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A few weeks ago, I finished writing the final draft of my grandmother’s biography. I got it bound and printed so that she could hold her own history in her hands, and I presented it to her on her birthday.

It took me several years to research and write the 300-page biography. I worked on it during weekends since I was managing my Grass Valley-based business during the week. Before that, I spent late evenings writing biography chapters while attending graduate school full-time at Boston University, earning two degrees – an MBA and a Master of Science in Information Systems.

Students come first

My grandmother was a schoolteacher in the mid-1950s. She had a sincere love for the children that she taught. In her journal she wrote, “We adults owe them a lot and have a great responsibility in helping them adjust to life and find their place.” She repeated in her journal day after day what an important responsibility she felt to teach them.

I inherited my grandmother’s desire to help children prepare for adulthood and find their place and purpose in this world, and so I was inspired this year to run for the Nevada Joint Union High School District (NJUHSD) Board of Trustees.

The seed was planted long ago: As a student at Harvard, I got involved in volunteer teaching. After I graduated, I volunteered full-time in Uruguay for a year and a half, teaching and serving local communities. I have mentored high school students throughout my life, including youth from households where Spanish was the primary language. My fluency in Spanish helped me communicate with parents who felt disconnected from resources. When I have mentored Nevada County high school students, I have focused on writing and public speaking so that they can gain literacy and language proficiency and then present ideas confidently.

Listen for understanding

Since the moment I joined the NJUHSD board, I have held office hours for students, parents, and staff. This has been a consistent and continuing endeavor to hear those who have a real stake in our schools. Meeting one-on-one to quietly listen to and consider their perspectives has been informative and meaningful to me as a decision-maker.

My guiding principles

I believe students deserve an excellent education that prepares them for adulthood, a safe environment in which to learn, and financial accountability on the part of the district (where resources are used to benefit the students). In other words, students are my priority. My decisions are informed by thorough research and consideration of multiple points of view. Ultimately, I ask, what is best for the students?

  1. Champion excellent academics

We must help students achieve in critical areas: only 28% of NJUHSD students can achieve at their grade level for math, and 45% for English language and literacy. Academics matter to me because I have seen how knowledge improves lives. I have been a student, a teacher, an administrator, a board trustee, and a family member. Recently, I helped Boston University launch a graduate business program: I developed curriculum and designed grading rubrics for business classes to teach hundreds of students how to run an organization responsibly.

  • Use resources wisely

In my leadership roles, I am keenly aware of the finances. I am a business owner with an MBA. I have served as a non-profit treasurer. As a board trustee, I analyze financial statements and guide strategy to ensure responsible spending. We as a community should expect the district to use our precious resources to benefit the students.

  • Keep our children safe

Nationally, we see an increased threat to school safety. While working at MIT for seven years, I became FEMA certified in emergency response and worked on the school’s emergency committee through a shooting, a fire, a chemical spill, suicides, a blizzard, and other campus emergencies. I helped the university develop strategy for emergency response, including digital communication efforts. Currently, I preside over a committee that leads emergency response for many church congregations across Placer and Nevada Counties, including coordinating resources for families affected by wildfires and other emergencies.

Students are my priority

As a school board trustee, it is a great responsibility and honor to serve the children of our county. Let’s focus on what matters most in this school district—the students. Please consider Stephanie Leishman for NJUHSD Trustee, Area 2. Learn more about me by visiting voteleishman.com