I think this is the most important election in Amherst school politics in a decade.
Over the past 11 years, as my kids have moved through the Amherst elementary, middle and high schools, I have watched, spoken before, and sent public comments to a number of school committee meetings. School committee is a microcosm of the world. You can understand a lot about power by watching it—the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, racism and sexism that can pervade discussions and the ways in which individuals claim victimhood to silence dissent. You can see the incredible courage that it takes to stand up for change in a small town of judgment, privilege, and inequality.
This courage—to stand up for what you believe in a patient, persistent, informed, and collaborative way—is what I have watched the amazing Amherst educators—from elementary to high school—cultivate in our children every day. But cultivating this must start at the top, which is why I am endorsing two candidates on the school committee ballot who have already demonstrated the ability to make difficult, informed, and courageous decisions, and to listen to others as they work across difference to find common ground: Laura Jane Hunter and Jennifer Shiao.
Laura is a tireless, resolute, and collaborative advocate for educators and children alike. She is devoted to the district and has a background in social work and public health. She has strong support from the educator community, knows the school system from the inside out, and is exactly who we need on the school board. I have known her as someone who is always willing to volunteer her time as a class parent for the classrooms at Wildwood, as leadership for the PGO at Wildwood and ARMS, and as a regular chaperone for school activities. Laura works a full-time job at UMass, and is the parent of two children in the district. She is an honest, open person who is willing to face challenging situations head on, and has already demonstrated her commitment to the students and the educators over and over again through the years.
Jennifer is a patient and persistent advocate for educators and children. She drafted and advocated for a statement of support for LGBTQIA+ students in the wake of the controversy surrounding the treatment of students at the middle school. She pushed to restore Art and Technology specials teachers to full time at our elementary schools. And she sits on the Superintendent Search Subcommittee, where she is advocating to ensure an open, transparent, and inclusive search process, with robust community input. In short, she has demonstrated an ability to thoughtfully and carefully consider information from multiple perspectives, as well as an incredible commitment to the district over the last year of turmoil.
I have complete faith that Laura Jane Hunter, along with Incumbent Jennifer Shiao, will bring openness, transparency, and balance to a disrupted district and be the change that our educators, leaders, and children deserve.
Catherine Corson is a resident of Amherst