Robin Morgan is running for the Brattleboro one year seat on the school board.
Introduce yourself – who are you and why are you running for the school board?
I am a musician and music teacher and I am also engaged in the joyful and challenging work of raising three kids, all of whom attend WSESD schools. I served on the Brattleboro Town School board from 2017 until it was dissolved in 2019. I believe that schools where all students can become fulfilled, engaged learners and critical thinkers are an important part of making this world a better and more just place. I want to make sure teachers and students all have the support and opportunities they need to meet those goals. In this particular moment I also want to be a part of helping the district navigate some difficult issues such as the sexual abuse investigation.
What unique perspectives would you bring to the board if elected?
I think I actually have shared values with a lot of the other folks running for and serving on this board. I have a strong personal commitment to making sure our schools are anti-racist, gender-affirming spaces that create access for every child that takes account of their ability needs. Some of my strengths as a board member are that I’m usually a thoughtful, articulate communicator and I have empathy and compassion for everyone even when there are conflicts or difficult situations.
Did you have a good experience with your own education?
Yes. I had an idyllic experience in my public elementary school in a racially and economically diverse town in central Illinois. I loved school, loved my teachers, and found learning fun and interesting. I went to an extremely rigorous middle/high school and I really struggled academically and socially for the first couple of years but with the support of the counseling staff, teachers, and my family, I found my footing and was able to meet academic expectations and find my niche in the theater and music world.
Do you think Brattleboro students are getting a high-quality education? Why or why not?
I feel like I have a really good sense from my time on the Brattleboro Town School Board and my nine years as an elementary school parent of what education here looks like at that level and I feel confident that for the most part our elementary schools are offering a very high quality, holistic and well-rounded education. My middle schooler’s experience at BAMS has been good and I am continually impressed by the offerings there. I have less experience and knowledge about the high school but I’m looking forward to getting to know that school better both at the board level and as a parent, as my oldest child will start 9th grade there in the fall.
From talking to other parents and hearing from youth, I think that one place we can continue to improve is in supporting kids who have more complex needs. We tend to talk about some of these struggles in terms of “behavior” and “discipline” but I think at the heart of it is really finding what are the challenges and barriers for each student and working with them to address or overcome those problems. I am so pleased that we now have a Special Education Parent Advisory Committee and I really look forward to how their input can help us make school more accessible and successful for every child.
There was a time when Brattleboro held teacher exams and the public could attend. Do you think the community knows enough about teacher qualifications in 2023?
I’m not familiar with any public teacher examinations in the past couple decades but the qualifications for licensing teachers are mandated by state statute and so are the requirements for ongoing professional development and those statutes are publicly accessible. I haven’t been aware of any issues with underqualified teachers.
The issue that we do have with teachers is the dwindling number of people willing to pursue or remain in the profession. There is a nationwide teacher shortage and we are definitely feeling the impact of it here. It seems like each August we are racing to the finish line to fill all the vacancies in classrooms before school begins. For this and many other reasons, it’s really important that our schools do well at retaining the good teachers we already have.
Should there be any limits on what books or materials students may have access to? Why or why not?
I don’t believe in banning books. I think our students should have access to any books that our teachers and librarians deem age-appropriate.
What educational theories or learning styles interest you?
As a school board member it’s not really in my purview to promote specific educational theories. Our administrators and teachers have a far deeper background and knowledge in that area than I do. I am really excited by our school district’s work to support outdoor education, project-based learning, and proficiency-based educational models. I’m really glad to see the implementation of a social justice framework at all levels of instruction and administration. I think that our administrators, curriculum coordinators and instructional coaches have a good foundation of what actually supports deeper learning and success for all students.
Per pupil spending near $20k a year, and it won’t be long before four years of high school is $100k. Thoughts?
I have been so incredibly heartened and impressed to see the deep level of commitment our schools have to student well-being and the wrap-around care they provide to help all students get all their needs met so they can be successful in school. Here in southeast Vermont we are facing some heavy challenges such as the housing crisis, impacts of opioid epidemic, and a lot of families frequently moving in and out of the community, and all of those things impact students at school. Universal free meals, social work and counseling support, and paraeducator support in many of our classrooms are expenses that are investments in our future. If you look at a lifetime view, creating robust support of children and a high quality education at the beginning of their lives is much less expensive that trying to address all the problems that impact people who have grown up without this support. During the school closure era of the pandemic, it was obvious to see all the ways that our public schools are the foundation holding up this entire society. If you look at it from that standpoint, public school tax spending is a bargain. I also appreciate that property tax payments can be a heavy lift for most people and I am glad that our budgeting process always includes careful consideration of that and measures to limit increases in the burden on taxpayers.
Can you recommend any good books or movies?
I’m currently working my way through Angela Berkfield’s masterpiece “Parenting 4 Social Justice” and I couldn’t recommend it more. WSESU is holding a book group for parents who want to be in a community of practice together – the next session is on March 29 and new people are welcome! I also am reading GennaRose Nethercott’s book “Thistlefoot” and it is captivating! I haven’t seen a new release in the theater since “The French Dispatch” in 2021, which I really enjoyed. Some of the recent hits at our family movie night at home have been “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Wendell and Wild.”
Is there any thing you’d like to discuss that we didn’t ask you about?
Thanks for taking time with iBrattleboro.com