In Boyertown's Region #3, Brad Updegrove and Matt Hook Bring Wide Experience and Dedication to Family
by Jane Stahl
Matt Hook and Brad Updegrove are Region #3 candidates for four-year seats on Boyertown Area School District’s Board of School Directors. Voters will vote for two.
Brad is a Boyertown graduate, Class of ’95, with family members who were well-respected teachers in the district. Brad brings a lifetime knowledge of Boyertown schools—then, as a student and now, as a substitute teacher, father of children attending Boyertown schools, and coach.
Brad’s initial plans of going into physical therapy led him instead to a Master’s degree in communications and his current position as manager of drop/ship clients—an on-line sales job that may not have existed when he graduated.
These career experiences—including a furlough from employment during COVID and taking on the role of Mr. Mom and his children’s teacher when schools were offering remote learning—have provided him with critical awareness that students need to be flexible and open…and resilient throughout their lives.
Matt’s career journey took several turns as well and has provided him with a unique perspective and experience. Encouragement from one of his English teachers led him to pursue teaching. Intent on gathering experience to enhance his resumé, he took a position at a residential facility—a treatment center—where he became interested in special education—particularly in applied behavior analysis.
As the educational model moves toward a recognition of the importance of ideally accommodating individual needs for all students, Matt’s knowledge of credible science-based programs is an invaluable resource to guide the district in the area of social/emotional learning and providing the appropriate training for teachers.
However, Matt finds it curious that there are any questions or concerns or opposition regarding the need for the development of empathy and for providing social/emotional support and learning for students. He values the Mr. Rogers approach to being in the world—the desire to understand people—and suggests that today there is a greater awareness—and names—for the differences in behavior and learning styles that present in students, particularly those who require Individual Educational Plans. “IEP’s are a reality, not an indication that something’s ‘wrong.’ Kids have always had different needs.”
As a father known for his involvement in his own children’s education—“I know I’ve been a nudge”—he admits, he does not hesitate to criticize programs that are not meeting the needs of his children. “Parents should be involved,” he explains. “They should want to know what’s going on in their children’s education.”
But he has little patience for the distrust, conspiracy theories, stubborn resistance, or “what if” excuses that prevent adoption of science-based best practices, insisting that when problems present themselves, “We won’t ignore them; we’ll meet them and figure it out. There are too many positive stories in providing social/emotional support and learning that should outweigh any negatives,” he offers.
He finds the current Board divisive and ineffective and the meetings a waste of time, for example, when taking 10 minutes to discuss the district’s budget with zero questions. “From what I’ve witnessed, they get too caught up in criticism and never get to solving the problems. They seem to be looking for reasons to be afraid and angry.”
A registered Independent until a few weeks ago, Matt recognizes a need for greater public involvement and collaboration to meet the many needs of issues facing the district. “Part of every paycheck is money paid to the school district. We should be coming to meetings and talking about how that money is being spent, insisting on collaboration and problem-solving that is research-based.”
“And we absolutely need to do something about the teacher and substitute shortage,” Brad adds. “Sending students to the auditorium because there are no teachers available is a problem that needs to be fixed.
“The Board’s lost focus on this critical issue. The focus must be a long-term one in which attracting quality teachers is the goal. This means trusting their professionalism--treating them with respect—not micromanaging them or creating anxiety for no reason.
“I’m a registered Republican. Fiscal responsibility is a critical part of the job of school director. But being fiscally responsible doesn’t always mean taking the lowest bid. It also means keeping quality in mind. Quality staff make for quality schools and quality communities that people want to live in,” he continues.
“Keeping our focus on doing what’s best for students is the goal. I hope we can get back to that mind set.” Both gentleman pledge to support that focus.
Listen to Brad and Matt on the "B Inspired" podcast on your favorite podcast platform. On Spotify: https://podcasters.spotify.com/jane-stahl/episodes/Brad-Updegrove-and-M…
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