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13 residents tell why they back Exton

Jane P. Morgan of Brattle Street, a member of the School Committee, submitted this letter.

Liz Exton, School Committee candidate, 2020 photoExton

I am really excited that Elizabeth (Liz) Exton has decided to run for Arlington’s School Committee. I have known Liz for three years as a parent, educator, volunteer and Town Meeting member who is deeply invested in the experience that all students have in Arlington’s public schools. I am confident that she understands the best interests of our diverse population of students.

I believe there are three critical priorities for the School Committee over the next 18 months. First is the hiring of a new superintendent. With Dr. Kathleen Bodie’s announcement that she will retire as superintendent at the end of school year 2020-21, the School Committee is responsible for hiring her replacement. We are committed to a search process driven by community and stakeholder engagement. Ultimately, the School Committee will make the final hiring decision.

Second is the Arlington High School rebuilding project. And third is the negotiation of a new three-year contract with our teachers’ union. These three things will happen simultaneously over the next school year.

There is nobody who I would rather work with on the School Committee as we continue with these three important initiatives than Liz Exton. Her experience as an educator in a public school district gives her valuable insight, especially into the Superintendent search and the union negotiations. Last spring, Liz dedicated her time to a successful vote securing the future of Arlington High School. She canvassed hundreds of voters and managed dozens of volunteers. She has a strong sense of the concerns and interests of the community and has shown that she is willing to put in the hours and the work to be a collaborative and engaged member of any team.

Arlington is lucky to have someone with Liz’s experience and temperament willing to serve on our School Committee. Liz has secured the support of many current School Committee members demonstrating her commitment to building relationships and working collaboratively with the group once elected. She will be welcomed, effective and dedicated from day one. I am very much looking forward to serving with Liz and encourage you to vote for her on or before June 6th. You can learn more about her, her family and her commitment to Arlington on her website at

This letter was published Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Kristin FitzGerald of Yale Road submitted this letter.

I will be enthusiastically voting for Elizabeth Exton for School Committee.

As teachers and Arlington Public School parents, Liz and I have spent countless hours over the eight years we have known each other discussing school policy, curriculum, cultural competencies and leadership. She is highly knowledgeable, consistently self-reflective about her own practice, and patiently able to synthesize multiple viewpoints in developing new ideas and proposing solutions for both short-term and longstanding issues. These are invaluable qualities, especially as we look ahead to, and plan for, an uncertain fall and the hiring and transition of a new superintendent.

Liz is tenacious and diplomatic, qualities that have helped her to, for example, successfully organize and advocate for all Arlington Kindergartens to have full-time aides, rally voters through her work with Build Arlington’s Future, and represent her constituents in Town Meeting. She knows when to be hands-on and when to step back to a 50,000-foot view. She understands the strategic and reflective role that a School Committee plays in a public school system.

Liz is passionate about education and the work that is involved in supporting all students -- those in her classroom each year and those who bring our APS classrooms to life. She understands deeply that in a classroom, in a school, in a district, educational equity requires groups of committed people working together to overcome a historical legacy of discrimination, marginalization and underinvestment. She brings an equity lens to her daily classroom and grade-level endeavors, as well as to her work with her faculty and staff at large.

Liz is a person who truly listens to, and hears, other people. At the same time, she does not hesitate to speak her mind. As a parent, teacher, friend, and public servant, she values and exemplifies empathy, courage, honesty, and respect.

I encourage you to join me in voting for Elizabeth Exton for School Committee on June 6.

This letter was published Monday, May 18, 2020.

Ginna Reeder, a Precinct 2 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter to the editor.

When Elizabeth Exton announced her candidacy for School Committee in January, I was thrilled. I knew she could lead us through the many challenges we knew we’d be facing — a superintendent search, a high school rebuild and improvement to our special-education program, to name a few. But as I sit here mid-pandemic and wonder about the future of delivering high-quality education, I am even more convinced that we need to add Liz’s voice, mind, approach and experience to the School Committee.

Liz is an educator who has spent 18 years in the classroom. She understands what it means to show up for her students every day and what she needs from her school district to support those students.

Liz is a parent with young children in our schools. She understands how important it is to have clear communication from the Arlington Public Schools, to be heard by those making the decisions and to have confidence that the district is making the right choices with its resources.

Liz is an advocate who knows how to collaborate in order to effect change. She led the successful effort to get full-time teaching assistants into all APS Kindergarten classes. She worked tirelessly to help pass the June 2019 townwide vote for increased school funding and a new high school. As a Town Meeting Member, she is committed to understanding the full scope of issues in Arlington.

These three perspectives give us a trifecta in a School Committee member. I have had the pleasure to serve as the parent cochair of Hardy Elementary’s School Council for the past three years. In this role, which involves listening to and working with town officials, our principal, teachers and parents, I have seen that the greatest moments of frustration are often borne from a simple lack of information and communication among these different stakeholders. Progress and change happen when we make the time to meet, listen and together find a way forward. 

Having a member of the School Committee who personally understands these many points of view is invaluable — especially as we face the unknowns of safely educating our students, supporting our teachers and working in partnership with caregivers in a Covid-19 environment. If ever there was a time to sit down, listen, and together find a way forward it is now.

Please join me in voting for Elizabeth Exton.

This letter was published Sunday, May 10, 2020.

This letter was submitted by Len Kardon, a member of the School Committee.

The Arlington School Committee faces a very challenging year: responding to the pandemic, dealing with a potential budget crisis and searching for a new superintendent. We need Liz Exton on board to help us with this.

Liz knows how a School Committee operates, having led the successful effort to have full-time teaching assistants in each kindergarten class in Arlington. As a kindergarten teacher herself, Liz saw the need to make this change in Arlington and tackled it.

She organized a group of parents to lobby the administration and the School Committee to make it happen after she gathered the necessary evidence and research to support the change. Liz attended School Committee and budget subcommittee meetings, learned about Arlington’s budget process and worked individually with committee members and principals to win their support.

Liz helped lead the effort to adequately fund our schools and rebuild the high school. By knocking on hundreds of doors and serving as a precinct captain for Build Arlington’s Future last year, she helped pass the operating override and the debt exclusion for the high school. As a cochair of the campaign, I personally saw how much effort Liz poured into this. She is the only School Committee candidate this year who had a leadership role in this effort. Liz also joined Town Meeting to play an active role in town government.

Finally, Liz will bring the much-needed perspective of an experienced and active educator to the School Committee. She has taught kindergarten in Brookline for the last eight years, and Liz understands the challenges facing local public schools both in normal and current pandemic times.

This will be particularly important as we move forward this coming year, returning to school, dealing with the impact of the current school closure, and selecting a new leader for our district. I would love to have Liz join me on the School Committee to help in this important time.

This letter was published Monday, May 4, 2020.

Alham Saadat, a Precinct 4 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter.

On June 6, I will be voting for Elizabeth Exton for School Committee because she has the experience, knowledge, enthusiasm and work ethic that is vital for this role. As a public school teacher, parent advocate, and Town Meeting member, Liz has already worked tirelessly to make her community better. As a member of the School Committee, she will continue this work as a champion for students, parents and teachers.

I first met Liz in 2018, when she led an initiative to get full-time teaching assistants in kindergarten classrooms. I was immediately impressed with her ability to identify this important need, her knowledge of the School Committee’s processes for instituting these changes and her thoughtful leadership in coalescing the support of many parents in Arlington to join her effort. Because of Liz’s leadership, our youngest learners and their educators now have the support they need to thrive.

In addition to successfully getting full-time teaching assistants in kindergarten classrooms, Liz has played a pivotal role in other efforts that support our schools and the families they serve. In response to long wait lists and disparate application processes, Liz worked with me and other parents to advocate for increases in capacity, transparency, and access for after-school programs in town.

I also had the pleasure of working with Liz in the Build Arlington’s Future campaign. Throughout the spring of 2019, Liz led a field team of canvassers who continually exceeded their goals and helped secure the votes needed to rebuild our high school and provide funding for a well thought out five-year educational plan.

There will be many important decisions made by the School Committee in the next few years, such as hiring a new superintendent, closing the opportunity gap, managing enrollment growth and handling a complex return from an extended school closure. Liz’s invaluable experience as a teacher, a parent advocate, and a leader with a track record of success make her an ideal person to thoughtfully navigate such decisions. Please join me in voting for Elizabeth Exton on June 6.

This news letter was published Monday, April 27.

Patrick Hanlon, a Town Meeting member and a resident of Park Street, submitted this letter.

The town election, previously scheduled for April 4, will be held June 6. That seems a long way away, but it really isn’t – especially for voters who want to take advantage of early-voting opportunities.

The School Committee election is particularly important this year. I am looking forward to voting for Liz Exton and would like to explain why. Last year Arlington voters approved a new high school and an override that provides additional funding for schools. Liz worked tirelessly for both measures. The time has come to build on that success.

Critically, the School Committee needs to choose a new superintendent with the vision, the expertise, the administrative ability, and the communications skills to lead the Arlington schools forward in a difficult time. We are fortunate to have excellent schools, but we cannot afford complacency.

Even before the pandemic, the world was changing fast; now, the future seems darker and more uncertain. Arlington students must learn to navigate a brave new world of revolutionary technologies, climate change, economic uncertainty, burning inequality, and political and cultural polarization. To provide the education our students need, schools must have a clear vision; a superb team of professionals at every level; a realistic, evidence-based strategic plan; open, two-way communication with all stakeholders; and an educational philosophy that emphasizes collaboration, project-based teaching, and social-emotional learning.

Liz Exton is an award-winning teacher and a thoughtful participant in the ongoing conversation about Arlington’s schools. I trust her to ask hard questions and exercise sound judgment. I cannot think of anyone better qualified to help lead the school district into the uncertain future.

One set of issues is especially pressing, I think: making sure that Arlington’s schools are outstanding for everyone. Attention needs to be paid to special education programs and the increased diversity in our student population. There is no simple solution for ensuring that every student in Arlington receives the education they deserve. Moving beyond words to effective change requires a strong practical understanding of how schools work. I know Liz Exton has that understanding.

This election is unprecedented. We will be able to vote early to protect our safety, but we must ask for ballots in time to return them by election day. Now is the time to consider our choice. The last minute is sooner than we think.

This letter was published Friday, April 24, 2020.

Holly Rossi of Colonial Drive submitted this letter to the editor.

Never has the phrase “all politics is local” felt more relevant than it does today.

For the open seat on Arlington School Committee, we need leadership that is informed, measured, collaborative and personally invested.

Liz Exton is the candidate we need. She is a parent, a public school teacher and a proven leader.

As a taxpayer and as the parent of an elementary student, I made up my mind to support Liz when I realized that in 2018, she was able to successfully advocate for full-time teaching assistants in every Arlington Public School kindergarten classroom, with the support of a group of more than 75 parents.

To be able to bring parents together around an identified need, navigate the budget process and the school district’s advocacy processes, and succeed in providing equitable and meaningful support to our youngest elementary students across the district -- that is a leader.

Liz is also the kind of person I want sitting at the table when the School Committee considers candidates for our new superintendent. She has experience in her professional life as a classroom teacher, experience that informs her perspectives on diversity and inclusion -- in hiring, in professional development, and in the allocation of student resources -- long-term planning, and special education, which she calls a priority “both morally and fiscally.”

When I vote on June 6, I will be proud to support Liz Exton for School Committee. I urge your readers to do the same.

This letter was published Thursday, April 23, 2020.

Flynn Monks, a Precinct 19 Town Meeting member, submitted this letter:

On June 6, please join me in voting for Elizabeth Exton, who is running for a seat on the School Committee. Teacher, parent, Town Meeting member, advocate, Liz cares deeply for our kids and our town, and will be a terrific addition to the committee as it stewards its budget in the days and years to come.

She led an effort to push for full-time aides in our kindergarten classrooms, worked for increased child care options for after school and was a tireless and committed volunteer in the recent, successful Build Arlington's Future campaign for an operating override and new high school. These experiences, as well as her longstanding career as a public school teacher in nearby Brookline, will serve us well.

We are in challenging, unprecedented days and will require candidates and leaders who can listen and advocate. We will have a search for a new superintendent, continued budget pressures, an ever-growing enrollment and overlapping that, a high school rebuild that will transform our understanding of the physical and learning environment in Arlington.

This set of challenges will require someone who has been in the trenches, understands what it is like to teach, and who doesn't shy away from difficult decisions. I am confident that Liz has what it takes to be a great addition to the Committee. Please join me in voting Elizabeth Exton on June 6.

This letter was published Saturday, April 18.

Greg Dennis of Arlington submitted this letter:

The strength of our public schools is determined by many factors -- by teachers, administrators and parents, of course -- but also by the passion and diligence of our elected officials. That’s why we are fortunate to have Elizabeth Exton on the ballot for Arlington School Committee this year. Liz is a public school teacher, a Stratton School parent, a Town Meeting member and a tireless champion for our public schools.

As the field director for the Build Arlington’s Future campaign to rebuild our high school, I saw Liz’s passion firsthand. In her role as a campaign precinct captain, she met and then exceeded her voter contact goals, helping lead us to a whopping 77-percent victory on election day. Just one year prior, Liz led a successful effort by Arlington parents to call for full-time teaching aids in all kindergarten classrooms. She also participated in a parent group that made after-school childcare options more available and accessible.

The School Committee will have many important issues to address in the coming years -- hiring a new superintendent, accommodating our enrollment growth, improving educational equity, to name a few-- and we need someone with Liz’s passion and drive to ensure that these are all addressed effectively. Please join me in voting for Elizabeth Exton for School Committee.

This letter was published Saturday, April 4.

Alicia Merritt Edwards of Arlington submitted this letter to the editor:

I am writing in support of Elizabeth Exton for School Committee. 

I met Liz when I applied to be her kindergarten teaching assistant. Liz had come highly recommended by colleagues who had worked with her before, and my first impression was of a teacher who knew exactly what she was doing.

Her classroom was neat and organized, and she seemed comfortable with the curriculum and handled individual needs without interrupting learning. 

As the weeks went by, I saw the little ways Liz adapted the curriculum and classroom to individual students. She got to know each child as a whole person, not just as a math or reading level. No matter a child’s challenges, she always saw their potential successes and helped them to see their own strengths. She made sure every student felt like a valuable member of the classroom.

 As well as celebrating each child’s strengths, Liz taught her students that we are all learning, growing and improving our skills, and we all need practice and fresh ideas. She holds herself to that same standard. She reads about child development and classroom management. She talks with other educators about strategies and with families about how practices or communications are received. She doesn’t just ask people’s opinions, she really listens. I knew that my words were always heard and considered.

She worked with the other kindergarten teachers at our school to plan curriculum, share ideas and brainstorm solutions. If a student needed additional support, Liz advocated for that child and worked with administrators and specialists to make sure the child’s needs were met. Most of all, she worked with families so that her students were supported across their day. She saw parents and teachers as allies and worked to foster open communication with each family.   

When I left Brookline, I wasn’t surprised to hear Liz’s name back home in Arlington. Of course, she would push for full-time teaching assistants in kindergarten. As a teacher and parent, she knows how important that additional support is. And as Liz, she wasn’t going to sit around and hope someone else would solve the problem. She would roll up her sleeves and put the time into finding a solution. 

I am voting for Liz because I know she will work hard for Arlington’s children, every last one. 

7This letter was published Friday, April 3.

 Precinct 4 Town Meeting members Clarissa Rowe of Herbert Street and Kate Leary of Milton Street submitted this letter:

We are enthusiastically voting for Elizabeth Exton for School Committee on April 4. As a kindergarten teacher in a public school, Liz understands how decisions made at the top affect the on-the-ground job of making sure education is working for all learners.

As an Arlington public school parent, she understands what parents want and what they have questions about. As an activist, she has experience talking to voters, studying the school budget, sitting in on committee meetings, and persevering to make lasting change for public-school students. We want Liz to be a voice for Arlington’s students, and we want her to take part in choosing our new superintendent.

We met Liz through the Build Arlington’s Future campaign last spring. As a precinct captain, she spent many weekends canvassing her neighbors about the importance of voting yes on both questions. The high school vote was critical, but it also mattered deeply that in voting yes for an operating override, residents authorized the expansion of the school budget.

Squeezed by years of enrollment growth, the school department developed a five-year budget plan designed to address this growth, narrow the achievement gap, improve instruction, and attract, retain, and develop staff. Members of the School Committee worked with the administration on this plan, sought public input, and presented the plan persuasively to town committees. This was a collaborative process, with the Select Board ultimately agreeing to put an increased school budget before voters as part of the override vote.

This is the kind of work that we, as voters, count on our School Committee members to do. With the next operating override years away, we now entrust them with spending wisely, in accordance with the budget they have and the priorities articulated in the five-year plan. We know Liz is a great listener who would excel in the kind of collaborative work the School Committee regularly undertakes. This year, that will include choosing a new superintendent and negotiating a three-year teacher contract. From Liz’s successful work advocating for full-time kindergarten aides, we learned that she can build support and inspire people to act. We also learned that she’s willing to ask difficult questions, to make strong arguments based on evidence, to register dissent if necessary, and to look for creative solutions. Elizabeth Exton has already helped improve our school system for all learners, and she will do even more as a member of the School Committee.

This letter was published Monday, March 16.

This letter was submitted by Megan Hinckley of 4 Henry St.:

I am writing to recommend Elizabeth Exton for Arlington School Committee. 

She first registered on my radar in 2018, when she rallied local parents to advocate on behalf of full-time aides in all local kindergarten classrooms. Through active outreach on social-media channels, Elizabeth was able to mobilize a sizable cross-section of parents and educators to attend meetings, write letters and otherwise engage with the School Committee and superintendent to effect change to improve Arlington public schools. 

Although I did not know Elizabeth personally at the time, I was immediately impressed with her deep knowledge of the issue, her communication skills and her effective leadership abilities. Most compelling was Elizabeth’s obvious desire to develop a supportive environment for our talented teachers and to create an educational experience for the town’s children that would foster a life-long love of learning. 

The following year, I was fortunate to serve with Elizabeth as a precinct co-captain for Build Arlington’s Future, the effort to secure funding to rebuild the high school and maintain services for residents. Working hand-in-glove with Elizabeth over the course of several months, I was inspired by her thoughtfulness, her organizational skills, her hard work and preparation, and her unfailing good cheer. The quiet dedication and passion Elizabeth exhibited were contagious and her example motivated volunteers to contribute countless hours of time and energy to help ensure success at the ballot box. 

As the town educational system grapples with tremendous changes, including the selection of a new superintendent, we need leaders like Elizabeth. Her experience and perspective as a teacher in the Brookline public schools, where she has been trusted to sit on search committees for administrative leadership positions, will serve Arlington well.  Just as critically, I have faith in her judgment and in her ability to build consensus for the strongest superintendent candidate.

Elizabeth Exton’s invaluable experience, boundless energy, and spirit of inclusive collaboration will help improve educational outcomes for all students in town. It is with proud enthusiasm that I am supporting her candidacy for Arlington School Committee and voting for her on April 4.

This letter was published Sunday, March 8.

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