Primary frontrunner hopes to ‘unify district’ in race to fill seat on the Olathe school board

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OLATHE, Kan. —Following a five-way primaryJennifer Gilmore and Julie Steele will compete to replace Brent McCune on the Olathe School Board of Education to represent District 3.

With the general election less than a month away, FOX4 is working to help voters get a better idea where candidates stand on issues impacting residents in the metro.

FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to candidates in more than 50 races in Johnson County. FOX4 did not receive a response from Gilmore. Here’s what Steele had to say: 

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the district and what plans do you have to address it?

Steele: The biggest issue facing most school districts today is the division in the community with not only differing points of view, but also the inability to come together and share our differences; finding common ground, rather than allowing it to tear us apart. My leadership style is that of bridging the gap between different ideas and varying viewpoints so that our community can return to civil discourse for the sake of our district and our community moving forward, striving to improve as a district and improve as a community.

Olathe School Board Candidate Julie Steele

Q: Do you feel the district’s COVID response has been adequate? If elected, what metric would you use in deciding district COVID precautions in the future? 

Steele: The district’s Covid response has been adequate with the goal being to keep kids in school, in person. We had a local district make different decisions that allowed [us] to see what was inevitable if we didn’t mitigate against Covid. When I take office in January, we can only hope and pray that the worst is behind us. I cannot predict what I will do come January, not knowing where our community will be at that point with regard to community spread. If Covid is still trying to control our lives, I would turn to local experts such as Dr. Hawkinson and Dr. Stites at KU, as well as our local epidemiologist for their guidance. 

Q: How can the district support the mental health of students and staff?

Steele: The Olathe School District has long partnered with local mental health professionals to provide supports to students at no cost, year-round. This should continue, but we could always be doing more. I would like to see regular mental health check-ins, in-person, for all students to be part of our quarterly or semester screenings in schools. This would allow us to be proactive rather than reactive and would destigmatize the need for mental health support. We should also be doing this with all staff. ‘Mental Health Check In Day’ should be the new normal. 

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