UAC 2022 School Board Candidate Survey Responses
Tell us about yourself: this could include biographical details, a list of hobbies, professional accomplishments, or anything you’d like to highlight.
Describe your strategy for victory in your campaign; i.e., what is your messaging? How will it appeal to a majority of voters in your district? Are you working closely with any other campaigns?
I’m a community leader and advocate, especially for neurodiverse and disabled individuals. I’m the founder of Awesome Autistic Ogden and in this role I work tirelessly with other local nonprofits and organizations. These attributes are a big part of my strategy and messaging. OSD is made up of 79% socioeconomically disadvantaged, 16% disabled, and 51% Hispanic students. As a passionate advocate for DEI, I will be a thoughtful board member and will align with the demographics of our community.
A decision to run for office can often be a difficult one: why did you decide to run for school board, i.e. what are your guiding principles?
I decided to run for a few reasons, but the biggest push came when 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor died by suicide last November. As the mother of an autistic son who had experienced bullying, her death hit me hard. I felt helpless and full of rage. When I had the idea to run, I googled the name of the incumbent and read a news story about him getting in trouble for inappropriately using the N-word in his classroom in front of his students a few years ago. That was the final push for me to run.
What professional or volunteer experience do you have in the Utah education system?
Field trips, class parties, teacher donations, and I just applied to be a substitute teacher.
What community groups, nonprofit organizations, or professional organizations do you belong to or align with?
Founder of Awesome Autistic Ogden and the Bernal Badassery Foundation 501c3.
Advisory Board for the Autism After 21 initiative.
Chair of the Ogden Diversity Commission.
OWTC Foundation Board of Trustees.
Board member of Ogden Community Action Network.
Member of the Ogden NAACP.
What local community members, professional associates, or elected officials have encouraged you to run for office or endorsed your campaign?
Women’s Democratic Club of Utah
Ogden/Weber Education Associations’ PAC
Force for Good
Based on your educational philosophy/core values, what is at least one way that you can positively influence your school district as a school board member?
It’s very important to me to protect our most vulnerable students, especially those who are disabled and/or identify as LGBTQ+. I will make sure that the board is making thoughtful, empathetic policy decisions with the safety and well-being of these and all students in mind. I’m also a staunch advocate for teachers and will be diligent in getting their input at all levels of decision making that directly impacts them.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support administrators?
Stacy Bernal is passionate about empowering individuals and organizations to live their biggest and most badass lives. She’s an outspoken advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation and she’s known to challenge the status quo on occasion. From once-a-bartender to now-a-board-member, she feels purposeful about sharing her message of triumph, inspiration, and overcoming odds. She recently published her first book, The Things We Don’t Talk About: A Memoir of Hardships, Healing, and Hope.
Stacy lives happily with her family and fur babies near the mountains, where she enjoys all the amazing outdoor recreation Ogden, UT has to offer like mountain biking, running marathons, triathlons, relay races, and ultra-marathons. She loves to travel and looks forward to many great adventures all over the world.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support teachers?
Have consistent, open lines of communication. I’ve already had several teachers reach out to me to tell me about issues they’ve experienced with the board and/or administration. I want to listen to them and help support them as best as I can. This is why I’m also subbing, so I can get in the muck of it with teachers and have a better understanding of what they need and how I can best advocate for them and their students.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support students?
Make data-driven, empathetic decisions based on what teachers are seeing and experiencing. Currently none of the OSD board members have children in the district. I have two sons, one of whom is autistic and is in Special Education. That perspective will help me as we make decisions on how to best support our students.
What do you believe is the best way for local or state school boards to support parents?
I feel like OSD does a pretty good job supporting parents considering some of our obstacles. I think we could do better with our families who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and/or have a language/communication barrier. I would like to see more parental engagement with those who have felt historically excluded.
What is something the school board you are running for has done right?
Giving teachers a pay raise. The IB and dual language immersion programs, and the accreditation recognition.
As a school board member, what specific, achievable goals do you have?
I’d like to help improve the graduation rate and outcomes for ALL students, especially students with disabilities. OWTC has a great program to help with this and I’d like to see it expanded to support the efforts I’m working on with the Autism After 21 initiative. I’d love to see more efforts in DEI and recruiting teachers from diverse backgrounds.
There is a well-established and transparent process for book challenges and removals; recently, a minority of parents and parent-groups have advocated for testing the limits of established practice by using social media to spread disinformation about books and librarians. How do you feel about the existing policy and efforts to circumvent it?
I don’t believe we should be banning books, and certainly not to the extreme that some are trying to push it to. While there may be some safety parameters that could be implemented, books should be available for students to read should they choose. These policies disproportionately hurt authors and students who come from marginalized communities.
Teaching American History
Another ongoing debate is focused on the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Utah’s K-12 schools. If you are asked: “Are you promoting Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools?" How would you respond?
I understand the concern around this topic, and I believe it would not be appropriate in K-12 public schools for a number of reasons. I do believe that:
Every student deserves a quality school, and I am committed to eliminating barriers to every student having what they need, when they need it.
To prepare children for the future, we need to teach them both the good and the bad of our history so that they better understand the lives, cultures, and experiences of different people.
We need each other; our fates and futures as neighborhoods and communities are intertwined, despite perceived differences. All of us—students, families, teachers, principals, district leaders, the school board—must work together.
What role do school boards have in establishing policies that promote inclusion and diversity?
As a DEI trainer, it is so important to consider diverse perspectives at every level of decisions. I will always be the person at the table who will ask hard questions about who may be inadvertently hurt or forgotten about when we’re making decisions. I will support all DEI efforts that will improve outcomes for students and teachers, especially those who have been underrepresented.
Mental Health in Schools
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are prevalent among Utah’s youth. Do you believe Utah’s educational system has a role to play in supporting the social and emotional wellness of its students? How can school boards support the needs of Utah students?
Our educational system absolutely has a role in helping to address the emotional wellness of students. Students should feel a sense of safety (psychological and physical) and belonging in their schools. Anti-bullying efforts for students and also for teachers. WSD created Zen Dens in all of its schools and I’d love to see OSD do the same.
Do you support governmental appropriation of taxpayer funds to provide support to parents who wish to have their children attend private schools?
No, I don’t support any allocations that take much-needed funds from our public schools. These vouchers have historically proven to contribute to greater segregation in our schools. Students are more successful when they attend diversely integrated schools and I don’t support any policy that exacerbates segregation.
Politicization of Education
How has the politicization of education changed the campaigning process—and the nature of school boards, themselves? Is this change beneficial to Utah's public school system?
I feel like more people are starting to pay attention to school board races; I don’t know yet if that’s good or bad. I’ve been surprised that even in a nonpartisan race, it feels pretty polarized. I am good at connecting with people who may not hold my same views and I’m counting on that to help get me elected.
Is there an unasked question you would love to answer? Please tell us about the issue you are passionate about that we have not touched upon.