Candidate profiles: Region 16 Board of Education (Prospect)

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

Gezime Ajro

Gezime Ajro

Age: 43

Party: Democrat

Education: Bachelor’s in computer science

Political Experience: New to politics

Occupation: Senior data and analytics adviser

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I’ve been a Prospect resident for the past 17 years. I have four children, three of which are currently in the Region 16 school district. If I’m elected as a member of the BOE, I will advocate for parents and students of Region 16 schools. We currently do not have any Region 16 parents on the board. My goal will be to raise the bar in terms of improving our educational programs. We need to challenge the status quo. We need to promote innovative thinking and programs that are proven to be effective and integrate 21st century skills and technologies to prepare our students for success in this quickly advancing world we live in. We also need to raise the bar in terms of professional development and making sure our teachers have the support and resources they need because having great technology alone doesn’t replace poor teaching.”

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?

“With the challenges and disruptions in learning in the past two years, we are seeing more students falling behind. With these challenges comes social, emotional and behavioral issues that can lead to serious consequences. We need to take aggressive steps to get our students back on track by re-evaluating our current programs on a continuous basis. We need to be able to quickly shift priorities, monitor growth and re-purpose our resources. We need to look beyond traditional approaches. More focus needs to be given to students who need the extra support all while ensuring others don’t fall behind. Some of what I’d like to see is collaboration of ideas with other regions to understand what programs are working for them and how we can implement those ideas into our schools.”

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

“Board of Ed members are elected to represent our values and desires. They are entrusted to advocate for students and parents of the community which elected them. While always keeping the overall health and safety of our students in mind, Board of Ed members, along with feedback solicited from our local community and parents, should have discretion in deciding protocols for our local schools.”

What is your message to voters?

“We currently do not have any parents on the BOE with children attending region 16 schools. As a parent with children currently in the school system, I have a personal interest in maintaining and improving the quality of our local school system for our students, our families, and our local community. Parents have been pushed to side and kept in the dark for far too long when it comes to their children’s education. We need to change that by voting for parents that have true vested interest in our school systems.”

Robert Hiscox

Robert Hiscox

Age: 71

Party: Republican

Education: Central Connecticut State University, B.S., major general science, minor biology; Central Connecticut State University, M.A. curriculum development/supervision; 1981 Southern Connecticut State University, CAGS school administration; Additional graduate course work Fairfield University, University of Connecticut, Central Connecticut State University, St. Joseph College

Political Experience: Region 16 Board of Education (12 years, served as chairman, vice chairman, and secretary); Planning and Zoning Commission (12 years, 10 years as chairman); Past chairman Prospect Comprehensive Plan of Conservation and Development; Republican Town Committee (25 plus years, six years as chairman); Past chairman Inland Wetland Committee (three years); Justice of the Peace; Charter Revision Committee (2015-2016); Community School Purchase Committee (2015); Prospect Elementary School Building Committee, Region 16 District Office Building Committee

Occupation: Retired middle/high school science teacher

Why are you running for the Board of Education?

“In light of the state’s continued budget crisis, the ever-changing world of COVID, and the changing individual needs of our students, the BOE faces ongoing significant challenges. I believe that my background, over 48 years in public education, teacher and current BOE member, allows me to give back to the town and our children a level of expertise that will provide Region 16 students and taxpayers with the best and most affordable educational opportunities as we move forward preparing students to enter adulthood as well educated productive citizens.”

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?

“Our ongoing commitment to align and update curriculum to meet state and national standards has proven effective. The efforts of our dedicated and professional staff continue to be the best in the state. We will continue to improve opportunities for students. Staff continues to assess student needs and devote more time and energy focused on meeting the individual needs of our students. Making up for lost learning time as the result of COVID has become a challenge. Increased use of technology and additional individualized programs dedicated to help the needs of each student are being implemented. We have increased our efforts to identify specific needs and to provide appropriate accommodations.”

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 that local student needs and safety protocols are best determined by local elected officials with firsthand knowledge of local community needs and desires. Local community input is the most critical component of BOE decision-making. However, as local officials we have little to no power to overrule state statutes and duly issued executive orders. The district has done a tremendous job of providing for the needs of our students during COVID. Our response to state and national requirements, coupled with our locally developed action plans and protocols, have proven to be effective. Student safety and wellbeing, while providing a comprehensive educational program, continues to be a top priority. I will continue to work in a safe and appropriate manner to bring our school experience for all students back to pre-COVID times.”

What is your message to voters?

“As an experienced Board of Education member, I have worked hard to upgrade of our facilities, strengthen our curriculum and make consistent improvements throughout Region 16. Your tax dollars have been spent wisely, and we have received the best value for our money. We must constantly look at the cost effectiveness and educational value of each dollar spent, and not be afraid to ask tough questions and make appropriate changes as needed. I believe my past experience and understanding of all levels of educational programming will best serve the voters, but more importantly, the individual needs of our students. I will consistently look for programs that strengthen parent-student-school-community communication to ensure that we are collectively meeting the needs of individual students in the most cost effective manner.”

Karima Jackson

Karima Jackson

Age: 39

Party: Democrat

Education: B.A. sociology, Colby College; M.S. Counseling, University of Bridgeport

Political Experience: Prospect Democratic Town Committee since 2020; Region 16 Parent Advisory Council Member since 2020

Occupation: College and career readiness counselor

Why are you running for Board of Education?

“I am running for Region 16 Board of Education because I have three daughters attending schools in the region. My husband and I chose this small town because we felt our voices would be heard and our children will receive a quality education and an enriched upbringing. I still believe this to be true and I look forward to having an opportunity to serve on a Board of Education that cherishes diversity and equity as we do.”

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?

“Students are resilient; however, none of us have ever been through a global pandemic. First, we should focus on our students’ mental health, coping mechanisms, social interaction, and social emotional learning. Students need to feel confident, supported, and have a strong foundation with their coping mechanisms before considering the loss of in-person instructional time due to the pandemic. Second, offering additional tutoring and after-school help should be an option to improve student achievement.”

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 that local boards of education are responsible for weighing the needs and concerns of parents and students against the advisement and recommendations of the CDC guidelines and local health districts like, Chesprocott, before deciding COVID-19 protocols for schools. I believe that Region 16 has done an exceptional job using contact tracing protocols, mandating that masks are worn in school, and offering on site COVID-19 vaccination centers at some schools.”

What is your message to voters?

“I have worked in higher education and college and career readiness since 2004 and currently serve as an Upward Bound site coordinator. In my role at Naugatuck Valley Community College, I have extensive experience in mentoring and preparing high school-aged students for post-secondary education through after-school programming, enrichment workshops and field trips, SAT preparation, and FAFSA training. My experiences in higher education and college/career readiness has further deepened my belief that all students are capable to achieving their goals with the right support system. I believe that Region 16 is that support system for our students. I believe that by balancing our valued traditions while also introducing new perspectives to embrace diversity we will help our schools reach academic excellence and develop global citizens. As a member of the Region 16 Board of Education, I promise to cherish our traditions while embracing diversity and perspective for the betterment of our students and community.”