Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Franklin Candidate for School Committee: Monica Linden (audio)

FM #135

This internet radio show or podcast is number 135 in the series for Franklin Matters.

This recording is my interview with School Committee Candidate Monica Linden. We recorded this at the Franklin TV studios.

You’ll find the full text of the audio transcription on the Franklin Matters post with this recording.

The interview itself runs about 10 minutes. Without further ado, here is the recording

FM - This is Steve Sherlock with another in a series of podcasts for Franklin matters. And today we're talking with Monica Linden who is one of the candidates for a school committee. So you've had a chance to preview the questions. There is nothing magic about them. For the benefit of the voters, give us a little bit of background and what your Franklin story is. How you got here. If you grew up here. Your family life. What Franklin is to you.

Monica Linden (ML): So I am a lecturer on the faculty in the neuroscience department at Brown University. And in that position I have experience as a front line educator and I've been teaching for about a decade and a half in the university setting. And when I was pregnant with my first child my husband and I wanted to find a place where we could settle down with our family. Where we could I could easily commute down to Brown and he could work up here in Massachusetts and we looked around and we really fell in love with Franklin in a large part because of how great the school system was we wanted a place where we could lay down our roots raise our children grow our family. And that's exactly what we ended up finding here. 

It's been a wonderful community we've been embraced by the community and we love being here. So now that we've been here my daughter's in the school system now I feel like it's time for me to get back. And because of my expertise in teaching and in learning. I feel like school committee is the best place for me to give back, using my abilities to their absolute best so I can do the best for Franklin.

FM - So from a school committee perspective what do you see as their challenges. What do you see as the challenge of the role now as a school committee members like that.

ML -  I think if you ask anyone what the biggest challenge was for the school committee they're probably going to tell you it's money. We have one of the lowest per pupil expenditures and in the past the school committee has always done the best that they can with the money that they have. But what I'd like to do is see us improve our communication with the town, and with this town council, so that we might better sell the value of the schools to the community, so everyone understands all the great things that are happening. 

I know that there's been some efforts from previous school committees to improve communication and I want to make sure we continue on with those. For example Chairman O'Malley was bringing students over to the Senior Center to make sure that the seniors got to see all the exciting things that were going on with the students and get them involved in the students lives. And that was a very successful program. I want to make sure we continue things like that. 

Now that he won't be on the committee I want to make sure we can engage all the people in the community even the people that don't have students in the system so that they can see the value of the Franklin schools to our town. Additionally it's really important that we have a great relationship with the Town Council because they do hold those purse strings. So I want to work on building a better connection between the school committee and the town council. I don't think we should have an adversarial relationship with them.

I think we should be working together because we all have the same goal of improving the town. And again it's about making sure they know the great things that are happening in the schools, making sure they know how money spent in the schools is a great investment, not just in the schools itself, but in the town as a whole. 

Another thing that I think we need to think about right now in the Franklin schools is that it's this really exciting new time with the new superintendent. With the new superintendent and with an expired mission statement for the schools, we really need to work on strategic planning. I know they've begun this process and I want to be part of the group that continues on with the strategic plan. 

As I mentioned I'm a neuroscientist and I think a lot about how the brain works. In fact I teach a class called the neurobiology of learning and memory where we think about what goes on obviously in the brain and in brain cells during learning. But I also spend about 25 percent of my time with the students thinking about student learning. What students can do to help their own learning. And what I can do to facilitate that learning. This is also my area of research at Brown. I focus on how to improve my pedagogy to make my classrooms as productive as possible as I can for all my students. So I want to bring that lens.

As a neuroscientist on the school committee, in general for policy decisions, but also specifically for the strategic planning so that we have a clear mission statement for all our policy decisions going forward that we can point to, and make sure that we're making the best decisions, that are going to meet our five year and 10 year goals for the schools. 

Just give you a little bit more about me. I also am really passionate about diversity and inclusion and that's another lens. I want to look at policies and make sure we include in the strategic plan.At Brown I work with other faculty and administrators making sure that we have inclusive classrooms and we're honoring the diversity of our students. And I want to see that happening here in the Franklin schools as well whether it's diversity of race, religion, socio-economic status, neurodiversity, diversity of ability. We want to make sure we're meeting the needs of all our students. They're feeling respected in the classroom and that they're able to learn and be included in that learning. 

And this applies not just to the students but to our faculty and administrators as well. We want everyone to feel included in the school's So I want to look through the lens of a neuroscientist with expertise about the brain. I want to look through the lens of inclusive classrooms. 

Furthermore I am a scientist who advocates for science at the national level. I also advocate for STEM science technology engineering and mathematics funding. And that's something that I'm passionate about want to make sure we have good gender equity when it comes to STEM education. I want to make sure we're preparing our students for future jobs that are going to be out there. So I'm very passionate about STEM education. 

We moved here because of my children. So I also want to look at the schools through the eyes of a parent. My daughter is a Keller kid. So now I have that perspective as well. And I want to address all these issues for the Franklin schools with this really neat package that I feel only I'm bringing as candidate.

FM -  And I think you segued right into that third question as well. Is there anything else you want to add, perhaps in regards to what you uniquely bring to the table.

ML - I don't think any other person has this unique package and I don't think most school systems can say that they have someone who thinks hard about how the brain works in terms of learning and how that applies in the classroom. 

One more thing I would add that is because I'm a college educator I see students after they come out of school systems and even though I'm at quite a good university I find that my students are often unprepared for college, and not in terms of content, that's not what I mean. I mean they're unprepared in the ways that we would want everyone to be prepared when they come out of high school whether they're going to college or going into the job market or community college whatever their next path is. They don't have great time management skills. They don't always work well in teams. They're not prepared to become lifelong learners. 

And these are things that I would really hope to see in students coming out of high school so that they can segue into the next phase of their life. So again I want to make sure that the policy decisions that we're making are supporting these aspects of our students so that when they leave the Franklin schools they're prepared for whatever their next adventure is.

FM - So the Franklin Cultural Council submitted this question for a town council candidate. So as the school committee candidate if you want to answer it, you can. The question is 
"As you know Franklin has applied to the state for an unofficial cultural district district designation in town. What do you feel is the role of arts and culture and Franklin and what is your plan to advance that agenda."

ML - I think this is a really interesting question and I think first of all it brings up the fact that we're so lucky to live in a town that has all these arts opportunities right here. We have theater and performance arts. Easy to get to take the kids and it's great. What are the things that came to mind for me in thinking about arts in the schools and obviously I'm a supporter of art and music education, it reminded me of the Franklin Art Academy which is this really special program that we have and one of the things that makes our high school unique and wonderful and I want to make sure we continue to support that.

But in thinking about this the Cultural Council as well. I was wondering and I'd like to explore more if there is a synergy between the schools and the Art Council. Perhaps they can bring performances into the schools or facilitate local field trips and get our students more excited about them, participating in things outside of the classroom get their families involved. So I think there might be an opportunity for synergy here and I'm interested in following up and learning more about that. 

Well thank you Steve for inviting me and giving me this opportunity for the people of Franklin to get to know me better. And I'd love for them to continue to get to know me. You can visit my website at www.MonicaLinden.com or find me on Facebook at Elect Monica Linden for Franklin School Committee and I'm also happy to meet with anyone or answer questions on email or my phone number which are all available on those other places. 

So I think that I have made the case that I have something really unique to bring to Franklin to really help make our Franklin schools great. And I hope I can count on the listeners for their vote.


This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin but I can't do it alone. I can use your help.
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Thank you for listening.
For additional information, please visit Franklinmatters.org/
If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission
I hope you enjoy!


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