy Together” concert with Tommy James and the Shondells, along with the Turtles, Chuck Negron, Gary Puckett, the Buckinghams, Classic IV, and Cowsills at our state fair this. Yes, I sang along, as did my 34-year-old daughter.

Favorite subject in school?

Social Studies of any flavor

What would be the title of your life story?

"Another Day"

Dream vacation destination?

Return again and again to the Virgin Islands to dive, snorkel, swim, sail, hike . . . and dine outside

Favorite local business?

All the restaurants in our area . . . especially those where I can dine outside

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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