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Looking toward the future, Julie Steele says she wants to see unity in the Olathe schools community

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JulieSteele

Despite the victory of two conservative candidates seeking to make sweeping changes on the Olathe Board of Education, Julie Steele, a more moderate but still liberal-leaning candidate focused on building on the existing success within the school district, narrowly beat out a more conservative opponent. 

‘THERE ARE NO LIMITS AS TO WHAT WE CAN ACCOMPLISH’ 

On Wednesday, following the certification of the election results, Steele told the Olathe Reporter she’s feeling “relieved and ready.”

“I truly believe there are no limits to what our community can do when we come together for the sake of our children,” Steele said. “The message I want to send to over 24,000 people who voted in this race is that no matter how you cast your ballot for, it’s time for us all to come together for the future and there are no limits as to what we can accomplish when we do that.” 

In the gap between the election and taking her new position, Steele said she’s dedicated to learning. In fact, she’s already started having conversations with existing board members, Olathe school district administrators and community leaders. 

“It's just been a great feeling to move on and start the work and I'm ready for the role and the responsibility that's going to come with it,” she said. “It's a weird gap time, but it's a time that I can fill easily with learning. Gosh, this is a big organization to run with. … This is a big machine, and so learning all of those different gears and moving parts, I can't wait for that.” 

TOP PRIORITIES GOING FORWARD

Come January, Steele said she hopes to bring her unique perspective to the table to help build up the school district into the future. A former special educator, a parent to children with diverse needs and a local business owner, she said she believes she can offer a take to issues that sets her apart. 

“I really believe that the cross section of my life experiences, as well as being an always-advocate for public education lead me to be a qualified candidate to serve for the next four years,” she said. 

She also doesn’t plan to “go barging in the doors” at the first board meeting in January with an agenda for change. Instead, Steele said she’s more interested in working together with the new and existing board members to identify the most urgent needs of the school district and how to solve them. Additionally, she said she’d like to get the opportunity to do some team-building with fellow new board members Robert Kuhn and Brian Connell. 

FINDING COMMON GROUND 

One of her top priorities, however, ultimately leans on the relaunching of the district’s strategic plan. Steele will serve on the community committee tapped to revisit the plan coming out of the pandemic. 

“That's going to guide our district in how we want to produce the best, most prepared graduates for their future after K-12 education,” she said. 

She’s also concerned about mental health care in the schools for students and staff, something several other current and incoming school board members have emphasized as a need. 

Above all else, Steele says she hopes everyone on the board come 2022 can work together to improve community relations between the district leaders and the parents in the community. 

“I strongly believe that is possible. And I think that when a community comes together for their district as opposed to being divided, everyone wins,” she said. “It is possible for everyone to win when we come together.” 

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