Candidate profiles: Naugatuck Board of Education (Republicans)

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

Jeffrey Litke

Jeffrey Litke

Age: 40

Party: Republican

Education: Naugatuck High School; Bachelor’s in political science, University of Connecticut; Master’s of Public Administration, University of New Haven

Political Experience: Naugatuck Board of Education; Naugatuck Zoning Commission; Naugatuck Inland Wetlands Commission; Naugatuck Republican Town Committee

Occupation: Human resources, Town of Stratford

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I am running for the Board of Education because I believe in community service and giving back to the school system that helped to shape me. I am a proud resident of Naugatuck and a product of Naugatuck Public Schools. I graduated from Naugatuck High School in 1999. It is also important for me to ensure that my nieces, their friends and ALL the students in Naugatuck receive the best education possible.”

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 school district needs to ensure that the students have the supports in place to assist them with the help that they need due to the loss of in-person instruction. We need to be adaptable to each student as each student has different needs and different ways of learning. Some examples of supports could be access to tutors or online learning programs. We also need to be providing the social and emotional supports to our students and ensuring that they have access to counselors.”

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

“Yes, I believe that local boards of education should have some discretion in deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools. Our goal should always be to keep our students, staff and community healthy and safe. I believe the protocols in place should be dependent on how our school system and community are doing in regards to COVID.”

What is your message to voters?

“My message to voters is simple. I care about our students, school system, staff and community and I want to continue to serve and have a role. I will always put the students and community first. Serving on the Board of Education is an amazing honor and one that I do not take lightly. I will always listen to the concerns of our residents and most importantly I will always do what I can to ensure that our students receive the best education possible.”

Alicia Marie Makowski

Alicia Marie Makowski

Age: 49

Party: Republican

Education: Naugatuck High School; Singers Forum, New York City

Political Experience: N/A

Occupation: Photographer

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I have four children that attend Naugatuck schools. One recently graduated from Naugatuck High School. I am very proud to have raised my children in Naugatuck. There is a special feeling when you know that your child has some of the same experiences you had. However, I was frustrated with the lack of communication from the current Board of Education as a parent advocate for the full reopening of schools. Many parents in my circle were experiencing the same results. The lack of in-person board meetings furthered this silencing of parents’ voices. This is not acceptable. Parents are stakeholders in their children’s education. We should be included in discussions regarding their education. These realizations led me to seek a nomination for Board of Education.”

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?

“To enhance student achievement, I would like to see them stay in school. Students should be striving toward their goal of being celebrated and valued members of their community. Being involved in clubs, sports and activities can help students feel connected. As a board member and cheer coach for Naugatuck Pop Warner, I see Naugatuck children feeling pride in their town and abilities. Civic minded students that feel pride in their town can help accelerate their academic achievement. Some students lost a lot last year. We cannot let these students down with more restrictions and barriers to their education. We are 20 months into the pandemic. We need to find a way to make sure students’ education is not disrupted by the pandemic any further. I am confident that our students can achieve their education goals through dynamic and nuanced solutions. Children are ultimately resilient.”

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 board of educations should leave the decisions of children’s wellbeing in the hands of parents. Naugatuck has always had excellent rules for illness in the past. Sick children should stay home. Children should return when they are fever free for 24 hours without medication. Children should go home from school if they are unwell. Since the Board of Education is not a public health department, it should not act as such. We have a local and state level health department to defer to for COVID-19 protocols. As for protocols that I would like to see implemented, there have been some promising results from improving airflow in enclosed spaces can combat aerosolized viruses. I am hopeful the board may consider this research when complying with local and state health department rules.”

What is your message to voters?

“Someone once told me that the people that are the most critical and outspoken usually just want to help. I want to help. I may not be the candidate some expect me to be, but I care deeply for my community. I want to see Naugatuck students continue to have the best education possible. Our community is what makes this town special. We can execute the ‘vision of the graduate’ and continue to help students become responsible and engaged citizens.”

Diana Malone

Diana Malone

Age: 66

Party: Republican

Education: Associate’s degree in early childhood education

Political Experience: Board of Education (10 years)

Occupation: Retired

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I am running for reelection to the Board of Education because I want to continue to advocate for the students of Naugatuck. I raised my children in Naugatuck and my grandchildren are currently growing up here. My grandson is a senior at Naugatuck High School and my granddaughter is a freshman. They have two sisters, one being a fifth grader at Hillside and the other a kindergartner at Andrew Avenue. I want my grandchildren and the rest of the children in Naugatuck to receive a quality education to help them succeed in their future endeavors.”

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?

“In order to improve student achievement and make up for the loss of in-person teaching, we can offer more individualized teaching with smaller classroom sizes and provide students with necessary tools. The school district can also provide more student and community building activities, in order for teachers, students and families to reconnect.”

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

“They should be the same throughout the state. The focus should be on the health and safety of the students and staff.”

What is your message to voters?

“We can all work together and continue to strengthen the school system after the pandemic. Our students and children are our priority and they should be receiving the best education possible.”

Aaron McCool

Aaron McCool

Age: 37

Party: Republican

Education: B.S. in communications, minor in theater

Political Experience: Naugatuck Republican Town Committee

Occupation: Self employed

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I am running for office to return control of our schools to the parents who entrust us to teach their children. I intend to work with board members and parents of Naugatuck leading a ‘back to basics’ approach to policies and education. These basics include being proactive, transparent, and academically focused; math, literacy, science, and history.”

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?

“In hindsight we never should have closed our schools. To improve student achievement NPS should keep our schools open and focused on academics. Realigning parents, teachers, and students so that we are working together towards a common goal. To make up for the loss of in-person learning, NPS can offer after school tutoring to help students who need extra instructional time to reach their highest academic potential, involving parents every step of the way.”

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

“Per Connecticut’s state Constitution, a Board of Education is the final say for all policies in their districts. I believe in listening to the parents and taxpayers right here in Naugatuck who elect their board. Health care is between a person and their doctor. We should be working with families to increase attendance and preparing students for college or the workforce respectively. COVID-19 doesn’t need different protocols then the standard ones we’ve always used. Stay home if you’re sick and 24 hours without symptoms or medication and you may return to school. Listening to parents, they want the choice to do what’s right for their families without mandates, with respect for others who chose to take different precautions than their own.”

What is your message to voters?

“I’m a father first and my daughter attends kindergarten in our district. It is for her and all of our children that I felt the call to serve the community. I am running to be a representative of Naugatuck. When casting my vote on policy I will remember I work for voters in Naugatuck, not Hartford or Washington, D.C. Preparing students for the workforce and college to be contributing positive members of the community is what drives my passion and dedication.”

Marilyn O’Donnell

Marilyn O’Donnell

Age: 58

Party: Republican

Education: N/A

Political Experience: Board of Education (1 term)

Occupation: Assistant director of a daycare

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I’m running for the Board of Education to continue the work I’ve already started.”

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 school district has a lot of work ahead of it. After the pandemic there will be a lot of kids who lost an important amount of educational progress. The district will have to offer more help in many ways to make sure everyone is getting the help they need.”

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

“I believe the districts need to do everything that they need to do to keep the students and staff safe. If this means following what the state mandates, then that’s what has to be done. Do I want to wear a mask or have to make the students and staff wear them, the answer is no. But that being said, I think if that is what is going to keep safe, then that’s what it has to be.”

What is your message to voters?

“I ran the first time on the voice for the families. I believe I have done so and will continue to do so. I’m involved and invested in the youth and families of Naugatuck. I’m raising a grandson, who is a student in the Naugatuck school system. I want what’s best for him and all the families. I’m here not just for the student and families, but also for the staff. I have families and staff who feel they can reach out to me and that I’m willing to help solve their issues. This will continue. I think just the two years was a big learning curve and I will continue to grow. Please vote 15B on Nov. 2.”