WESTPORT — Over the past two years, Youn Su Chao has advocated for parents as co-president of Coleytown Elementary’s PTA.

However, the closure of Coleytown Middle School due to mold has led to her wanting a more direct involvement in school matters.

“During the CMS crisis last year, my concern for the welfare of our students and schools grew to the point where I wanted to be a part of the solution,” Chao said.

In July, Chao was nominated by the Democratic Town Committee alongside Lee Goldstein as the DTC’s candidates for the Board of Education in November’s election.

“I was both thrilled and humbled by their nomination and endorsement,” she said.

Chao noted her role as a PTA co-president gave her the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and advocacy in a number of ways that directly relate to the work of the education board.

“As the chair of our executive board, I’ve had to set our agenda and build consensus among our members,” she said. “I created and managed our own budget and participated in two of the BOE budget approval cycles.”

More Information

Youn Su Chao

Democrat

Board of Education candidate

Westport

48

Incumbent: no

Current job: at home

Education: Graduated from University of Central Florida. Later received a MA Teaching English as a Second Language.

The most important issue in this election: Hiring the right superintendent is the most important decision facing Westport. Consequently, the search process must include stakeholder input. Additionally, selecting the superintendent is not a one-time hiring decision, but needs to incorporate an ongoing process of review and accountability for the benefit of the superintendent and the school district.

Other issues: Scrutinizing the district budget in light of tight finances. Delivering middle school equitably and efficiently using facilities, including potential redistricting with a sensitivity to proximity and travel times. Refocusing on academic and social-emotional initiatives tabled during the crisis (e.g., school start times).

Family: Married to Edward Chao and have two children. Lydia is in 4th grade and Mathias is in 2nd grade.

Previously elected offices, community group affiliations: Coleytown Elementary PTA

Campaign website: https://www.facebook.com/Chaoandgoldstein2019-105370737491979

Additionally, Chao regularly met with other PTA presidents throughout Westport, which enabled her to learn about each individual school’s issues and goals. This also helped her build relationships with parents, children and educators.

“Those who know me trust that I always have the well-being of our children at the heart of everything I do, and I want to carry that same advocacy and leadership to the Board of (Education),” Chao said.

The challenges seen in the school district this year motivated Chao to attend every BOE and subcommittee meeting she could, adding the goal was to stay informed and keep the parents she represented abreast of the issues.

“While in attendance, I often provided constructive suggestions to our board and community to compromise and progress,” Chao said. “My tone was always respectful and diplomatic, allowing me to preserve relationships and enabling me to collaborate during times of heated discussion.”

If elected, a top priority for Chao is the hiring of the right superintendent for Westport, as well as refocusing on academic and social-emotional initiatives.

“For example, we need to implement the decision of the School Start Time committee and evaluate whether we can create a Staples-like Connections program at the middle school,” Chao said.

Finally, she said the BOE must ensure educational equity in safe buildings throughout the district. Upon receiving the facilities review, Chao said BOE members must create a plan for repairing and maintaining Westport’s schools.

For Chao, the role of the BOE has been described as “connecting the will of the community to the education of its children.” In her tenure as a PTA co-president, she said parents found her approachable and accessible.

“Being in touch with the community requires an openness and willingness to listen to all points of view,” she said. “The best decision making synthesizes what is most critical and appropriate in a given time with the educational goals of the district.”

Having dedicated the past two years of her life serving and advocating for the community, Chao expressed hope that people vote for her so she may continue her service as a BOE member.

“I am committed to ensuring that we have the best outcomes for our students and our schools by listening to all opinions and investing the time and effort to make the right decisions for our district,” Chao said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com