Meet Jessica Chartoff
MIDDLEBORO — Jessica Chartoff has attended her share of School Committee meetings, sitting in the audience, listening and learning about issues that impact Middleboro students.
She eventually decided, with encouragement from some school staff members and parents, to attempt a move from the sidelines to the School Committee table.
Now, as she runs for one of two three-year terms on the School Committee, she said one strength she brings is her interest in learning. “I like to say, I am really intellectually curious.’’
She said she enjoys determining “how things fit together. How do you go through a budget and decide what to cut? How do you support teachers in what has to be the hardest time ever to be a teacher?’’
Right now, the most significant issue facing the schools, she said, is the mental health challenges faced “all around’’ since the pandemic.
Support is needed not only for students, she said, but also for administrators and teachers as people face “that feeling of instability as everybody’s dealing with their own personal struggles.’’
One way to help teachers, she said, is by “listening’’ so they felt heard, she said. “Any time there is a discussion about curriculum, solicit teacher opinion.’’ The same should be done if a controversial subject is on the table, she said. “Make sure their voices are heard.’’
Another concern, she said, is the town’s growing school population, with the newly built high school already at capacity.
She attributes the rapidly growing numbers in part to the increasing town population, the return of some students who had opted for vocational schooling back to the new high school and the closing of some area Catholic schools, with students then entering public schools.
“It’s very different than what we expected,’’ she said.
And the impact can be significant, she said. A teacher needed to teach an extra class of English, for example, is one less teacher able to teach a popular elective.
“I’d like to get more information from the people who deal with’’ this on a regular basis. “I may not have the answers, but it needs to be discussed.’’
On the issue of whether to keep specific books out of school libraries, which has become an issue in the region and across the country, Chartoff notes that parents can opt out of allowing their children to avoid specific books if they have concerns about them.
But that decision should be made for their child specifically and not for the overall school population. “Representation matters,’’ she said of the variety of individuals discussed in these books. If children see themselves in one of these books, “it has value and shouldn’t be overlooked.’’
She said she brings a “pretty level-headed’’ approach to the position she is seeking. “ I have a lot of experience listening to what people say and getting to the heart of what they mean.’’
She said she cares about every student in the Middleboro schools. “My heart goes out to them, which leads to my desire to help.’’