Candidate profiles: Naugatuck Board of Education (Democrats)

0
178

The Citizen’s News asked candidates running for Naugatuck Board of Education in the Nov. 2 municipal election four questions. The following are responses from Democratic candidates:

Jason Celozzi

Jason Celozzi

Age: 45

Party: Democrat

Education: B.S. with education certification

Political Experience: Board of Education (3 terms)

Occupation: Regional vice president

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“Serving our borough on the board for the last six years is a tremendous source of pride for me.  It provides me the opportunity to give back to a community that has given to my family.  Additionally having a roll on the board, allows me to utilize my experience and lend a voice and an opinion to how we provide a quality education and future for all of Naugatuck’s students. I also enjoy collaborating with the various members of the board and our community to come up with the best approach to running all aspects of our public school program.”

What can the school district do to improve student achievement and make up for the loss of in-person instructional time due to the pandemic?

“The pandemic has provided unprecedented and unique challenges to all public school programs and continues to be ever present in daily life and decision making. For the district to continue our quest for student achievement and success, we need to keep student safety and educational excellence within balance. Providing a comfortable and safe learning environment has always been a focus and a commitment to our students, and the pandemic challenges our ability to do that. The mental health and wellness of our students and staff will continue to be an area of focus for myself and the board. As well as keeping class sizes low to create more individual interaction between teacher and student, while providing a more personalized education experience. This coupled with maintaining high expectations for student achievement, we will continue to generate success for our students post the forced distance learning.”

Do you think local boards of education should have discretion in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools? What protocols do you think are needed?

“Local boards were already tasked with the safety and wellbeing of our student and staff population pre-pandemic. I believe that it is the continued responsibility of the board to source all necessary information from local and national mandates and in accordance per our charter in making and enforcing all protocols. That said, I am looking forward to our students and staff being able to participate in a mask-free setting and reduced restrictions.”

What is your message to voters?

“I have dedicated 20 years of my life to education, as a public school teacher, a high school coach and as a member of the board of education. The last six years on the board has elevated my experience in budget planning, union contracts, curriculum development and facility projects, to name a few. I feel privileged and proud to volunteer my time in service of the families of our borough. I will continue my commitment to Naugatuck and provide guidance and leadership through communication, community input and exploration of improving educational standards.  Thank you for this opportunity and I appreciate all continued support and encouragement.”

Ethel S. Grant

Ethel S. Grant

Age: N/A

Party: Democrat

Education: B.S., education, Central Connecticut State University; M.S. education, Southern Connecticut State University

Political Experience: Board of Education (4 terms)

Occupation: Retired from teaching as dean of students, Kaynor Technical High School

Why are you running for school board?

“With each term served on the BOE, my appreciation grows for the dedication, planning and hard work that the BOE puts into providing the best education possible for children and related professional development for teachers. I would like to continue to work with our superintendent, his administrative team, teachers, parents, staff and students in meeting and even exceeding our district’s goals to provide equal and equitable education for students through opportunities and content challenges to help them to grow intellectually, to graduate and to become productive and informed members of the world.”

What can the school district do to improve student achievement and make up for the loss of in-person instructional time due to the pandemic?

“The superintendent and the board can continue to encourage and support our teachers and administrators in their effort to reach out to every student in their care to assure that students not only receive an equal education, but also an equitable one; meaning that they are receiving what they individually need to aid in their educational advancement, whether that be individualized special education, or accommodations for a disability, or a need for educational materials that celebrate who they are as a member of an ethnic or gender group, or there’s a need for a no fee lunch so that they can function better on a full stomach. To help make up for lost time, in-person after school tutoring in core subjects: math, English, science, offering late buses, or online tutoring on demand at home similar to our pandemic format with teacher presentations or purchased programs.”

Do you think local boards of education should have discretion in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools? What protocols do you think are needed?

“We are not scientists or doctors and do not have privy to those experts as part of our paid staff. The responsibility for making our own protocols would be astronomical. We have pledged to protect and keep safe those in our care. We would be jeopardizing the health/safety as well of students, teachers and staff and ultimately our families by entering into an area in which we have no expert knowledge. I would not be willing to take on that responsibility.”

What is your message to voters?

“As a former educator and parent of two daughters who graduated from our school system and have gone on to have successful careers, I hope that parents, teachers, citizens, community leaders, elected and appointed officials remember that we are the best advocates our students have. I ask that we join together in encouraging all of our students to be learners, ‘responsible citizens, researchers, innovators, informed thinkers, communicators and problem solvers,’ as well as to be compassionate, unbiased and respectful; and to advocate for themselves and above to graduate. I welcome the opportunity to serve and will continue to do my best to contribute to the process of empowering our students to reach out and to reach up. Please exercise your right to vote on Nov. 2; be that role model for our children.”

Cara Munro

Cara Munro

Age: 46

Party: Democrat

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science, New York University; Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, University of New Orleans; Remedial Reading and English Language Consultant 6th Year Degree, Southern Connecticut University

Political Experience: None

Occupation: Teacher

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“First and foremost, I am running for the Board of Education because I live here, own property here, and my children go to school here. Beyond that, my extensive experience as a public school educator makes me uniquely qualified to see the issues we face from a teacher’s perspective, as well as a parent’s, which is important. I am dedicated to improving the experience and achievement of all students. In short, I think I would be an asset to our schools and our community.”

What can the school district do to improve student achievement and make up for the loss of in-person instructional time due to the pandemic?

“This is a crucial time for students and schools in Naugatuck. Students are coming back to school longing for a sense of connection and community. Those needs must be met first in order for academic goals to be achieved. To make up for lost time in the classroom, the key will be acceleration instead of remediation. The district will need to meet each learner where they are, use data to drive instruction and provide targeted support where needed. At-risk populations will need to be monitored closely. Andrew Avenue Elementary recently won a prestigious award for making strides towards closing the achievement gap. Let’s learn from them and see how this can be applied throughout the district.”

Do you think local boards of education should have discretion in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools? What protocols do you think are needed?

“Local school boards should have some discretion and flexibility in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools, however, it is imperative that their decisions be aligned with the recommendations of local health officials.”

What is your message to voters?

“I want voters to know that it would be an honor to serve our borough as a member of the Board of Education. When we relocated to the area after Hurricane Katrina, my husband stumbled upon Naugatuck while driving around for work. He was so struck by the picturesque scene of a diverse group of children playing at recess next to the historic Salem School that he called me right away. He thought he might have found the town where we could put down roots in Connecticut and he was right! We’ve been here for 14 years now, our kids are getting older and I have 20 years of teaching under my belt. I am ready to get to work for the community I love and join the Board of Education. Please vote for me! I will not let our children down!”

James M. Scully

James M. Scully

Age: 72

Party: Democrat

Education: Crosby High School; Mattatuck Community College

Political Experience: Board of Education (14 years); Naugatuck Democratic Town Committee; Charter Revision Commission

Occupation: N/A

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“To help children get a good start on life.”

What can the school district do to improve student achievement and make up for the loss of in-person instructional time due to the pandemic?

“Support the teachers with material they need to do their job the best they can.”

Do you think local boards of education should have discretion in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools? What protocols do you think are needed?

“The protocols needs to control the spread of COVID go outside the area schools can handle. You need people who understand what is going on. State and federal governments have people with the knowledge to deal with these problems. Working together is the way to go.”

What is your message to voters?

“Get out and vote.”

Karen Vassell-Campbell

Karen Vassell-Campbell

Age: 49

Party: Democrat

Education: N/A

Political Experience: Board of Education

Occupation: N/A

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I consider it a privilege and a purpose to serve in this capacity without any hesitation. It doesn’t even have anything to with my party affiliation.”

What can the school district do to improve student achievement and make up for the loss of in-person instructional time due to the pandemic?

“Yes, let’s be honest, as the famous quote states, ‘Time loss can never be regained.’ However to improve student achievement due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district can look into after school educational online programs for those students who are not preforming at grade level. In addition for those who are performing well, continue to encourage and provide incentives for them to maintain their level. For example, students whose performances exceed standard expectations should be given not just a certificate of achievement but a small gift in any form can boost behavior. Kind of like positive reinforcement. It should not just be at graduation that we recognize excellence in education.”

Do you think local boards of education should have discretion in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools? What protocols do you think are needed?

“The local school boards should not be the ultimate source deciding COVID-19 protocols at all. The school board should in fact follow the guidelines of the CDC, the state, and the Department of Health, when it comes on to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What is your message to voters?

“On Election Day, Elect Karen For BOE. Let’s continue to keep the Naugatuck school district a safe place for ALL, with emphases on SAFETY and DIVERSITY.”