Below is an open letter from Dr. Monique Felder to the Orange County Schools community. Dr. Felder was sworn in as the new superintendent for Orange County Schools on Oct. 9, and began her tenure on Nov. 1.
An invitation from the new Superintendent to each of you.
As I sit down to write this note to you, I can’t help but think about how lucky I am. I was honored to accept the role of superintendent in Orange County, and am so glad to be part of this community.
My name is Dr. Monique Felder, and while I settle into my new role, I wanted to reach out to the entire Orange County community first to introduce myself, and second, with an invitation. I’m thrilled to get to know the families, educators and community members of North Carolina— and to share a little bit more about myself, too.
I’ll start with the basics. My family and my faith are the most important aspects of my life. I’m a mom of three and grandmother of five—those of you who are parents and grandparents, I know your journey. As you may have seen from my swearing in photos, my 87-year-old mom is my anchor. I also have deep roots in North Carolina, as both my maternal grandparents were born and raised here. Outside of my family and faith, education is my true passion.
I’ve recently held multiple high-level administrative positions in Tennessee and Maryland. Before moving into the central office, I spent many years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. As a result, I understand firsthand what it means to want every child to be successful, and also what challenges students face.
Over the years, I’ve seen it too many times to count. When students aren’t engaged equally at school, they can fall behind or lose interest. Too often, a child’s background, culture, interests and ability aren’t considered in the curriculum.
Maybe a child can’t concentrate because he hasn’t had a hot meal since yesterday’s lunch. Perhaps a student isn’t learning because she is dealing with a subtle language barrier. It's possible that a student is acting out because she isn't being challenged enough and needs access to more rigorous instruction. A teenager might be skipping school because they hate their classes—and no one has taken the time to figure out that they would excel in the arts.
That’s why my focus for Orange County is on equity, excellence and access.
Equity is my passion because it means tailoring learning and support for each student. Those who need more support, get it. Those who need to be stretched, will be. All students grow and learn.
We will give students the daily learning opportunities that enable them to create, communicate, collaborate and think critically. As we tackle our achievement gap, I’m also committed to removing barriers to opportunities in our policies and practices.
Now for the invitation. With 28 years of experience in schools, I’m ready to dig in and work. But I don’t have all the answers. I’m ready to listen and learn from you to make our schools work for all students, and engaging the community is a top priority as we do so.
Over the next couple of months, I will be hosting a number of Listen & Learn public meetings—and you’re invited. Yes, you! The purpose of these meetings is to learn even more about the district and its needs, and to incorporate input from families, students, staff and the community in the plan for moving the district forward.
I also know that juggling a family and other priorities can be a challenge, therefore we’ll be posting an online questionnaire for those who can’t make the Listen & Learn sessions and still want to participate.
Finally, I encourage you to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to learning from each and every one of you as we work toward our shared education goals. I hope to meet you soon!
Dr. Monique Felder is the Superintendent of Orange County Schools. Her first day in her new role was November 1, 2019. You can reach her at email@example.com.