School board candidate Kaur wants to listen to community


BRATTLEBORO — Emily Murphy Kaur, who is running for a seat on the board for the consolidated Windham Southeast School District, has long been interested in having voices from communities heard in

educational settings.

"Since the unified district will be in the process of figuring out how to work together and creating structures to ensure that decision-making stays responsive to community values, I thought this would be a great time for me to be involved and share the skills and experiences I've had throughout my career in education," said Kaur, who has been a teacher and a director of an educational think tank where she worked with school

districts in Massachusetts to facilitate "more

responsive governance."

Kaur, who moved to town recently, was elected to the Brattleboro Town School Board in March. She also is the author of "Improving Education Together," a book describing how to create a culture of collaboration with an eye to prioritizing community feedback.

Serving on the new board "would be a great way for me to support our schools and I'd be honored to advocate on behalf of the communities it represents," said Kaur, referring to Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney. "The process of merging, which was imposed by the state, has been very fracturing for our communities who were largely opposed to Act 46. Now at the brink of us becoming one district, there is an immediate need to build relationships between and within communities that foster trust and promote transparency."

A key aspect in the process, Kaur said, "will be to engage in a lot of listening to what each community values; creating effective communication structures that increase transparency; and prioritizing the establishment of strong school-level, leadership councils that encourage broader participation in decision-making processes."

Kaur sees the limited time for merging and the learning curve for working as "a unified community" as bigger challenges facing the new district. Windham Southeast School District must be operational by July 1.

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"With a change of this size, there will be a lot of learning that will need to take place rapidly, and time-sensitive decisions that will need to be made and pushed through to ensure that high-quality teaching and learning continues," Kaur said.

"That said, at some point we will need to take a pause from rapid decision-making and shift our focus toward creating a collaborative community amongst our board members and schools."

Kaur is certain the process will include "challenges and balancing acts."

"But," she said, "the hope is that by working together we will be better able to share ideas, collaboratively problem solve, and overall seed more innovation between and amongst the schools — ultimately improving educational opportunities in Windham Southeast for all students."

Kaur said the new district has "many hard-working people who are invested in students" including administrators, teachers, support staff and parent-teacher organizations.

"There is also no shortage of innovation in our schools, as shown by the diverse opportunities that exist for our students and the new initiatives that are ever emerging," she said. "Everyone involved wants the highest quality opportunities for students and understands fostering growth and creativity in a safe and supportive environment is of top priority. This solid base provides a great foundation for the new unified school board to begin its work."

Elections will be held Tuesday, May 21 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in each of the four towns. Early voting has begun.

Each town will have two representatives. For Brattleboro, Kaur and Robin Morgan are running for a one-year term. Ricky Davidson, David Schoales and Susan Schmitt are competing for a three-year seat.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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