Veronica Stoltz laughs now at the memory of paying her filing fee to run for school board with a jar full of pennies. But she still believes that the “silly gesture” she admits that it was, reflected her reason for running.
“I wasn’t going to treat issues as broad and collective issues,” she said, “but the way they trickle down to the individual.”
Her own struggles to receive specialized services for her daughter ultimately drove her to seeking a spot on the district’s governing body.
“I think growth is born of struggle and that would be true for me in deciding to run for the school board,” she said a few weeks before her final meeting on May 24.
When she was elected, she knew that she would likely not be a completely welcome presence for some.
“I stepped forward…anticipating that my dissatisfaction with the status quo would not be comfortable for everyone, but I feel like that is how we improve,” she said. “We don’t shy away from opportunities to develop and refine.”
Stoltz and her husband, Jon, who works for ShopHQ in Eden Prairie are heading to Arizona this summer to pursue new opportunities. The couple has four children: Spencer, 24, who attends Brigham Young University; Nathan, 21, who is completing a two-year mission experience in the Netherlands; Ryan, 16; and Katie, 12.
Stoltz, who works for a medical software company, says her youngest children are facing a difficult transition but are handling it well.
“They have very special relationships with their classmates and their teachers,” she said. “They’re being troopers and we know that they will develop new skills by adapting to a new environment and making new friends.”
Paying her filing fee with pennies led to her election in November 2019. The school board had said it was planning for a special election this November to complete the remainder of Stoltz’s four-year term. Instead, on June 18, the board quickly installed Karla Bastrud.
Looking back at her experience on the board, Stoltz says she hopes one of her most important contributions is a sensitivity to listen to individual voices that represent a silent group of people less inclined to write a letter or attend a school board meeting.
“I don’t hear with ears that dismiss things as being singular issues,” she said. “I think of them as being an opportunity to probe and understand something that deserves more attention.”
At the same time, she encourages community members to participate.
“We need more people stepping forward to start a discussion about things that matter to them … that impact them,” she said. “We have an amazing community and I would just like to hear from its more diverse voices more frequently.”
Last November, Stoltz was found to be in violation of several school board policies during a meeting Aug. 24, 2020, just before school was set to begin amidst the coronavirus pandemic. She eventually apologized for her actions. (See addl. EPLN school board stories.)
Stoltz thinks that casting her as the focal point of that meeting is a misrepresentation. “It’s missing the larger point of what 75-plus teachers, parents, and community members brought to that meeting to express,” she said.
“I’m far more concerned about the issues, the concerns and the opportunities.”
“I feel like some of the struggle that I’ve experienced is not in any way limited to that meeting …,’ she said.
“I think it’s a mistake to shy away from the opportunity to hear from the people who are most engaged, most informed, and most able to educate,” she said. They know how to make “things run more smoothly, effectively, to improve overall student performance and experience.”
“I sincerely appreciate as a mother the ways in which my kids have been enhanced because I’ve had the privilege of raising them in Eden Prairie,” Stoltz said.
“I have kind neighbors who have been safe places for my kids to go … I’ve had teachers who were interested in my kids that far outreached the walls of the classroom.”
She said she has experienced exceptional moments in the community, including when a cafeteria worker her son “just adored” attended his graduation party.
“I love that,” she said. “I love that our community has developed favorite bus drivers that they look forward to seeing every single day and that are warm and caring and concerned about them as individuals.”
Replacing those people in her family’s lives is a daunting prospect, she said.
“All of those people have been instrumental in my greatest work, which is being a mom,” she said.
“It’s been a long journey for our family and I just want to make sure that people know that is really a big part of what will make rolling out of our driveway for the last time really hard.”
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