My name is Rebecca Dyson (Becka) and I am running for Ashland School Board, Seat 4.
I moved to Ashland with my family in 2013 and my four children have been enrolled in the school district ever since. They have now been through every grade from K through 12 and have enjoyed participating in many of the diverse activities Ashland has to offer.
As they have progressed through school, I have become involved through volunteer work ranging from elementary school PTO to assisting at music performances and athletic competitions to coaching students in Oregon Battle of the Books and managing a youth soccer team for many years.
For the past three years I have served on the AHS Site Council under three different principals and have been on the board of Ashland High Arts Advocates, a non-profit organization that provides outreach and financial assistance to the arts departments at AHS.
Over the past year, no student has been left unaffected by the isolation of Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL). While individual responses have been varied, the complete lack of social and extracurricular activities (in most cases made up for by increased screen time) have been coupled with a corresponding decrease in academic drive. Just looking at my own children, I have seen a surprising global level of apathy and disconnect.
As students return to the classroom, we must provide for their emotional and mental health in addition to making up for academic losses. As a district, we must do our best to fully re-engage students in the process of learning. This will not be something that can be achieved by simply putting students back in class. Our children need a restart.
One step we can take is to engage students beyond the classroom. Students who participate in extracurricular activities including sports, performing arts, academic teams and clubs, or social or special-interest groups do better in school across the board. Especially now, we must think outside the box about how to safely provide students with welcoming, enriching, and innovative in-person activities outside the classroom to help them to reconnect or make new connections. Social interaction and support will be critical to getting students back on track in school and in life.
The arts are a critical component of any academic curriculum. Studies consistently show that students who are involved in the arts do better academically, have higher rates of attendance, and lower rates of behavioral infractions.
In addition, the arts are often a place where students who are marginalized or struggling academically can find a safe and successful place to express themselves. Due to the scheduling and physical restrictions brought on by COVID, participation in the arts has dropped dramatically in our district this year.
Ashland’s strong commitment to the arts is one of the main things that drew our family to this community. We must ensure that as we move beyond the restrictions of the pandemic, our schools’ arts programs are given the support and accessibility they deserve.
I am fully committed to building an equitable and inclusive environment within our school district and our community. I do not see this as one agenda item to strive for but rather as a global overview that shapes everything we do. Our hiring policies, our curriculum, our extracurricular programs and outreach must all move forward within the framework of EDI. Equity is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built.
In order to truly strengthen our commitment to EDI, in addition to support for underserved students, we must:
I believe that self-defense and anti-bullying training can benefit all students and should be available through our schools. Currently in Oregon, Erin’s Law requires public schools to provide a minimum of four child sexual abuse prevention education lessons a year for children in pre-kindergarten through high school as well as staff education and information for parents.
Together with my husband Peter Halt, who has taught martial arts and self-defense for over 30 years, we have promoted supplementing this classroom education with physical training in basic self-defense techniques as part of the PE curriculum. Working with the district, this resulted in a successful pilot program with the AMS PE classes last year, with over 120 students training for a 2-week block.
These techniques can be scaled for any level, from elementary school through adulthood, as prevention against both bullying and sexual assault (modeling the No Means No Worldwide program). Though delayed by the pandemic, the plan is to extend this program into all grade levels. Participation is voluntary but should be accessible to all students who wish to participate.
As a physician and mother of four children, I feel passionate about giving our children the tools they need to be confident and secure, and I would like to see the school district continue to build this program to help create a culture of safety and respect for all students.
I was born and raised in Princeton, NJ. My parents were both immigrants who came to the US in the aftermath of World War II. I was educated in K-12 public schools and went to Stanford followed by medical school at U.C. San Diego. I completed my training in radiology at Harvard Medical School and subsequently joined the faculty as an instructor before deciding to return to the West Coast to practice medicine and raise a family in a smaller community.
Ashland in many ways reminded me of my own childhood and immediately felt like home. I am passionate about our community’s children and schools and I want to maintain Ashland’s tradition of excellence as we find our way past the COVID pandemic, while acknowledging that there are many areas in which we can still improve.
I would like to bring that passion as well as my background in medicine to the School Board as we enter the difficult and complex conversation about where we go from here.
Suzanne Cusick, former ASD Superintendent
John Williams, AHAA President, former ASD School Board member
Dr. Cynthia Hutton, Director, Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon
Betsy Bishop, Director AHS Theater
Jackson County Democratic Party
Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon
Progressive Oregon Women
Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon endorses school board candidates across the state who believe our young people deserve to have comprehensive information, resources and skills to make the best decisions for themselves and lead their healthiest lives — as well as support from their families, schools and communities to set goals for their future and decide for themselves if and when they want to become a parent.
Progressive Oregon Women endorses all women candidates that promote progressive values in Southern Oregon.