Candidate profiles: Region 16 Board of Education (Beacon Falls)

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The Citizen’s News asked candidates running for Region 16 Board of Education in Beacon Falls in the Nov. 2 municipal election four questions.

Christine Arnold

Christine Arnold

Age: 57

Town: Beacon Falls

Party: Republican

Education: Master’s degree in social work, Southern Connecticut State University

Political Experience: Board of Education (two terms)

Occupation: School social worker in Oxford

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I am presently serving on the Board of Education and would be honored if I were to be elected again to continue to serve the town in this capacity. I have been working in education as a social worker for 22 years and believe that my experience is an asset to the board. I care about what is best for students and will continue to advocate for curriculum/programs that support their mental health and enable all students to learn.”

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 data always needs to be continuously reviewed and instruction adjusted accordingly to address gaps in learning. Additional gaps in learning due to the pandemic may require hiring additional interventionists to work with students in small groups and/or making changes in curriculum if it is needed to improve students’ learning. Students need to continue to attend school in person to benefit the most from instruction. Our children need socialization with their peers to support their developmental needs and mental health.”

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 still in a pandemic and local boards of education are required to follow state mandates for COVID protocols. It is in our children’s best interests to be learning in person and we need to take some precautions to keep our schools open and to keep our children, families, and teachers safe. What protocols are needed is determined in part by the severity of the outbreak in the community and state. If COVID protocols do become a local decision, then the BOE members should consider parent input to determine how that is best addressed.”

What is your message to voters?

“My message to voters is that I believe parental and community input is essential to guide decisions made by the board members. I will listen to everyone’s concerns if you reach out to me and will do my best to advocate for the needs of all children. I believe in working collaboratively with the other board members and our superintendent and I would strive to continue to be fiscally responsible with our decision making.”

Dale Bodyk

Dale Bodyk

Age: 45

Town: Beacon Falls

Party: Democrat

Education: M.S. in education; bachelor’s in biology

Political Experience: None

Occupation: Teacher

Why are you running for Board of Education? 

“It is important to serve the community and help guide the decisions that will be made for our communities’ children.”

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?

“Improving student achievement and making up for lost in-person instructional time will be a process. Commitment from schools, faculty, staff, families and the community will be paramount. Reintroducing school as a normal part of everyday life will be a transition that will take time for our students. Whether it’s addressing social emotional learning or re-establishing academic ‘fitness,’ everyone will play a role. Being creative with available grants and existing resources will help guide students’ ability to discover efficacy in learning that will lead our students through the 21st century.”

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

“Many factors need to be considered when addressing COVID-19 protocols in schools. The local health district, community health professionals and individual needs must be considered. The protocols may vary from school to school or even classroom to classroom. Health professionals are our best resource to help guide decisions that are best to protect the students in our community.”

What is your message to voters? 

“The education community is a web of individuals that come together for the purpose of learning and building our community. We need committed individuals who are willing to work together and foster future leaders in our district.”

Erik Dey

Erik Dey

Age: N/A

Town: Beacon Falls

Party: Democrat

Political Experience: Region 16 Board of Education, chairman of the Curriculum Committee; Library Board of Trustees (6 years, 4 as chairman)

Education: Doctorate of Education Educational Leadership, New England College; Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study Administration, New England College; Master of Arts Curriculum and Instruction Summa Cum Laude, University of Connecticut; Bachelor of Arts Summa Cum Laude educational studies, history and political science, New England College

Job: Educator

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I am running for Board of Education to serve my community by utilizing my particular expertise, experience, and education. I want to help support teachers and administrators do what is best for kids by eliminating obstacles that are expensive for taxpayers, waste time for administrators, overburden teachers, and prevent students from building the skills they need for success.”

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 already employed reading and math coaches to support students in making up for the loss of in-person instructional time. I would like to increase overall instructional time by reducing the number of half days on the school calendar, currently we have 11 with a proposal for 13 half days. I am concerned with the loss of face time between students and teachers, and would like to provide more contact time.”

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

“Given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that information is changing and being updated frequently, I am glad that we’re able to have students back in the classroom on a more regular basis. The reduction of screen time and increased interaction with teachers and peers has had a positive impact for students. I would like federal and state leaders to create a situation where it is safe for students to attend school in person without a mask.”

What is your message to voters?

“There are many communities that are starting to feel the long-term impact of insufficient support of education. Low student performance has a correlation to increased teen pregnancy, crime, violent crime, low property value and low earning power, which is linked to the economic strength of the community. Communities with lower student performance also see a decrease of volunteers in emergency services like the fire department, ambulance crews, and other EMS workers. Regardless of the election, we need to work towards a strong community, which is supportive of the long-term success of everyone.”

Tiffany Lyga

Tiffany Lyga

Age: 43

Town: Beacon Falls

Party: Republican

Education: Bachelor of Arts, communication science disorders

Political Experience: None

Occupation: Financial advisor

Why are you running for Board of Education? 

“I’m running because I believe parental involvement in our schools and education process is of the utmost importance. I also think my job helps me to understand the fiscal aspect of a school system, but I will also have the perspective of a parent.”

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? 

“My youngest child was in first grade when the pandemic hit and I feel like he has had the most educational impact out of the three. So much so that I had him tutored once a week for a few weeks over the summer. He wasn’t struggling but there were a few things I felt like he had missed. I feel like we as a region could offer children summer school as an enrichment program, we could over office hours with teachers and paras over Zoom for students and their parents to work on things they are struggling with together, and a focused homework on areas the children are struggling for the parent and child to work together on. I really feel like parents and teachers need an open line of communication where they work together to help the children be successful.”

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 do think that we should have control over what happens in our schools. That is not to say that we should act in a bubble. I feel like we should look to the CDC for recommendations, but decide what works best for us. I am glad our kids are back to school, I am glad we are able to increase fun activities for them through PTO, sports, etc., but I would like to get to a point where they do not have to wear masks and where they can do more group work.”

What is your message to voters? 

“I think our children deserve a wonderful school system that is going to put them and their education first. I believe that comes through parents, administrators, teachers and students alike have a vested interest — no one party can do it alone. We need to work together, have open lines of communication and strive to do our best. I think my being a parent and having a job as a fiduciary gives me a unique perspective to balance a budget while meeting the needs of our children first.”