Ogden school board swears in new member, now an all-female body
OGDEN — For the first time in a long time — maybe ever — the Ogden School District is led by an all-female board.
What that means, if anything, to the sorts of decisions school officials make remains to be seen. Stacy Bernal, who defeated incumbent school board member Douglas Barker in elections last year, was sworn in to office on Thursday, making the board an all-female body.
“I think either way, we’ll do a good job,” said longtime board member Jennifer Zundel, first elected to the body in 2004.
If nothing else, though, the change suggests a step forward for female participation in the public sphere. U.N. Women, a United Nations entity that works for gender equality and female empowerment, reports that women account for just 34% of elected local government officials in 136 countries studied. The National School Boards Association reported in 2020 that 51% of U.S. school board members were men and 49% were women.
Ogden school officials on Friday couldn’t immediately confirm if the current board is the first all-female roster. But Bernal said her perusal of Ogden school board rosters over the years on plaques at Ogden School District headquarters shows no all-female body, until now. Bernal defeated two-term incumbent Barker by a 64.3%-35.7% margin in voting last November.
“I think it’s significant mostly because it’ll be the first time in history it’s been all female,” said Bernal, a community advocate. Meg Van Wagenen’s defeat of incumbent McKay Jensen in last year’s elections also converted the Provo school board to an all-female body.
Bernal, who’s father is Filipino, also augments the racial and ethnic diversity of the Ogden school board. Bernal joins Arlene Anderson, Hispanic and elected to the school board in 2020, as the only members of color on the body.
“It’s always good to have diversity on the board,” Zundel said. The Ogden School District is a minority-majority district, with Latinos, African Americans, multiple-race students and others of color accounting for 56.8% of students, according to Utah Board of Education data for the 2022-2023 school year.
Whatever the implications of Bernal’s addition to the school board, though, Bernal doesn’t anticipate “groupthink” among her and her colleagues. While all the school board members may be female, each is unique in their views and outlooks. “We are still very, very diverse and have very different backgrounds,” Bernal said.
Beyond that, she said she brings more to the table than her gender and race.
“I think I’m the first Asian woman elected, so it’s pretty exciting to be the first. Otherwise, I think my background and experience in the world of autism, neurodiversity and equity are also important attributes I bring to the table,” she said. She has an autistic son and created a local advocacy group focused on the population, Awesome Autistic Ogden.
The members of the Ogden school board after Thursday’s swearing-in are Bernal, Zundel, Anderson, Nancy Blair, Susan Richards, Amber Allred and Joyce Wilson.