Dom Morse: The Future of Our School System

Maggie Heaphy, Website/Content Manager, Staff Writer

KTR recently sat down for an interview with Dom Morse, who was elected to the Charlottesville City School Board. Morse was a graduate of CHS in 2010, and  went into the CAYIP (Community Attention Youth Internship Program), which was his first introduction to working with kids. 

As a high school student, Morse often felt like there was a barrier within the school. There was an ‘education drama’ in which he noticed he and many of his peers, specifically those of color, were incorrectly placed. His decision to run for the school board was out of the blue, but his motivation to make sure that ‘drama’ is no longer in our school system fueled his desire. “And for me,” he said, “It’s just a continuation of what I’ve been doing as an educator even as a non-traditional educator: just trying to find innovative ways to improve student experience.” He believes that students now should not have to experience the same strict divide of the student body as he did.

Student experience and a variety of educational practices is a major focus of Morse’s going into his new position. Some common ideas of the current school board pitches revolve around new schools and ideas, whereas Morse wants to focus on reinvention. “It’s hard for a student to know what profession they want to go into or what college major they want without having the ability to really explore who they are in a way that is not limited by the school bell, right?” 

When being asked about the changes he wants to bring to the school system, Morse responded with, “I would like to see some different approaches to our instructional models and being able to partner with some community partners, like the UVA Curry School… I think we should really try to build in more experience in a little bit more free time for our students, for them to be able to explore themselves, and really get to know their own identity so that we can then transfer that into learning… We must find ways that we can support teachers, administration and as a district, we can support schools as they are trying to do different instructional practices and ultimately help our students find out who they are… What I’m trying to do and I’ve been trying to do even before this is try to find ways that we can give students some voice in their own education, and give them some choice in their own education.”

Morse also expressed excitement in involvement in school board committees and non-traditional education opportunities, like CATEC. “Because I have a non-traditional background when it comes to education, especially in coming from GED and Associates Degree, I am also looking at CATEC a little bit and how we can strengthen that program and make sure that the Charlottesville students are fairly represented and best informed.” CATEC, Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center, is a program that CHS offers for students to take courses in, where specific, hands-on skills are learned, like firefighting, cosmetology, culinary arts, and more. Morse, who never attended a four-year college, is passionate about this opportunity in the school system. “I know that all students can sign up for it, but also making sure that as counselors and adults, that we advocate for CATEC as a viable option, not as this fall back.” 

And with all of this, there is no better time for change. “I really think we have a great opportunity with the new superintendent and new school board members,” Morse said. “Both have educational experience in terms of working in the classroom. I think we really have a great opportunity to start thinking about what the model should be, and how we can be a model for the nation as we play around with our instructional practices.”

When asked about the biggest challenges that he will face in our system, Morse’s answers were largely economic. Taxes and funding of construction projects going off of our old and deteriorating buildings are a focus, as well as changes to teacher salary. 

“It really is about giving back and making sure that people don’t go through the experiences that I went through to ensure that we are serving all of our students in a way that benefits our students to be the next generation of leaders.” That is why he chose CCS. Not only has it been home for him, but, as said before, he wants to make sure that current and future students aren’t experiencing the same issues that he did during his time as a black knight. “Often I find myself saying that I wish this thing existed or wish this was exposed to me at a certain age. And now, it’s me trying to make sure that you know the next generation that’s coming through doesn’t have to say that.”

After the interview, KTR was extremely impressed with Dom Morse and his ideas and policies he is looking to bring. Students are encouraged to be excited and hopeful for the future of their school system; Morse and other members have the best interest of the members of the Charlottesville City Schools community in mind and change is coming to our system for the better.