Mom of WCHS graduate Julie Yang secures BOE seat


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Julie Yang, the new member of the Board of Education for District 3, won with 67 percent of the vote against her opponent Scott Joftus. Yang hopes to bring a new perspective to the Board.

By Caroline Harless, Observations Editor

After all the votes were counted, Julie Yang will be the newly elected Board of Education (BOE) member for District Three, winning in a landslide victory with 67 percent of the vote against her opponent, incumbent Scott Joftus, in the Nov. 8 midterm election. Yang, a parent to WCHS graduates and former educator, ran on a platform to identify the needs of underrepresented high school students and address students’ mental health. With her new position, Yang hopes to build bridges between special populations within the MCPS community and the BOE.

“A top priority of mine is improving mental health in students, as well as ensuring good academic instruction to uplift and educate students,” Yang said at an Oct. 17 WCHS PTSA  townhall meeting that allowed Yang and Joftus to share their stances on prevalent issues in MCPS and their top priorities. “I would really like us to create clear pathways in STEAM and provide internship opportunities for our students.”

As a former teacher, data analyst and college & career counselor, Yang understands the importance of identifying, recruiting and retaining qualified staff. Shortage of staff members is a growing problem throughout MCPS—especially since the pandemic—and Yang brought up the importance of having a member on the BOE who has worked in schools in order to address this issue. 

“I was a staff member inside our buildings and I know that we have holes in the system,” Yang said. “There are staff members now thinking about leaving our system, so that raises questions as to why they are leaving and how we can stop it. We need people on the Board who have the perspective of what really goes on in the building in order to address these issues.”

Another issue Yang is working to solve is the lack of engagement from the MCPS community. A large part of Yang’s campaign was focused on getting parents and students involved with the BOE to make changes, as she is dedicated to uplifting students and families from hard-to-reach communities and underserved populations. 

“During my grassroots campaign, I traveled throughout the county and visited people door-to-door,” Yang said. “Many parents shared their concerns, and it’s these concerns that as a Board, we cannot miss. If I am elected, I will further work to be a better communicator so everyone, students and parents alike, can be involved. It takes a doer to make things happen, which is exactly who I am.”

Along with community engagement as a whole, Yang feels strongly about connecting minority groups within MCPS and making sure they are involved with what goes on in the schools. As an immigrant herself, Yang understands the struggles foreign parents face with not being able to understand how the school system works. 

“A few years ago, I started the Village Initiative which connects our special education families with the school system,” Yang said. “I also founded the Asian Pacific American Achievement Action Plan to connect groups of parents who are not traditionally very involved with MCPS to bring them into the conversation. Translation alone is not going to do the job, a welcome center alone is not going to do the job. What we need is to show people how our system works. We need to have navigators and advocates for parents who currently don’t understand our school system.”

Working with minority groups to get them more involved in MCPS also comes with addressing the achievement gap. Many groups, such as students in the special education program or students who learn differently, do not have the resources they need to be successful, and Yang urges that MCPS needs solutions that will cater to all types of students.  

“To close the achievement gap, more paraeducators in classrooms to provide support for our students is a must,” Yang said. “We also need to look at giving students hands-on experiences. Students learn in different ways so it’s important we provide project-based learning and internship opportunities to give students hands-on opportunities to help close the achievement gap.” 

With MCPS currently in a mental health crisis, yet another problem heightened by COVID-19, one of Yang’s top priorities is addressing the mental health and wellbeing of students. She proposes that this crisis can be combated through mental health seminars and writing contests to increase cross-cultural communication.

“The mental health crisis is part of the reason I came out to run. We need to have long-term, proactive approaches towards student mental health,” Yang said. “The Bridge to Wellness centers we have in schools are a good start but we really need to look at closer partnerships with non-profit organizations that can help the mental health crisis. We need active student support groups for every middle and high school.” 

As the election comes to a close, Yang is hopeful about the future of MCPS and her new position on the BOE. Yang looks forward to collaborating with other Board members to help put her initiatives in place and make the changes community members want to see in MCPS. More information about Yang and what she stands for can be found on her website

“We won! Thank you to each and every member of #TeamJulie!” Yang posted on her instagram, @julieyang4boe. “I want to thank my opponent Mr. Joftus for his service on the Board. I’m excited and honored to serve to ensure that every student will have a chance to succeed. Onward!”