Versha Munshi-South (D)

Stamford Board of Education

Leadership Coach

This is the third school year impacted by the pandemic, and we simply can’t wait for the pandemic to be “over” to provide our students with an excellent education. As an educator, and as a mother with students in the Stamford school system today, I believe that the most pressing issue facing our town is shifting from reacting to the pandemic to proactively planning and adapting our approach, so we can best educate students and support faculty and staff in this new reality. My professional and academic background in education offers me a unique perspective in this space , and I would work with the BOE and district to ensure that we design and implement smart, proactive policies that prioritize the health and safety of our students and faculty, while helping them continue to learn.

Our current district curriculum audit is the first step towards ensuring that our students have equitable access to rigorous instructional materials at every level and at every school. Following the audit, the district must move quickly to replace outdated and weak materials, and provide school-based staff with appropriate professional development opportunities and resources so that teachers have the tools and training they need to best meet the needs of all of their learners. As a BOE member, I would bring my knowledge of best practices in curriculum review and implementation to discussions and decisions involving curricular resources.
The presence of racial and ethnic diversity in our schools allows students to consider perspectives and opinions beyond those they’ve already formed or were shaped in early life by family and friends. Unlike neighboring towns, students of color comprise the majority of the student population in Stamford Public Schools. When students enter the professional world, they will join a vast and diverse workforce. Interacting with people of all different backgrounds and mindsets can present a challenge without prior exposure to diversity, especially at a younger age. It is vital that we are graduating students who are able to work with people from diverse backgrounds, so that they are able to achieve post-secondary success.

Our greatest strength should be that we not only celebrate our diversity, but develop an innovative model on how to best meet the needs of our population. While most of our students are people of color, most of our teachers in Stamford Public Schools are White. We must prioritize programs to diversify our teaching staff, such as paraeducator or high school to teaching pipelines. All of our teachers and school leaders must be committed to providing students with access to grade-level instruction so that they are set up for a variety of strong post-secondary options. Differentiating instruction and meeting students where they are should be the center of our teacher professional development. Our district and Board of Ed should continually review school-wide programs and practices to ensure that they are well-aligned to the Equity and Diversity Policy.
Given that the school buildings are owned by the city, and not the Board of Ed, we must work together closely to deal with our aging structures. Coming onto the Board of Ed, I would prioritize building upon the work that has been done by the Long-Term Facilities Committee, which is composed of representatives from the city government, district, and Board of Education. It is essential to understand both the history, and the current state, of the facilities in order to make the best plans to move forward. Our city is already in the process of collaborating with SLAM, an architectural firm, in order to assess the current state of facilities and create a master plan for moving forward.

While the schools that are most impacted by mold demand urgency and immediate action, our Boards also need to work together in order to ensure that buildings are regularly being maintained by custodial staff with the proper training and skills. In the process of creating and implementing facilities planning, it is essential that we continue to engage the community to learn about their concerns and priorities, and return to the community with clear communication about how repairs and maintenance are moving forward. While the city is ultimately the entity that takes ownership over repairs and funding for new schools, as a BOE member I would prioritize collaborating with the other Boards to ensure our students have the facilities that they deserve.