LETTER: School Mental Health Professional, Mother of 2 Running for School Committee

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Jessica Middlebrook announced her run for School Committee. She is shown with her two daughters at Watertown Town Hall.

My name is Jessica Middlebrook and I am thrilled to announce my candidacy for Watertown School Committee.

In the wake of the most disruptive and painful school year in living memory, our community needs experienced, empathic leaders who will build connections, foster difficult but important conversations, and work toward creating equitable school cultures where all students feel valued and safe.With my experience as a parent and school mental health professional, my strong progressive values, and my abiding love for our community, I know that I can help our schools work better for all our kids and families.

My husband, David, and I have been residents of Watertown for the past 12 years. We were drawn here to start our family because of its diversity and caring, engaged community. We are now the proud parents of two children entering third grade and Kindergarten at the excellent Cunniff School this fall. In addition to being a Cunniff parent, I have served on the Cunniff School Site Council for the past 4 years, and am a member of the Cunniff Diversity Council and the WPS Anti-Bias Coalition. My experiences in these groups has given me invaluable knowledge about what is wonderful about our public schools, and insight into the difficult work left to do to achieve the district’s stated goals of Excellence, Equity, and Community.

From a professional standpoint, I have devoted my life to education and supporting the mental health of young people in schools. I hold a Master’s Degree in Risk and Prevention and a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Adjustment Counseling from Harvard Graduate School of Education. I have been a Behavior Specialist in the Cambridge Public Schools for the past seven years. In this role, I work with students, teachers, and administrators across the district from Pre-K through high school to build systems that support students emotionally, socially, and academically. Prior to that, I was a School Adjustment Counselor in special education programs serving students with social, emotional, behavioral, and learning needs. My experience working with students of all ages and teachers around behavior and mental health has given me a wealth of knowledge about what works (and what doesn’t) in special education. My experience implementing research-based mental health practices for individual students and on a broader school-wide basis would bring an important perspective to the School Committee as we support students and families returning to school after this traumatic year.

In addition to my experience, my values have drawn me to pursue this seat. I stand for inclusivity, diversity, and active antiracism in our schools. I want my daughters — and all WPS students — to grow up in an environment where each and every child and family is valued for their unique backgrounds and experience. Recognizing injustice and celebrating differences lifts all of us up and helps lead to more active citizenship and civic engagement at this time when it is most necessary. It is imperative that students of all backgrounds feel safe and supported expressing all aspects of their identities. I applaud the district’s decision to create a director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and begin an equity audit, and the continued support of the Kingian Nonviolence program and school diversity councils. These are good beginnings, and I want to work with other leaders in Watertown to build upon them.

I know how challenging the pandemic has been at every turn for the families and students of Watertown, and I have been amazed at the fortitude and creativity shown by the teachers in WPS. Now is the time for courageous, empathic leadership focused on listening, healing, and community. I look forward to hearing from families and community members on this journey. Please reach out and share your concerns, hopes, and goals for our amazing school district. I am here to listen. I can be reached at: jessica4WPS@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely yours,

Jessica Middlebrook

13 thoughts on “LETTER: School Mental Health Professional, Mother of 2 Running for School Committee

  1. Wow, I’m so excited to support your candidacy! As a mother of two in WPS, one of whom is about to enter the middle school, I’m thrilled support a candidate who is explicitly supportive of anti-racist education, equity in our schools, and support for our most vulnerable students. I look forward to connecting in person and will reach out to see how I can help!

  2. hello seeing as how you were on the Cunniff school building site committee could you please answer why the solar panel support brackets are over the fence line into the cemetary about 10′ thank you

    • The Cunniff School Site Council is not the same as the Building Site Committee. You’ll need to reach out to a different committee or the superintendent for an answer to your question.

      • just trying anyone to get an answer on this, somewhere someone knows! reached out to a couple of elected people haven’t heard back. pretty bad when you have an open site with boundaries that somehow you intrude into the cemetery, that takes some nerve to try to pull this off! blatant is one word I have some others. thanks for your info thanks

        • As I recall the School Building Committee approved (or asked the Town) to use part of the Ridgelawn Cemetery so they could have enough solar panels fornthe school to reach net zero energy use. I think the alternative would have been using more of the playing fields. As background, the Town owns the cemetery too.

          • thanks Charlie, I still it find rather disrespectful to the one’s who can’t speak for themselves. had plenty of room to shift it to the left.

  3. Is she a supporter of the teacher union’s mandates to keep the children out of school a lot longer than necessary? Although the teachers had a difficult time during the pandemic, their approach to keeping themselves safe was excessive. Other people in necessary roles such as nurses, store workers, postal workers and others, many with less pay and benefits, showed up at their jobs. Why should teachers be the exception? Also, I know of no race issues in this town and I’d rather have the focus of teaching be on the basics, not teaching children to question how their color affects EVERYTHING and have them doubt their worth.

    • As someone raising Black kids in the district, who have experienced microaggressions at very young ages (which then does in fact cause them to doubt their sense of belonging), I am grateful for any adult who does not sweep “race issues” under the rug. While you are lucky to not experience it yourself, please keep in mind that many people do. Moreover, it is very hard for students who feel “othered” (whether it be race, gender identity, socioeconomic status, etc.) to then be able to focus on learning the basics, as you put it. We need leaders with a holistic view, and so far, Jessica has been the most explicit in showing she embodies that.

  4. I find it disturbing to hear this candidate is for active antiracism in our schools – given today’s climate in that regard and the recent events at the Middle School with anti-police rhetoric, I would think long and hard before voting for anyone who wishes to promote this thinking in our schools. Antiracism is a form of racism when you tell any of our children that they’re at fault for anything. Stop indoctrinating our children!

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