Column: Know Your Easton Board of Education Members

Jen de Jesus, Jenny Chieda and Devon Wible Continue Their Service 

There are currently three open seats on the Board of Education, and there are three people running for those seats. Because it’s a local board, Easton Board of Education needs to have equal representation from Republicans and Democrats. This year, we have one member supported by the Easton Republican Town Committee running for a full term (Jenny Chieda), one member supported by the Easton Democratic Town Committee running for a full term (Devon Wible), and an additional member supported by the EDTC running to fill a vacancy for four years (Jen de Jesus).

Since we often attend BOE meetings, but rarely get to know the members as individuals, I asked Jenny, Devon and Jen if they would be willing to answer some questions that would give the Easton community more insight into what they each bring to their positions as BOE members.   

(L-R): Devon Wible, Jenny Chieda, Jen de Jesus

How long have you lived in Easton?

Jen de JesusMy husband and I moved to Easton 4 years ago.  We have a 6 year-old daughter, Clara, who is in first grade at Samuel Staples Elementary School.  I also have three step children who I adore, Eric, Fernando and Isabella.  

Jenny Chieda: All totaled, about 35 years.  I grew up in Easton, and my husband, Drew, and I moved here as adults in 2013.

Devon Wible:  Almost 5 1/2 years.

What do you like most about Easton? 

Jen de Jesus: We chose to move to Easton for the well-regarded school system and beautiful farming community.  Over the past 4 years, we have grown to love our community for all of the wonderful friendships we have developed.

Jenny Chieda: For me, it’s a hundred little things that add up to home. I love the quiet, and the woods, the farmers, and people’s respect for the land.  I love the sound of people’s shoes on the rough floor in the Post Office. I love that everyone gets in a tizzy before Christmas if it seems like the lights on the reservoir tree are taking too long to be lit.  It’s just this beautiful, safe, caring, peaceful place to be, and neighbors would do anything for each other.

Devon Wible: I love the community and connection. I love that I know my neighbors, that we have great schools with professionals who truly care for our kids, and that we have beautiful town that values nature. 

What’s your background and expertise that you bring to your position as an Easton BOE member? 

Jen de Jesus: I have 20 years of Accounting and Finance experience in both public accounting and corporate finance.  As a member of the Easton Board of Education, I can utilize my financial expertise to help the Board of Education collaborate with the Board of Finance during the annual budget process.

I earned my B.S. in Accounting from SUNY Oneonta (May 1998).  Upon graduating, I joined a regional Accounting Firm in Florida where I worked for 6 years enabling me to earn my CPA license (July 2002).  I then attended the University of West Florida where I earned my MBA degree (Dec 2005).  Upon completing my MBA, I relocated back to my home state of NY where I joined IBM.  During my 15 year career with IBM, I worked in numerous roles across the Accounting, Finance and Operation organizations.  

I am confident that both my educational background and my 20 year career in Accounting and Finance will allow me to be a strong advocate for our Easton families.  In my 15-year career with IBM, I successfully collaborated with peers across numerous organizations and around the globe to ensure that the team achieved its goals.  My strong analytical and presentation skills will allow me to help my Easton BOE members prepare for budget negotiations. 

Jenny Chieda: I’ve been a classroom teacher for over 20 years. I’ve worked with some of our poorest youth and also in a very high performing district. I am also a graduate of each of the schools that being on the Easton board gives me the opportunity to serve. I’m a mom, an Eastonite, and an educator, and each perspective helps me to do this work with love and commitment to our community.

Devon Wible: I am a life-long educator. I earned an undergraduate degree in History from Princeton University and a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas. Professionally, I started my career as a high school social studies educator teaching in New Jersey. I left the classroom in 2007, and have worked in educational leadership for the last 14 years. For the last 4 1/2 years, I have served as the Vice President of Academics at the FullBloom Organization overseeing curriculum development, assessment, instructional excellence, and instructor training. I also currently sit on the Easton Board of Education, serving on the Curriculum and Joint Wellness committees and the DEI Task Force. 

What has motivated you to continue on as a board member for Easton Public Schools?

Jen de Jesus: I want to be an advocate for the children in our community to ensure that they receive the best possible education.  Our schools need adequate funding to ensure that all critical programs are provided.

Jenny Chieda: Six years is a long stretch, and the last two have been extremely challenging, but I tried to remember why I agreed to join in the first place.  It was my way of thanking all of the people who made my education here possible, and my husband and I think it’s so important for our kids to see us contribute and support the place where we live. Dr. McMorran, our former superintendent, always said — we want our kids to grow from little humans to big humans, and for them to be able to choose their own futures.  That’s our social contract. That’s our obligation to every precious little person that walks through the doors of our schools. I guess I still want to be a part of making sure that we honor that. And finally, the way the timing worked out, I feel a sense of responsibility to stay and support the leaders we’ve recently brought into the district.  

Devon Wible: I am a passionate advocate for education and believe that I can bring my expertise and experience to continue to provide top-notch educational experiences to our community.

What is your vision for education in the Easton community?

Jen de Jesus: Let me start by saying that our school administrators and staff do an amazing job at providing an exceptional education to our children.  I believe we need to continue to ensure students excel at the core curriculum but also expand our focus on critical STEM programs.  I also believe it is necessary that our children have access to technology that will expand their educational experience.  I hope that our educational programs will teach our children to be critical thinkers and enable them to develop ideas of their own as they become our future leaders.

Jenny Chieda: I want to be sure to say that our schools are already wonderful, but we can always grow and help our programs move forward. I want students to leave our schools academically prepared and self-reliant. My vision for education in Easton is for us to be known as a system that cares for kids, preserves the joys of childhood, and graduates communities of highly skilled, socially conscious, creative problem solvers.  This vision includes Easton being a place where faculty feel invested in.  Our staff need to see active, long-term plans in place to ensure the system will grow with them and the needs of their students. 

Devon Wible: I want every child to feel celebrated, have their unique needs met, and feel welcome and supported in our school communities. In addition, I want every child to receive a world-class education that prepares them to excel in the future. 

What do you see as the major issue(s) facing the Easton school district?

Jen de Jesus: The on-going challenge to obtain support by the Easton Board of Finance to fund critical school programs. I will advocate for our prioritized funding requirements during the budget cycle.  One of the top reasons young families move to Easton is for our school system.  It is critical that we support the educational needs of our children to allow them to become strong leaders. 

Jenny Chieda: Right-sizing our classrooms and programs.  For several years, we have faced pressure to reduce staff and programming because of a declining student population, but we’ve passed the low point. Easton is growing, and our numbers are going to put pressure on our resources. We will have state and federal support dollars for COVID recovery, but for a finite period of time. Education is our largest financial commitment as a community, and it’s a big responsibility to get that right.  The swing in Easton’s percentage of the Barlow budget will also be part of the puzzle.

Retaining and supporting excellent, motivated leaders and faculty. There is a lot of focus on student mental health, and rightly so. But we need to talk more about the sustainability of what we ask our administrators and faculty to do. COVID has taken a toll.  Educators are leaving the field in record numbers.  Burn-out and constant budget pressures are a challenge in ER9.  Sometimes we lose faculty to higher-paying districts with more centralized support.  The average tenure of a superintendent in CT is 2-3 years, and that is without the unique challenges of our three-district system.  We have a lot of work to do to support our teachers and find out what our administrators need from us to make their work sustainable and rewarding.  

Community discord, misinformation, and diversity. Easton’s student population is more diverse than it’s ever been.  Diversity and inclusion have to be part of the fabric of our programming.  Every student needs to be able to see themselves as a part of all possible futures. The challenge we face is how to take the controversy out of this most essential educational practice, and find the balance between the very real needs of marginalized populations and the role parents want to play in the upbringing of their children.

Devon Wible: We have to continue to adapt to meet the evolving needs of students due to the disruptions caused by covid. Covid has disrupted student life for three school years, so we must make sure we have academic plans in place to accelerate learning so our children don’t lose ground academically. In addition, students do better when they feel seen, supported, and welcome in schools, so we have to ensure that every student feels safe and represented in the school communities. 

What are your areas of concern regarding student achievement in the Easton school district?

Jen de Jesus: Given the unprecedented challenges our children endured during the 2020-21 school year, our children need our support more than ever.  The health and well-being of our students should be our top priority.  We should look for opportunities to support our administration and teachers as they work to identify what actions are needed to support our students academic success as we recover from the pandemic.

Jenny Chieda: Since the closure in March 2020, each age group has missed out on critical periods of academic exploration and socialization, and their school experience now is still not typical.  There is understandable concern about test scores, but I’m equally concerned about our students making up ground in terms of how to be in school, and how to work through academic and social challenges.  Distance learning put children of all grade levels in front of screens far in excess of healthy, age-appropriate periods of time.  I am concerned about the effects of screen time, digital learning, and social media on student mental health and achievement.

Devon Wible: Covid has caused major disruptions for many students in Easton, and around the country. Our most recent SBAC scores show that we need to quickly address this disruption to ensure that students have strong foundations to excel in rigorous grade level work. To do this, we also have to address students social, emotional, mental well-being with evidence-based programs as well as increased counseling and mental health support.

Thank you ladies for answering these important questions and for your continued service to our Easton community and schools!

image_pdfimage_print