NAUGATUCK – Candidates for the Board of Education share a common goal—deliver the best possible education to students with the least cost to taxpayers.
The candidates discussed just how they planned to reach that goal at a forum at City Hill Middle School Monday night. With nine candidates vying for eight positions on the board, each candidate made their case for why they shouldn’t be the odd one out come election night.
Throughout the evening candidates kept returning to the outside pressures school boards are faced with. A lot of candidates complained that their hands are tied when it comes to many issues due to state and federal regulations.
“I’d like to stop all these state mandates coming down saying we have to teach certain ways and certain testing, which throws off our whole system,” said incumbent James Scully. He felt schools shouldn’t be as college-oriented and should teach more technical and computer classes.
Incumbent James Jordan said external influences take borough residents’ tax money, impose restrictions and make the school board beg for that money back in smaller and smaller amounts every year.
“We have to have a group effort to try to get some of these mandates removed,” he said.
Candidate Scott Slauson felt that teachers devote too much time to teaching to the CMT and the CAPT, statewide achievement tests.
Candidate Deanna Krzykowski said there’s not much the board can do about the regulations.
“We have to figure out how to work within those confines,” Krzykowski said.
Besides how to work around state mandates, communication was a constant theme during the night. All the candidates agreed that there should be better, more open communication between the school board, burgesses, teachers, parents and administrators.
“It’s definitely not easy to get information about Board of Ed activities,” said candidate Deby Brackett. “The reality is parents can’t always go to a meeting.”
She said the board has already started improving communications by using its website to post agendas, minutes and contact information.
“I think we need to be more accessible as a board to the general public, and I think that technology is a great way to do that,” Brackett said.
School board Secretary David Heller agreed with Brackett that the board needs to get information to parents and teachers who are already interested. But, he said, the board needs to work harder to communicate with the people who don’t come to meetings and aren’t engaged in the school system.
“Studies show that students do so much better when their parents are involved,” Heller said.
Heller said he wanted to get parents involved early and often, starting with early childhood education.
Candidate Dorothy Neth-Kunin echoed Heller’s sentiments.
“Without a flow in communication, education becomes difficult,” Neth-Kunin said.
Scully said the Mayor, who serves on the Board of Education by default, is the liaison for communication between the school board and burgesses.
“I think it’s very important that everybody knows as much as they can, and the best way to communicate with the Mayor is to have him right there at our meetings,” Scully said.
With the budget season in full swing, money was on a lot of candidates’ minds as well. The new board will be elected after the budget is passed for the next fiscal year, but they will have a say in the following year’s budget.
Candidate Glenn Connan said he wanted to inject some capitalism into the school system by attaching money to each student rather than the school.
“I think we should allow our school system to compete against other public schools in the borough for the children, for their business. And I think competition makes everybody better,” Connan said.
Connan said the schools need to spend more money in the classroom and eliminate waste by not offering benefits to employees who work less than 40 hours per week.
“I just think it’s silly to give full-time benefits to somebody who only works 20 hours a week,” Connan said. “We’ve got to look at all the little things that have gotten into our contracts over the years that are just silly.”
Jordan said the board should practice better financial transparency so that everyone is on the same page when they are ready to make a decision.
“You need to know where things are and where they’re going to make your decisions,” Jordan said.
He said it is important to go through each line item on the budget.
“We want to ask ‘why’ on everything we do,” Jordan said.
Candidate Diana Malone agreed that now matter how the money is spent, students need to come first.