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Albemarle educator eyes seat on city School Board
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Albemarle educator eyes seat on city School Board

An educator in the Albemarle County school division is seeking a spot on the Charlottesville School Board.

Dom Morse leads career technical education, such as design, and entrepreneurship programs at the county’s charter school.

He said he would bring a different perspective to the seven-member board, given that he’s an educator and that he attended city schools growing up. He said he was recruited to run by a group of parents who felt their voices were not being heard.

“So I’m here to represent and give voice to some people that feel like they don’t have a voice,” he said.

Morse is one of five candidates vying for three spots on the all-at-large city board. The deadline to qualify for the November election was Tuesday. All candidates for school boards in Virginia run as independents.

The other candidates are board Chairwoman Lisa Larson-Torres, longtime board member Leah Puryear, real estate agent Emily Dooley and Christa Bennett, director of partnerships for Strive for College. Juandiego Wade’s term also is expiring this year, but he opted to run for the City Council instead of seeking re-election to the School Board.

If elected, Morse said he would work to make sure the new superintendent and school system are held accountable, as well as to ensure that “all of our marginalized populations are being heard.”

Morse supports the planned schools reconfiguration project, which is a top priority for the division. However, he said he wants to think and plan beyond the physical learning spaces and look at incorporating more project-based learning into the middle school.

“It’s great to have a new facility, and it’s great to have improvements, but if a student still can’t read in a brand-new building, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If we’re still not reaching students in a brand-new building, it doesn’t matter. So, I think it’s important, in addition to reconfiguration, to have at least a subcommittee to explore what the model should be for the next 10, 15 years.”

Morse, 28, has worked at Murray Community School for three years. Before Murray, he was a teaching assistant at a few county schools and tutored Charlottesville students. He also was a community center director at Friendship Court, a low-income neighborhood in the city.

“I just want people to know that I’m a huge advocate for student voice and student choice to make sure that we empower our students,” he said. “That, to me, starts off with meeting students where they are, building those relationships and long-lasting connections, and then introducing project-based work.”

Morse moved to Charlottesville from Albemarle in fourth grade and attended city schools all through his senior year, except for one year. In middle and high school, Morse said he was placed in lower-level classes but had an eighth-grade civics teacher help him get in the right classes. But when he went to Charlottesville High School, he said he was told that he wasn’t prepared for the more advanced classes.

“I didn’t know any better; my mom didn’t know any better,” he said.

During his junior year, Morse attended Monticello High School, where teachers helped him access more advanced classes, including dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses.

In his senior year, when he was back at CHS and in an upper-level class, he said there weren’t enough seats in that classroom, so he transferred to the lower-level course to have a comfortable seat.

“I realized that what I learned in nine weeks of those AP, dual-enrollment courses is essentially what the general population would learn over the course of an entire year,” he said. “I just thought that was completely unfair and it’s not preparing those students — most of those students were my friends who I played basketball with and grew up with — for the future. So I realized this is more of a babysitting service and I left and got my GED.”

He has since earned an associate’s degree from Piedmont Virginia Community College and is currently working on a bachelor’s degree through Old Dominion University.

Morse said his non-traditional route and experiences give him the perspective of people who don’t like education and help him as he works to better engage students.

“So, I just want to make sure that everything that we do is beneficial to our students, especially our students of need,” he said.

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