The highlights

  • Division faces substitute teacher shortage
  • A big push for more transparency for newly revised gifted program, Quest
  • Changes to public comment session
  • The suspension rate for nonwhite students vs. white students

The newest member of the Charlottesville School Board, Lashundra Bryson Morsberger, continued to voice some of the changes she’d like to see to the division when she attended her first meeting on Thursday.

Bryson Morsberger, who succeeded Ned Michie, is among seven members of the School Board. She stressed that as she serves on the board, she will focus on all the inequities.

One of the reasons Bryson Morsberger ran, she said, was because of the New York Times article that detailed some of the racial disparities in the division’s gifted program, Quest. Although the school system is 43% white, 37% Black and 11 % percent Latino, 73% of students in the gifted program are white, 13% are Black and 5% are Latino.

Some of her priorities include  measuring outcomes in the revamped gifted program, changes to the public comment session at School Board meetings and addressing the substitute teacher shortage.

Q: What changes need to be made in the public comment session? 

A: The public comment part starts at 5 p.m. Sometimes, if you get off at 5 p.m. from work, you’re not going to make it. I was thinking they can at least move the public comment a little bit into the meeting.

There needs to be some room for those who might work a 9-to-5 job. I’ve missed the window before. It’s either you comment at the very beginning or at the very end.

I'm pushing for transparency. There just doesn’t seem to be any measurable outcomes. That's what I'm working on. It's to find ways to make us accountable to the public.

Lashundra Bryson Morsberger Charlottesville School Board Member

Q: What do you recommend for the substitute teacher shortage? 

A: I was in no way making a comment on the [human resources] department. They’re doing the best that they can. I was questioning the leadership from the top, like when I’m talking to Dr. Rosa Atkins. They can only do what she directs them to do.

From an HR perspective, I talked to a lot of people who didn’t even know there was a substitute teacher shortage in our schools. I suggest some type of local fair to see if people in the community might want to help, who aren’t aware.

We just need to bring as much attention as we can. In my HR background, as HR, we try to make it easy for you if it’s a hard-to-fill position. We try to find some flexibilities, like different ways to approach you, whether it’s different types of incentives.

The salary on the website was not correct. It was hard for me as a board member to get the salary. I can only imagine if you’re a member of the public because the website says about $11 [an hour]. You can make that money doing a lot of other things other than a substitute teacher. We just have to do the best we can to pull people in and make people aware.

Q: What are  you willing to do to show transparency about the gifted program? 

A: I’m pushing for transparency. There just doesn’t seem to be any measurable outcomes. That’s what I’m working on. It’s to find ways to make us accountable to the public.

[We need] to hear the numbers because it’s all about the outcomes. I’m a proponent of having measurable outcomes [that can easily be] accessed on our website.

We just need to bring as much attention as we can. In my HR background, as HR, we try to make it easy for you if it’s a hard-to-fill position. We try to find some flexibilities, like different ways to approach you, whether it’s different types of incentives.

Lashundra Bryson Morsberger Charlottesville School Board Member

Q: What can people expect from you?

A: I’m going to be talking about equity, and I’m going to be talking about literacy, specifically for African American students.

Before I took my seat, the last meeting, the budget meeting came up. There was a discussion about the reader, and buying them before the end of the year because we would get a discount. [Basal readers are used in K-5. So, when you you’re teaching to the standards, what kids should be learning at those grades for reading, you don’t have to go ahead and search for something]

You have books that already meet the standards in your classroom, which you can go to for reading materials.

We had one, and now we’re getting a new one. It was being piloted. We’re not going to get the results of the pilot until February. I’m going to be paying attention to the results of the pilot, and specifically how the reading material, the new readers that we’re getting, how they’re working and how they’re helping with the reading and literacy.

I’m going to be paying attention to the gap for African American students in reading at grade level, from SOL results from the past few years.

A: What about suspension rates for nonwhite students and white students? 

Q: I’m going to be paying attention to all of that. I want to focus on all of the inequities and look at those numbers. That’s why last night I was referred to Fairfax [County Public Schools].

As soon as you go on their website, they have this equity tool that you can use, and it shows you suspension levels and it shows you everything that you need to know.

So, I’m concerned about anything that affects African American students. I’m concerned about all of that. As much as I can take on, I will because it’s all important. It all affects somebody.