Commentary: Give kids a true seat at the table

Posted 11/17/22

Former school committee chairperson Erin Schofield, who opted not to run again after eight years of service, gave the following statement during Monday night’s school committee meeting.

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Commentary: Give kids a true seat at the table


My husband has forever jokingly said to me that my autobiography would be called, ‘Thank You For Having Me.’ So, I just want to start out by saying, thank you for having me.

Parents and guardians, students and teachers, school and district administrators, my school committee colleagues, all my fellow community members, thanks for trusting me with your concerns, sharing your personal stories with me, your triumphs, your challenges, your frustrations over the last eight years. I never took your words lightly.

And a big gigantic thank you to my incredible husband and three amazing, kind, understanding, resilient daughters, one of whom attended Monday night policy meetings with me for four years — for dinner afterwards, but still — and has dealt with things during my two terms on this committee that neither she nor any child, I think, should have had to deal with. I love you, my precious family.

I also want to congratulate the newest members of the school committee, Jessica Almeida and Adam McGovern…congratulations. And to Kyle Jackson from Warren, along with my colleague and incumbent committee member, Carly Reich, back for four more years.

No one who isn’t passionate or ready to work runs for this position, and everyone who runs has a reason to run. You just have to, to get involved to this degree and put in this much time. Just some humble advice from a gal who has been doing this a while. Put your personal goals and personal agendas in the backseat for now and invite some students into the passengers seat.

Let’s stop saying, ‘This isn’t about politics, it’s about the kids.’ It’s disingenuous. Every individual is political just by nature of being a human being with personal beliefs, religions, biases, and opinions. Our kids would tell us that. Let’s start saying, ‘Let’s bring students in on this. Let’s hear from them.’ They’re the ones on the front lines and they’re the benefactors, for better or worse, of every decision we make up here.

In my perfect world, perhaps, there would be nine students sitting up here, sharing their vision for their schools, what they want, and their peers want, what they want their schools to look like, feel like, how and what they want to learn, and how they want to support one another despite their differences.

We want them to learn how to do this, right? I think so, so that when they’re sitting up here some day, they’re sitting up here in a spirit of caring and collaboration, because that’s how the real work gets done.

You want to take out the politics and the personal agendas and focus, for real, on the kids? What they want, need, and deserve? You want them to feel safe, and valued, and smart, and respected? You want them to respect authority, their peers, and their school buildings? Give them a seat — a meaningful one, not just a symbolic one, at the table. Let’s stop presuming what our kids need, and ask them what they need. They’re the whole reason we’re here.

Again, thanks so much for having me, it’s been an honor.

Erin Schofield
Former School Committee Chairperson

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.