(Editor’s note: This is the first of two profiles that Kentucky Teacher will publish about the two new members to the Kentucky Board of Education who were appointed by the governor on May 30, 2023. The profile on Diana Woods will publish the week of June 12).
When Julie Pile’s daughter Sophia entered kindergarten, Pile wanted to be involved. Sophia’s elementary school parent-teacher association was looking for help with its website and Pile knew she could lend her talents. That decision to help with the website has led to more than 13 years of family engagement advocacy.
“It is an honor to be asked to be on the board,” said Pile. “I’ve had experience on the local level and a lot of what we do on the local level is promulgated by the state level, so to be able to have a parent voice input at the state level is really important.”
Pile has served in various volunteer and leadership positions with schools in northern Kentucky, including as local PTA president. She was a member of the Boone County Board of Education from January 2019 to December 2022 and served as the board’s chair in 2022.
As one of the newest KBE members, Pile wants to lead with a spirit of cooperation and transparency. To her, education is the gateway for every child and adult to teach their hopes and dreams.
“It’s really important that we all listen to each other and not be judgmental,” she said. “We need to be open to all perspectives, because not just one perspective is right.”
In 2015, Pile and Laura Gilchrist of Kansas City co-founded ParentCamp. Pile currently serves as the president. The national nonprofit offers virtual trainings across the United States for school communities, focusing on family-school-community engagement.
“When we first started ParentCamp, family engagement was always on the side. If we get to it, it’s always the same thing done over and over again, very compliance driven,” she said.
Prior to COVID-19, ParentCamp sessions were in-person. Pile recalls a meeting at Sherman Elementary (Grant County) for grandparents raising their grandchildren. It wasn’t until the end of the meeting that Pile realized that over half of the attendees were grandparents who already had a child graduate and simply wanted to be present to offer advice to other grandparents starting out.
“When we do ParentCamps and I see parents connecting, when I see parents feel like they become empowered and that they realize they can do things, that we are all in this together,” she said. “We have stories upon stories.”
When COVID-19 hit, families were feeling frustrated and isolated. ParentCamp immediately flipped to a virtual model. Pile and Gilchrist had found their niche.
“People really do get along, you just have to provide the right environment and a safe space for people to authentic and transparent,” Pile said. “When you do that, you automatically see relationships being built.”
The work has become global: ParentCamps have been in 48 states and seven countries. Training topics include addressing family trauma and increasing family involvement.
Pile’s advice to families who don’t know where to start when getting involved in a student’s school is to go outside of their comfort zone and push themselves to show up.
“Show up to a meeting where you think you don’t have any kind of input, but you actually do,” she said. “You have to put yourself out there. Every single person has a gift and a talent to share with our schools and communities and it’s figuring out how you plug in.”
Pile currently represents community members as a member of the Kentucky United We Learn Council. Council members are exploring how to create the future of public education in the Commonwealth by advancing three connected ideas: vibrant learning experiences for every student; encouraging innovation in assessment and accountability; and collaborating closely with communities. Pile sees the United We Learn work as essential to 21st-century education.
“We know our education system isn’t working to its fullest potential. We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again,” she said. “The reimagining and digging in to change education for the better for our kids is the most important thing.”
Pile’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. She was awarded the Robert J. Storer Business-Education Champion of the Year by the Northern Kentucky Education Council in 2022. In 2017, she was recognized for her exceptional leadership as the inaugural recipient of the Beverly Nickell Raimondo Kentucky Parent Leadership Award, named after the founder of the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership. In 2015, she received the Bammy Award People’s Choice Parent Leadership accolade.
Pile is also a business owner at Stinger Media and a strategic partner at Zamary Law Firm.
Originally from northwest Ohio, Pile currently lives in Florence with her husband and has two children.
Pile’s term expires April 14, 2026.