Morgan Hall ’10 was a teacher and administrator in the New York City Public Schools before coming to Yale SOM for an MBA. After graduation, she worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, then returned to education, serving in leadership roles in school and student assessment efforts in New York City, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. Starting in 2016, she participated in Washington’s Mary Jane Patterson Fellowship for Aspiring Principals. Since 2019, she has been the assistant principal of Powell Bilingual Elementary School in the city’s Petworth neighborhood, which serves about 500 primarily Black and Hispanic students.
Why did you start building a career around education?
My career in education started before SOM—I was a teacher coming right out of college and taught for six years before coming to SOM. I went into education because I recognized that I’d had an amazing education, both of my parents were educators. I also recognize that not everyone had those opportunities. I wanted to try to bring great opportunities to everyone. I really think it is a big part of the equity issues in our country that our schools are so inequitable.
Is there a set of values that underlie that choice, that motivates you?
I believe in the potential of education to change people’s outcomes. I do believe that all kids can learn at really high levels, and that the education disparities that we see in our country aren’t about kids; they’re about a disparity in opportunities. Maybe I’m a little bit of an optimist in this, but I do think it’s important for our community and our democracy that people have an opportunity, and can be educated, and can participate. I think education is an entry point in communities in a lot of places, and it’s powerful to be a part of that.
Being a school leader amidst the coronavirus has made it extra abundantly clear how important the school is in a community. I work at a school that is predominantly Hispanic—many undocumented students. I work there; I’m also a parent there—it’s my community school. My kids attend the school. We were giving out 150 bags of groceries every week. We were the place that people called when they had questions about their rent or being evicted. So even where folks are undocumented, even in the political climate where people feel so concerned about accessing services, they feel safe at school. I studied government in college and I feel like having good schools is a part of having a strong community.
You mentioned equity. What does equity mean to you in terms of schooling?
In my mind it means that kids and families get what services they need to be successful. That’s not always the same services or classes. We, meaning the staff of the school, the adults in a classroom, need to do whatever we can to give kids whatever they need to be successful.
What were your long-term goals, six months ago?
I came to business school because I wanted teachers to have a voice at the policy table. I felt like as a teacher, I didn’t have that voice. I felt like I needed a different kind of credibility and a different way to kind of make a case and use data in order to earn that voice.
That has been really important to me as a central office staff member in New York and Cleveland and D.C. and as a school leader. I don’t think that goal has changed. I love my current position and I want to be here for a while. I also really enjoyed working in the central office and like that work at scale. The goal is the same—can we make policies that really bring educator expertise to the table?
I think part of what I have learned over the past few years is that we also need to do more to elevate family voices and student voices, so that schools can be really great places for everybody in a community.
How has everything that’s happened this year change those goals?
I think if anything it has accelerated my sense of the importance of families. We’ve always said, parents are partners in education. But parents are really partners in education right now. If we can figure out ways to keep the current level of parent engagement, keep the current level of communication with parents, keep the connectivity of kids and parents on sick days, and when they have a doctor’s appointment, and snow days, and over the summer…and have kids in person, then I think we can really accelerate where kids are. We’ve been trying to do school at school and do this family piece as an add-on. We’re getting that add-on part really right now. Now when we can add back in school, I think we could really have a huge impact on kids.
Are we done with snow days? Have we had our last snow day?
I think we might be done with snow days.
If you had the opportunity to make some big asks, what do you think public schools need in terms of resources or support?
I still think there is a lot of work to be done on systems and data integration and tools in schools. I’ve worked on both sides of this—I’ve been in the central office and I’ve done consulting cases for ed tech firms, and they just don’t talk well to one another. School districts are so small that they are not considered important customers. So there’s not really an incentive for companies to build things so that they work together. There’re some improvements in this, and some companies that have actually become those hubs. But I spend so much of my day moving numbers around a spreadsheet that I could be spending with kids and with teachers. It is not sexy, but it would bring real efficiencies.
I think the technology piece is huge. We’re actually getting technology to the kids. But that’s going to be an ongoing, huge lift. A lot of my students right now have three-year-old devices that take 15 minutes to load, and then they’re having to come back into school to update them. It’s about really thinking, how do we ensure ongoing technology access and connectivity? That’s huge. Kids should just have that internet available to them.
I think we need a ton more additional opportunities for families: the camps and the dance lessons and the summer programs, that are really high quality and valued. That is a big part of where that opportunity gap is. Same for early childhood education. Kids need really great care and support when they’re little and parents need more support to be able to afford that. We can definitely see the differences between kids who are coming in from a high-quality daycare and those who aren’t. That’s a national priority.
Then there are health disparities and immigration concerns that make it harder for my families to focus on learning. It’s hard to separate education from those.
Interviewed on August 26, 2020