THE GENERAL ELECTION IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2023.
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Stow Collaboration for Change is excited to endorse Nancy Brown for re-election to the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education (SMF BoE). Nancy has served on the BoE since January 2020, and served as Board President since August 2022. We had the opportunity to talk with Nancy about her work on the board so far, and her priorities going forward.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What motivated you to run for a second term?
I feel like I’m not done. I feel like I’ve finally found my voice. I’m very passionate about stopping the threat to public school funding and know my voice will have more power as a board of education member. Plus, our mayor, John Pribonic, asked me to run again.
What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time on the BoE thus far?
Leading with Integrity
I’m proud of my persistence and perseverance in swinging the balance to a more progressive board. For the first two years of that effort, I had to stay true to myself and my core values while navigating hostility from some — certainly not all, but some — board members. Even some of my progressive colleagues seemed more upset with my reaction to Gerry Bettio’s behavior than with the behavior itself.
When we had the opportunity to fill a vacant seat by appointment in 2022, I set aside political preferences and did my due diligence to select who I truly believed would work in the best interests of our community, and who was most prepared to do the work.
Black Lives Matter
I was proud to stand up and say, “Black Lives Matter.” Making waves is uncomfortable for me, but when I know they must be made, there’s no stopping me. I was also proud of the statement I made in June 2021, in support of families of Black students who informed me that they felt unsafe in our district. I got screamed at for making that statement — and I’m not exaggerating, literally screamed at — which affirmed that it needed to be said.
Creating a Board That Works
As Board President, I am very proud of how we handled the change in Treasurer as well as the subject of renewing the Superintendent’s contract. I am also proud of challenging board members to set priorities to work on throughout the year. Several of our members took those priorities seriously and really got some work done. I am also proud of holding a Town Hall. I thought it went very, very well, and hope that it will become a regular event.
What are your priorities, if you are re-elected?
First — continue to fight for public school funding. Public dollars must stay in public schools. If public schools aren’t hitting the mark, then let’s give them the resources to perform. The answer is not, and never has been, to divert money to private schools. It’s already gone too far, and we have to put a stop to it now. Otherwise, we are going to end up with state-funded, legalized school segregation.
Second — get a bond issue passed. We are 10 years too late in getting a facilities plan in place.
Third — hold our ground against right-wing reactionaries, who want to ban books, curricula, and policies that promote diversity and inclusion.
What should voters know about your background and qualifications?
I am a mom of two fully-launched adult sons who attended K-12 in SMF schools. I was a very active parent in the classroom, and with the band program.
I have lived in Stow for 31 years. I started and ran a successful business here (still in existence, but under new ownership by other Stow residents).
I’ve been a member of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Stow for 25 years.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Communications.
What are the most important things the Board needs to be focused on?
The most important area of focus is our people. Do our students feel safe and included? Do our staff members? What are the physical, emotional, and psychological barriers to safety and inclusion? What can we do to make things better right away, and what do we need to change systemically?
The Board’s responsibilities are at that systemic, strategic level, and less so day-to-day operations. Outside of crisis situations, we aren’t positioned to effect immediate change on the ground. The Board needs to be focused on the future — both short- and long-term. We supervise the Superintendent and Treasurer, and must make sure they are planning for the future in ways that make our district stronger and more sustainable. We need to be reviewing our policies to be sure they align with the values we believe are right for our district, and also be proactive in keeping them updated.
How do you imagine a better Stow?
I would start with a City Council of true public servants dedicated to the future of our community. I see that community educated and equipped to recognize and interrupt racist, homophobic, and generally nasty behavior, then stand together against it so that it loses its momentum and power. In order to achieve this, we need to reduce the levels of fear and greed that talk of diversity and inclusion brings out in people.
Why is it important for BoE members to support initiatives like DEI and anti-racism policies?
Students can’t learn if they don’t feel safe. Period. People can’t perform to their potential if they don’t feel safe. We are a public school and we must support, recognize, include, and value everyone.
Why is it important for BoE members to support mental health initiatives and anti-bullying policies?
For the same reasons as DEI and anti-racism policies. It’s just so basic and fundamental.
If elected, how would you support DEI initiatives, anti-racism policies, mental health initiatives, and anti-bullying policies?
First: by proposing and voting for them!
Second, by building it into the job objectives for the Superintendent and Treasurer, and making sure they are holding their own employees accountable.
Third, by creating opportunities for people to learn what’s at the root of these issues. If people don’t see the problem, they will have no interest in being part of the solution. I can speak to this from experience. I’ve done a lot of reading and learning since 2020; as enlightened as I thought I was, I really knew very little. I hate when people call me “woke,” because I don’t believe I’ve earned that distinction! At best I’m aware, and I’m committed to learning more.
I don’t want to shame anyone who doesn’t understand this — I want to help educate them, or at least guide them to more education. Shaming them accomplishes nothing, and actually will entrench them more in their long-held beliefs.
Final word: why should people give you their vote?
I am committed to the Board of Education. I have no other political ambitions; this is not a stepping stone on my way to City Council or beyond.
A good school system is at the very heart of a community, and is the number one factor in people’s choices about where to live. Stow-Munroe Falls is a massively, predominantly white district, and will likely stay that way. That means our non-white students really need our support to feel included. But there are many, many other diverse groups within the white community that need our support, as well. My goal isn’t to make one group feel more special than another; in fact, it’s the exact opposite — it’s to make all students and all staff feel valued and safe in our district.
I am committed to making sure our district withstands the threat of loss of funding, partly through fighting against it, but also by making our district desirable so that as we lose students through Ed Choice, more students will come here through open enrollment. We need to have outstanding facilities for a start. But then we need to make sure what is happening within those walls is working for everyone inside them!
Bottom line – I am a real person. People can talk to me about anything. When I make a mistake, I want to know, and I will take ownership, without excuses. I will listen to and consider everything.