Candidate profiles: Region 16 BOE

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The Citizen’s News asked candidates running for office four questions. The following are their responses:

Region 16 Board of Education

Beacon Falls

Douglas R. Bousquet
Douglas R. Bousquet

Douglas R. Bousquet

Age: 53

Party: Republican

Town: Beacon Falls

Political Experience: Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman, eight years.

Education: Naugatuck High School Class of 1980

Occupation: Master carpenter CASA residential, Southington.

Why are you running for school board?

“I’m running because Beacon Falls needs a strong voice to speak up on behalf of all our taxpayers. I think some new blood on the board will be great for both towns. Myself and Dave Rybinski, we could make a difference.”

What can be done to improve education in the district?

“My son attends Laurel Ledge. He is in third grade. I’ve watched him come through kindergarten. His teachers were fantastic, but I think there are too many kids in classrooms. I’ve noticed that it must be hard to give attention to 23 students, and the homework is a lot for such small kids. I think some teachers’ aids may be a way to help the classroom teachers better to help kids that need extra help.”

How would you approach crafting a school budget?

“I’ve been a member of Beacon Hose going on 36 years. I joined when I was 18. I worked my way up the ranks and became fire chief in 2000. Myself and Dave Rybinski, who is also running for Board of Education, worked very close with the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen, and drafted a budget line item by line item and bought a new fire truck and command vehicle and first response car, and did not have to raise taxes for these items. The boards did not think it could be done. Well we did it for three years in a row. Lease purchase is how we did it and Fire Chief Ted Smith started a line item for new vehicle purchases; $40,000 per year we would put away so every 20 years a new fire truck would be purchased at no cost or raising taxes. Also, I wrote and passed a tax abatement for three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10 years of active service. After three years $300; four years $400, etc. up to 10 years. After 10 years you are vested and the top benefit is $1,000 off your property tax to retain members. I thought it was needed, and is still in effect today.

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today?  What should be done to address it?

“Peer pressure and bullying. I think that is a big issue. More one on one with students. They get distracted very easy. Myself and my wife have helped with Junior Achievement the last two years and we will do this until we can’t anymore. Myself and my wife enjoy listening to all the kids and ideas they come up with. They need encouragement constantly and they respond to that quite well. Tell them they are doing a great job. The smiles on their faces make if all worthwhile.”

Priscilla Y. Cretella
Priscilla Y. Cretella

Priscilla Y. Cretella

Age: 64

Party: Unaffiliated Running on the Democratic ticket

Town: Beacon Falls

Political Experience: 30 years on the Region 16 Board of Education

Education: Two-year decorating degree from Naugatuck Valley Community College

Occupation: Decorator

Why are you running for school board?

“I am running for the Region 16 Board of Education because educating children is crucial. I need to help make decisions which enable our staff to teach young minds to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

What can be done to improve education in the district?

“Improving education in Region 16 is a constant goal. It is the basis on which decisions are made and implemented. I believe by hiring the most qualified personnel at all levels and keeping them trained and updated in curriculum, technology, office, kitchens and custodial procedures will give our children the best resources that we can afford.”

How would you approach crafting a budget?

“Crafting a budget is a team effort. Trying to fulfill the needs of our children to include a safe environment, excellent curriculum and good working facilities is key. A needs assessment would be conducted by our superintendent, director of pupil services and all our principals. Then the director of finance and the superintendent would dissect, make changes and create a budget. The Board of Education would review, explore and adopt before taking the budget to the annual district meeting.”

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today? What should be done to address it?

“I believe the most important issue facing students today is to be able to succeed in all aspects of their life. The constant drive to have our students become lifelong learners is essential to their success in whatever field they choose. We try to offer a diverse course of study and activities to enhance their education. I would like to offer a broader range of courses to enable them to become well-rounded individuals.”

David H. Rybinski
David H. Rybinski

David H. Rybinski

Age: 58

Party: Democrat

Town: Beacon Falls

Political Experience: Current member Region 16 Board of Education, Member and former Chair of Energy Improvement Board.

Education: BA in Business Administration

Occupation: Service Manager with Serypro of Meriden, Regional Sales Manager for Rosenbauer New England, Past Fire Chief and current member of Beacon Hose Co. No. 1

Why are you running for school board?

“To ensure that dollars are spent wisely, past and current board members have approved dollars to be spent without any clue to what actual costs should be. Example: The board was about to approve this year’s snow plow contract for $22,000 over budget until I stopped it, sent it to re-bid with a package that more closely fits our needs and now we have a contract that’s under budget for the next two years.”

What can be done to improve education in the district?

“The BOE has taken steps to improve education and has outlined improvements that need to be made, which are being addressed through the curriculum director, which was recently hired (a little over a year I believe).”

How would you approach crafting a school budget? 

“The budget is the biggest item for both towns, we need to know what was spent on items in the past to accurately appropriate funds to purchase in the future. You can’t fund a budget item on the notion that as one board member said, ‘well those cost a lot of money,’ without knowing what our previous costs were. The past budgets surpluses are overtaxing residents, there is no need to have surpluses of over a million dollars and growing every year. When the budget is presented to the people and it’s stated that this is only a such and such increase, that increase is actually much higher because it’s based on the previous year’s budget that included an escalating surplus.”

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today? What should be done to address it?

“The most important issue facing students is moving to the next level: grammar school to middle school, middle school to high school and probably the most important step is preparing them to leave high school and join the work forces or send them on to college as young adults. Achieving those goals, which the BOE) is well aware of, is to have key guidance and curriculum personnel in place to address students’ future needs.”

Prospect

Daisy Laone
Daisy Laone

Daisy Laone

Age: 46

Party: Unaffiliated. Running on the Republican ticket.

Political Experience:

Education: Master of Science in Educational Studies, Central Connecticut State University; Bachelor of Science with a concentration in child study, Charter Oak State College; Connecticut Department of Higher Education-Alternate Route to Certification; Certified in K-12 Mandarin Chinese.

Occupation: International Student Coordinator/Mandarin Teacher; St. Joseph’s High School in Trumbull.

Why are you running for school board?

“It’s my personal goal to get involved with the community. Since I have been working in the educational field for over 18 years, I have a desire and passion to share my knowledge with the community. I hope my experience benefits the Region 16 community as a whole.”

What can be done to improve education in the district?

“One of the most important skills in the 21st century is to be aware of a global community, to open students’ minds about the various cultures and societies that surround them. We should continue and expand our world language programs, with equal emphasis on language and culture. We should also make new connections across the globe, through a sister school system.”

How would you approach crafting a school budget? 

“As a member of the Board of Education, I believe we as a team, need to research and prioritize what the students’ really need above anything else. Once we understand that, we’ll be able to calculate a realistic budget.”

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today? What should be done to address it?

“One of the most pertinent issues today is that students lack the excitement to learn; their natural intellectual curiosity is often stifled. Kindling the students’ curiosity and creating an enthusiastic learning atmosphere for students is crucial. Curriculum should be based on real world applications instead of rote memorization.”

Gena Eyre Mann
Gena Eyre Mann

Gena Eyre Mann

Age: 32

Party: Democrat

Political Experience: Two terms Emergency Management Advisory Council; Three terms Water Pollution Control Authority.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Earth Science w ithTeaching Certification, Southern Connecticut State University; Master’s Degree in Environmental Science, University of New Haven; Currently working on a Juris Doctor at UConn Law School.

Occupation: Regulatory Affairs Specialist, BYK Chemie USA Inc, Wallingford

Why are you running for school board?

“I believe in the importance of education and that with proper budgeting, our students can continue to excel without teacher’s benefits being sacrificed.”

What can be done to improve education in the district?

“Education within the district can be improved by reducing student and teacher stress with standardized testing and increasing instruction of life skills.”

How would you approach crafting a school budget? 

“Teachers that have respectable benefits are more able to focus on their student’s needs when they aren’t distracted by worrying about how they can afford to live. Budgets need to be worked on to ensure that the teachers we parents depend on have what they need so that the students can get what they need, a good education.”

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today? What should be done to address it?

“Students face so many different challenges now than we ever did in school. Internet and social media has become an outlet for bullying as well as cries for help, beyond all the information available. We need to incorporate, not only, how to properly use the internet to search for information, but how to verify that the information is valid, how to deal with cyber-bullying, and the importance of community and friendship in dealing with stress. We can teach information validity by having the science, history, and English classes begin the year by incorporating into their plans the importance of citation, how if a website doesn’t cite where they got their information that students should be suspicious of the ‘facts’ provided, and to always cite where they received their data. This should start in the early grades instead of waiting until high school, when study/homework habits are already mostly formed. We should have a ‘community’ day a few times each year, where students with similar interests are brought together, regardless of age/grade, to meet and talk. Older kids can share some of their experiences with the younger kids and provide ideas on how to deal with what life throws at them. Suicide prevention courses always teach the importance of simply asking, ‘Are you OK?’ and often times we forget to do this until it’s too late.”

Roxann Vaillancourt
Roxann Vaillancourt

Roxann Vaillancourt

Age: 62

Party: Independent running on Republican ticket.

Political Experience: Member of Region 16 Board of Education since 2013.

Education: Florida Junior College and Mattatuck Community College.

Occupation: Work in the accounting field.

Why are you running for school board?

“I am running for the Board of Education again because I feel I have and will continue to make a difference. Some of the hot topics that I have been involved with in the last two years while serving on this board are: Building of a state-of-art new school, negotiations with various unions, budget workshops and decisions. I feel I bring a business/accounting approach to the board.”

What can be done to improve education in the district?

“I am very excited with the way Region 16 is evolving. We have a very strong involved superintendent, Michael Yamin, and Pam Mangini, director of finance and business operations, has been a godsend to our region. In the short time that these two individuals have been associated with Region 16, there has been so many positive ideas and strategies for the future. Their dedication, experience and long hours is commendable.”

How would you approach crafting a school budget? 

“The Region’s school budget is a huge part of this position. I don’t think residents understand the time and research it takes to create a budget and go over every line item. There is enormous input from teachers, administrates, department heads, etc. that is taken into consideration and prioritized for current year projects as well as the next five years. Yearly projections also change depending on current needs.”

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today? What should be done to address it?

“The most important issue facing our students today is the same it was two years ago when I ran:  safety and security. After being involved for the past two years, I can honestly say that Region 16 is doing a superb job in creating a safe and positive environment in all our schools. Also, kindness and compassion for others is part of our students’ every day.”

Carolyn A. Witkowski
Carolyn A. Witkowski

Carolyn A. Witkowski

Age: 50

Party: Democrat

Political Experience: Political newcomer

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Connecticut State University

Occupation: Owner/Director Prospect Nursery School

Why are you running for school board?

“As a parent of two children in the Region 16 school system and an early childhood educator, I feel I have a unique perspective on the needs of both the children and parents in the region.  I would like to bring that experience and knowledge to the Region 16 Board of Education.”

 What can be done to improve education in the district?

“Overall, the schools in Region 16 do an excellent job of preparing our students. I believe that curriculum continuity through the 12 grades is very important to the success of all students. Fine arts and talented/gifted programs should be fostered throughout all grades as well. In addition, we must continue these efforts by recruiting the best possible teacher candidates and providing them, and our students, with opportunities to excel.”

How would you approach crafting a school budget?

“I think first we must determine and acknowledge the essential line items that are not discretionary. Then we should evaluate each line item, or component, in terms of essential needs. We should break each down into ‘must-haves,’ ‘good-to-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves’ in relation to the goals of the curriculum and school district overall. Once the Region’s budget needs are identified, it is vitally important to reach out to our communities and articulate those needs. We should try to avoid the endless back and forth over school budgets. Better communication and outreach is a key component to accomplishing this.”

What do you feel is the most important issue facing students today? What should be done to address it?

“School safety for our students and staff is a paramount concern. Our schools must be an integral partner with public safety agencies in their respective towns. Practice and drills for emergencies need to be conducted so they will become second nature for all in the event of an emergency.  Having said that, I believe the most important issue for students is learning how to succeed in the general scheme of life. A well-rounded education will provide students the ability to become productive adults. To achieve this, critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate their ideas and opinions to others is necessary. As educators in Region 16, we need to foster interpersonal communication and critical thinking skills in our education programs.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Unemployed interior decorator has been the down fall of education in region16 for 30 years!!! It is great to see people with education backgrounds looking to lead the education process in the region!! They need to be part of the process of bringing region16 into the reality of today. The interior decorator is a dinosaur that that has not adapted to the trends in education over the past 30 years. She is closed minded to what the teachers need and how they want to use their education and professional experience in developing the future of our communities. GET HER OUT!!!