School board candidate Young on reopening: ‘Best thing we have done is changing our strategy as we go’


Jess Young with her family.

Jess Young is seeking reelection May 18 as a school trustee to continue her work on the board with capital projects and school reopening and to see future projects through. Young is in a five-person race for two seats.

“I think we’ve done well,” said Young on reopening the schools. “The best thing we (the board) have done is changing our strategy as we go.”

Elementary students returned to in-person learning April 12, followed by the middle school on April 19. The high school has been unable to return to 100% capacity as the building cannot fit all of the students at a three-foot social distance. However, seniors are attending full time and the other grades have seen an increase in their in-person schedules.

“I think that ability to change was the best thing about the reopening plan,” Young said. “Understanding what was challenging, what was working, what wasn’t working and discussing options and trying to figure out how we could make it better and making those changes.”

The two seats on the ballot are currently held by Young and Eileen Miller, who is also seeking reelection. The other three candidates are Michael Owen-Michaane, Ian Rowe and Janice Powers. Terms of office are three years. The vote for trustees and the district budget is May 18.

Young said she sees the implementation of supports for both students and parents around the return to in-person education as important. “I think there’s going to need to be a lot of supports for that, helping people get used to being around each other and how we begin to interact again as we used to,” she said. “I know it won’t happen immediately, but everyone is going to adjust to it differently, so there needs to be a lot of focus on how we come back and how we’re respectful of everyone’s process as the students get used to spending more time together and in closer quarters.”

“I hope that over the summer, we’ll have time to figure out additional solutions that can make the return to school in the fall more normal. There’s still a lot of attention that needs to be made towards the kids as they come out of this and support them, and the parents are going to need support in their own way too.”

As a mother, Young said her daughter’s return to school full time “has been great for her emotionally… Those opportunities where she has been able to be outside and interacting with her peers have been really great.”

“I will be focused on the bond work and the capital improvement plan,” said Young, who is an architect by profession. “It’s something that I think is really important. I’m really committed to the bond work. I think my experience in the last three years as head of the bond steering committee has really helped us bring this work to the district successfully.” She said her expertise and tenure bring “a lot of value to that side of the board” and she wants to “see this work through.”

In May 2018, district voters approved two bond propositions to fund construction of a new Hutchinson School and other projects including turf renovation of the Glover baseball field complex, an addition at Prospect Hill School and interior and exterior work at the secondary school campus.

The members of the school board “all come from different perspectives,” Young said. “We all have different values and we respect each other, so we really listen to what each other say about the parts and make decisions to move the district forward together. I think it’s good I have a different focus than other people.”

With the district’s work resulting from the racial equity audit still underway, the trustee said she wants to make sure Pelham’s schools are providing programs and opportunities for all students.

“I think it’s really important that all parts of our community are represented on the board,” said Young, who is the only trustee from the Hutchinson School catchment area and the only candidate on the ballot from that part of town. “Going forward, particularly with some of the equity conversations that we are going to have, I would like to be there to represent my local community and the whole Town of Pelham.”

“There are some equity issues that have been coming up recently and discussions about anti-bias and such that I think need some focus. I know that the (district’s) cultural competence committee is reviewing the equity audit at the moment and will be coming forward with some recommendations to the board, and I’m eager to hear how they recommend we progress with this work.”

According to Young, the district was already working towards some of the audit recommendations, such as making the school community more welcoming and diversifying hiring practices.

“I want to hear more from the community review and the task force review, because student voice is really important here, and I want to hear how more people want to move forward with this,” Young said. “I need to hear more before I can make a strong recommendation or decision on how the board would support this work.”

Editor’s note: The Pelham Examiner is publishing individual profiles of the candidates for the school board. Below are the other stories published to date.