Julie Baker and Grace Hudek, both newcomers, are running for a trustee position on the Nevada County Board of Education.
Voters will choose one of them to represent Area 3, the Pleasant Ridge School District, a position currently held by board president Wendy Baker, who isn’t seeking reelection.
This is the only race for a Board of Education trustee position this year not to feature one or more incumbent candidates.
Julie Baker said she became motivated to run for the county Board of Education by the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it brought into the school system.
“We’re really at a pivot point as a society, and there’s a lot of disruption in our lives,” she said. “It’s important that we fight for every child, and that we figure out particularly now … how to deliver education through a digital infrastructure.”
She said the delivery of education to every child requires not only a bridging of gaps in internet access, but also consideration of students having necessary supplies and support in their health and safety.
She said some of these concerns fall under the purview of the Board of Education, where trustees are involved in supporting the county’s most vulnerable youth, including those in foster care or the juvenile justice system.
Baker served as executive director of The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley for eight years, and is currently executive director of Californians for the Arts.
“I definitely have a window into what I see as some of the demands of education and needs our children have,” she said, explaining that she saw needs filled by art education while at The Center for the Arts and that this has guided her value of community collaboration in education.
Baker said her experience in arts nonprofits, as well as community involvement with organizations including the Friendship Club and Nevada County Relief Fund, has allowed her to grow her leadership skills and ability to do effective collaborative work.
She said it is critical for members of the school system to pay attention to the mental health and wellness of students, and noted that even before the pandemic, the rise in depression, anxiety, and drug use in youth was “something we need to address and advocate for.”
Baker said the board could best support this goal by supporting varied student approaches to learning, whether through resources for hands-on learning, traditional academics, arts, or athletics.
“A good educational system that understands every child has a different path,” she said.
“I’ll be a really good resource for the board,” said Grace Hudek, who has previously worked as a public health nurse in various counties throughout California.
Hudek said her work in nursing has given her experience with public health crises, motivating her to run for the county Board of Education as schools grapple with decisions surrounding COVID-19. She said she intends to support the superintendent of schools and public health officials in making “good scientific and medical decisions.”
“I’d bring a lot of expertise to the board,” she said.
Hudek currently works as the CEO of her family’s business. She said the business operates closely with the automotive industry, although she declined to name it.
Concerning her goals for a first term on the county Board of Education, Hudek said she aims to make an impact in the spheres of school choice and special education.
Describing herself as a school choice advocate, she praised the variety of high-quality schooling options available in Nevada County and said she hopes to support local students and families by “(helping) parents choose the school they see fit” in the case of inter-district transfers brought to the board.
Hudek has a child with special needs, and said she has experience supporting other children enrolled in special education, which motivated her to run for the Board of Education, since the Superintendent of Schools Office provides certain special education programs and services.
“We have good services now, but I’d love to push for even more services, broader and deeper services, for our special needs families,” she said.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.