BEACON FALLS — Only one contender in the upcoming Region 16 Board of Education election, in which two Beacon Falls seats are open, attended a candidates forum organized by the Laurel Ledge School parent-teacher organization.
Republican Bill Fredericks made brief remarks and answered questions; two others, Liz Falzone and Sheryl Feducia, had previous commitments and couldn’t attend. They submitted addresses in letter form, and PTO representative Mike Blesse read these aloud to about 10 attendees, including Beacon Falls First Selectman challenger Mike Krenesky.
Feducia and Fredericks are both incumbents on the board and running for reelection. Among Beacon Falls’ four total seats on the board, theirs are the only ones open this year, and Falzone is the only challenger. Feducia and Falzone are both Democrats.
Fredericks, a soft-spoken water utilities worker, praised the talent and professionalism of Superintendant of Schools James Agostine and Business Manager Richard Gusenburg Tuesday night, adding many issues that face the board “do not require my interference.”
“It’s been my experience in life,” Fredericks said, “that you learn a lot more with your mouth closed.”
But there are issues and projects facing the board that he would like to see handled “a certain way.”
One is an unused, district-owned property in Prospect, which could give the board “the opportunity to look at what [it has] physically and make changes.”
There, Region 16 could work to “create economies of scale,” Fredericks said, “or build extra offices … you have the option … it’s not something that will happen overnight … it’s a lot of work, and it’s not going to be cheap.”
But Fredericks said regardless of what is planned for the parcel, he’d like to see a different architectural firm handle building design, expressing his disapproval of the “impractical” design of Woodland Regional High School.
When asked, Fredericks said the proposed curriculum coordinator position was “not off the table.” The position was rejected last budget season, and Agostine, the superintendent, decided he would take on the responsibilities of such a position.
Blesse brought up the example of a teacher who, right out of college, within her first three years, was forced to teach at three different grade levels, saying situations like this could have been averted by the work of a dedicated curriculum coordinator. Blesse also felt kids were playing “musical classrooms” at Laurel Ledge.
Fredericks sympathized, and expressed his belief in teacher development over curtailing class size.
“If [that teacher] had been allowed to stay in one grade, she would have become a more competent teacher in that grade, and could adjust her curriculum to a changing class size.”
When asked why he should be chosen over one of the other candidates, Fredericks humbly endorsed the other contenders but said that he “takes [the BOE] very seriously” and has already “made the investment” in time and dedication to the board.
“I’m someone who would try to honor the trust you put in me,” Fredericks said.
Feducia, the Democratic incumbent, can claim experience as a liaison between ACES and Region 16 and wrote she has “served on various committees, including policy, budget, and communications.”
She is also a Cub Scout leader, a member of the St. Michael’s Ladies Guild, the Lioness Club, and the Laurel Ledge and West River Middle School PTOs.
Falzone, the Democratic challenger, wrote that she has worked with children in families for more than 25 years and is “no stranger to assessments, union matters, and contracts.”
She is also a member of the Inland Wetlands Commission, the Lioness Club, St. Michael’s Parish Council and the church’s choir. She was nominated “Woman of the Year” by the Women’s Valley Initiative for her civic service in Beacon Falls.
She writes, “I am capable of separating my personal feelings for the good of the whole picture.”