READING - Linda Snow Dockser fully exemplifies the meaning of volunteering and championing community service with abundant experience as an educator, administrator and writer. She’s been a Reading resident for many years and her life’s been packed with doing things for others. Her selection by State Senator Jason Lewis as a Heroine of the Commonwealth’s Heroine Class of 2020 epitomizes her belief that “together we can make a difference”. Linda’s heartfelt response to her Heroine selection: “Thank you to everyone who has worked with me to make a difference! It has all been a team effort. I accept this amazing honor with you all with me”.

Over the years Linda’s community service is amply reflected in her continuing efforts today to make all of us feel most welcome regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation or other social distinctions. It has been a top priority for her and her family all her life. She watched and volunteered alongside her parents, Ed and Barbara Snow, growing up in her Marblehead temple and community, subsequently finding ways to volunteer herself. Her Dad held leadership positions in Regional Jewish Organizations while her Mom was constantly at the temple volunteering, organizing for an organization called ‘Juvenile Aid’, helping her neighbors, serving with her friends at My Brother’s Table, and baking for Linda’s meetings and the Reading Public Schools. They were a constant source of inspiration and support.

Linda enjoys community service to the point she sometimes feels that it’s a ‘calling’ as she finds it very difficult to sit still when there’s work to be done and change needs to happen, especially where people need help. The need for help today is very evident for People of Color as it was for our Jewish ancestors in Nazi Germany nearly 90 years ago. When growing up in Marblehead, Linda witnessed her Marblehead home egged and a swastika painted on the driveway across the street, their temple and cemetery defaced multiple times, and personally attacked along with her brother because they were Jewish. All were among many incidences of hate the family experienced.

We don’t have to look far for manifestations of hate with swastikas drawn in Reading and the recent murders of 4 blacks in separate incidences by over-reacting police make painfully evident.

In the process of fighting hate, Linda has found that there are far more good people than those who perpetuate hate, discrimination, and ignorance. The people she’s met through her volunteering and social justice work inspire, motivate and support her. “It is together that change happens and I feel so fortunate to be working with so many wonderful people.”

It all began volunteering alongside her folks, leading her temple youth group and being a regional organizer for her youth group. At that time, her parents adopted a wonderful family escaping from Russia who became part of theirs. Linda’s mother helped them to acclimate, learn to shop, connect them with services, and find jobs among other things. The Russian family has stayed in contact with Linda. In fact the mother, Lillian, called Linda only yesterday. The Russian family had to emigrate in waves which was hard in leaving family behind. However, they quickly adapted becoming contributing American citizens.

The “Pillars of Character Program” at J.W. Killam elementary school is one of Linda’s fondest memories. Her 3 children, Joshua, Aaron and Jennie attended Killam at the time. The program involved teachers creatively engaging students in community service projects and integrating character lessons into their everyday curriculum. Parents were also eager to volunteer their help in every way. EVERYONE worked together to make “Pillars” work. It was basically a full time job for Linda and, although it wasn’t a paid position, it empowered her to use her educational background to make a difference in a creative and collaborative way. “The team that this program created fills my heart and soul, and inspires me to this day.”

The program also offered role models called “Pillars of Our Community” to 550 students sitting on the J.W. Killam Cafetorium floor at each assembly. Some of the everyday folks honored were from the Reading Food Pantry, RMHS Peer Leaders, and cafeteria workers. The school community empowered the students to adopt a South Africa orphanage raising money to buy it a van, refrigerator, and shoes for each of the orphans. They also fundraised for Tsunami victims in Haiti, and protected a mother duck who nested at the entrance of the school until her ducklings hatched. This parade of ducklings were caught on camera by some Pillars volunteers and shown to a cheering crowd at one of the Assemblies. “Pillars of Character” assemblies were video recorded and submitted to RCTV who played them so that families could watch together at home at convenient times during the day. The RPS Administration supported the Killam’s efforts and the Principal at the time, Paul Guerrette, was instrumental in helping the program not to overwhelm the teachers who were already incredibly busy. Incidentally, Police Chief David Clark still mentions his “Pillars” award on his resume.

After being a member of the School Councils at each of her children’s schools, Linda served 2 terms with distinction as a member and Vice-Chair of the Reading School Committee from 2014 to 2020. In addition to maintaining a state of the art curriculum and working tirelessly to address the evolving needs of RPS’ faculty, parents, and most importantly, students, the school budget was always a major issue. There were some who felt the School Committee was not being transparent with expenditures but Linda felt that this was not true as evidenced by the inclusiveness, readability, and responsiveness of the RPS budget book, the process which included written question and answer opportunities, and the administration’s attendance at any and all meetings, including participation in the override.

Some select board members were perpetuating the illusion that education was sufficiently funded and that the burgeoning special education and space needs were not real. However, it’s common knowledge, even acknowledged by the State Commission on Education and the DESE, that schools are underfunded and over-extended. Unfunded mandates continue and yet funding does not keep up. Linda feels that whether we like it or not, providing a “Free and Appropriate Public Education” and a “least restrictive environment” is necessary for every child despite being expensive and challenging. Linda also believes that the over prioritizing of standardized testing does a disservice to our students and the education that our devoted teachers work so hard to enable, including creative problem solving, the motivation to make and learn from mistakes, and the acknowledgement of students’ different learning and expressive styles.

Linda was a founding member of Reading Embraces Diversity (RED), a community action group formed in 2017 that’s committed to promoting diversity and ending all forms of discrimination, particularly racial injustice at this time. Their efforts have engaged our Town Manager, Police Chief, the schools, and other civic, business and social group leaders as well as the Reading Clergy Association. Dr. Anna Ornstein, a child psychiatrist and WWII Holocaust Survivor, has spoken at some of RED’s events.

Linda was also the head of the Human Relations Activities Committee (HRAC) and an active member from 2014 - 2018. Initially, its founding mission was to promote and encourage respect for the human and civil rights of all Reading residents. Subsequently however, the group’s authority was reduced to an advisory capacity and reporting to the Select Board. In Linda’s opinion, this left an actionable void that needs to be filled through the creation of a town human rights organization. In reality, Linda feels that Human Rights Organizations/Social Justice work will enrich everyone’s lives.

She believes that we should invest in a Human Rights Organization. “It will enhance the culture of Reading, help everyone to feel welcome here, and in the long run, it will save the town money and angst.”

Through her work with the Massachusetts Human Rights Coalition, she has seen all that Human Rights Organizations can accomplish. She meets monthly with this organization which supports Human Rights Organizations across the Commonwealth, and organizes an annual Convening at the State House, a gathering of Human Rights leaders from across the state where information and expertise are shared about current social justice challenges.

Linda believes that “WE should stop going on Social Media to express our dissatisfaction and start working WITH people to make everyone’s lives and education better. It is easy to rant on social media; it is more challenging to DO THE WORK to make a difference.”

“We should recognize the work that our town staff and volunteers do to enable our town to function and improve. Don’t just focus on the negatives or a personal, narrow agenda. There is definitely work to do that can improve our schools and town, but change does not happen overnight and there is no easy way to please everyone. Our town would be a lot better off if we stopped ranting and lashing out, and instead focused more on working together for the good of all our residents, families, businesses, and visitors. Our glass should be looked at as half full.”

Linda is a Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude graduate of Tufts University with a B.S. in Child Study. She holds a Ph.D., M.S. in Psychology in Education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Her Doctoral Dissertation: “Mothers in Children’s Museums: A Neglected Dynamic.”

She lives in Reading with her husband Mark, an Entrepreneur and Business Consultant; Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University and Emerson College; Business Mentor at many local universities; and Chair of the Reading Select Board. They attend Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester.

Since 2016, Linda has been the Office Administrator for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading. Among the many key things she does for UUCR, Linda manages operations at the center of a 280-member, social justice motivated, and community engaged congregation.

Linda has enjoyed coordinating and planning community programs along with writing the grants to support them. The programs have included bringing people who have survived the Holocaust and other speakers like Rosalind Wiseman and Dr. Mykee Fowlin to engage with the students and their families. She literally has a ton of education work experience that would easily fill 2 Spotlight columns and includes 12 years as a Columnist and Freelance writer for the Reading Daily Times Chronicle where she researched, networked, and wrote weekly articles relating to Reading Public Schools and the community.

Linda and Mark have 3 children who all graduated from the Reading Public Schools. Joshua just graduated with an MBA from Tufts Fletcher School of International Business; Aaron is an Organizational Specialist with the National Education Association (National Teachers Union); and Jennie who graduated from New York University last year with a focus on Nutrition, Dietetics and Adolescent Mental Health. She’s currently interning for her Certification in Dietetics at the Mass General Hospital.

As one can easily gather from this partial history of Linda’s community contributions, her selection as “Unsung Heroine” of the Commonwealth’s Heroine Class of 2020, perfectly fits the description of a “Champion of Community Service”.

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