New Canaan resident Julie Toal is seeking the endorsement of the Republican Party for a seat on the elected Board of Education. We put some questions to Toal about her candidacy. Our exchange follows.
New Canaanite: Tell us about yourself—how long have you lived in New Canaan, what have you been involved with here in town and what has led you to seek elected office?
Julie Toal: I moved to New Canaan with my husband Peter five years ago. I have two children (four & five) and I have three step-children (16, 20 & 22). I grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Communications, and moved to New York City to work at CBLPath, Inc. When we saw New Canaan we knew this is where we wanted to settle down, it was love at first sight! The Norman Rockwell town, the caring and supportive community, the top ranked schools… I never miss the Memorial Day Parade, which is my favorite town event. I was filled with pride when my five-year old son marched in it for the first time this year with his baseball team. I was excited to get involved in New Canaan from the moment I arrived. I jumped right in, by serving in various leadership roles in the Newcomers Club of New Canaan, ultimately as President in 2018. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to meet others that have also chosen to make New Canaan their home and we have made so many close friends as a result of our family’s involvement. I am also a volunteer and fundraiser for The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society and I teach Sunday school at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. This September I will serve on the West School PTC as VP of Programs. I am grateful for the wonderful community spirit in New Canaan and have decided to run for a seat on the Board of Education because I firmly agree with the sentiment that our children are our greatest treasure. I believe in volunteerism and I want to give back to the town I love. I care deeply about our schools and I want to ensure their continued excellence. I am committed to this role and would be honored to serve New Canaan as a member of the BOE.
What qualifies you for the office you are seeking?
Before starting a family, I had a very successful career in medical sales where I honed my communication skills including listening, problem solving and consensus building. I feel I can bring these skills and my commitment to our BOE. The most important aspect of my role as president of Newcomers was communication… management of the executive board and communication with our over 500 member families, and as a liaison to the entire New Canaan community. But most of all, what qualifies me for the BOE is I am a mom, the hardest and yet most fulfilling job of my life. As a mom of children in the youngest grades in the public school system, I could not be more invested in our schools. I feel I have a very good rapport with many parents of young children in town and I feel strongly that I will be able to understand the issues facing our district and communicate effectively with the community and the district.
What is your vision for the elected body for which you are seeking GOP endorsement at the July 20 caucus?
My vision is to have representation on the Board that reflects the current make up of our school community. As a parent of children in the youngest grades in our schools I would bring a voice to the board that is not currently represented. With a more diverse representation, which should include parents with younger kids, parents of general education as well as special education, we can have better communication and avoid referendum votes that could potentially divide our community. I support improved communication between the district and our constituents – the parents and students who we serve. We should also listen to our wonderful teachers, exceptional administration, and the state government. Unfunded mandates from the state are a growing concern, and I would encourage dedicated legislative representation to ensure our needs and concerns are heard and understood. I believe as the district does in continuous improvement and the importance of teaching to the whole child. If elected, I will support continuous improvement of New Canaan’s already strong core curriculum, with an increased focus on STEM as well as opportunities for student enrichment and discovery of what inspires them through athletics, the arts and other extracurricular activities. The BOE is an integral part of our community. More than anything, my vision is for an active BOE that represents our entire town, efficiently manages the taxpayer dollars provided by the town and effectively communicates with the constituents. There is nothing more important than our schools – they help to nurture our children, and mold our future generations. So why do we need new voices on the BOE? Why now? The BOE describes itself as the bridge between our community and our school system. I want to strengthen that bridge. American education policy has been set by boards of ed representing local communities. They reflect those communities’ values and they reflect those students’ interests. Taxpayers and families are often busy in their daily lives and the BOE’s role is to be supportive but also critically evaluate and provide honest feedback. My candidacy is an effort to reconnect with our board’s mission to serve students and parents by representing them to the district. That will involve greater transparency and accountability to all taxpayers as well as school families. It isn’t a radical departure or something new. It is a refocus on the very purpose of local decision-making and citizen involvement.
[Editor’s Note: Between June 28 and July 9, NewCanaanite.com is publishing Q&As with local Republicans seeking party endorsement for elected offices in contested races at the July 20 GOP caucus. We will publish letters of endorsement for the Republican caucus and Democratic endorsement meeting through July 9. Comments are disabled on this post.]