Get to Know the Candidates for Stamford Board of Education - Stamford Moms

On November 2, 2021, three of nine Stamford Board of Education positions will be decided.

The Board of Education operates under a minority representation rule. No more than six of the nine members may belong to the same party. Five Democrats are not up for re-election this year, meaning only one Democrat can join the board through the upcoming election.

But the rule does not stipulate that the minority representation on the board be all Republican. A candidate running as unaffiliated, or any minority party, would also qualify.

When you receive your ballot, you will be able to vote for up to three candidates. This article is your chance to learn about each candidate’s priorities for Stamford Public Schools and why they are seeking the position.

Rachel Anne Albone (I)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

We have just begun to untangle the web of inequity the pandemic has created. Our educators, principals, teachers, and support staff have worked tirelessly over the past year to address the unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes inequitable digital access, diminished learning opportunities, growing food insecurity, and numerous impacts to our students’ and educators’ well-being. I believe it is essential to continue to direct resources to effectively manage this crisis with cost-efficient strategies. As the research suggests, programs will need to continually go beyond typical remediation or enrichment opportunities accommodated by existing after-school or summer school programs. I plan to fully support these programs to help close the achievement gaps and social emotional concerns caused by COVID-19. It is not enough to simply get our students physically back to school. We must support them as whole students; academically, socially, and emotionally.

Why is this position important to you?

 As a representative of the public, I want to effectively communicate the needs of our students and the constraints of the board and to maintain an open channel of discussion. Positive communication requires dialog and as a voice for our community I intend to add to that process. I want to build a coalition to bring positive change for our students in the district while being fiscally responsible. My focus will be on removing or reducing the barriers so that we can prepare our students for the future while using data, research, and cost analysis in making fiscally responsible decisions. In all, I want to be a part of a healthy advisory relationship that questions each other and creates policy together in a respectful manner. In doing so, we will foster better relationships across the city. We as stakeholders must come together for our students, staff, and community.

Joshua Esses (R)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

My number one priority on the Board of Education is restoring accountability to our school district. Our administration needs to be partners with the Board of Education and our district’s students and parents on providing the best education for each child in our district.  This means that decisions that affect our students’ classroom educational experience, such as our offerings of advanced placement courses, district grading policies, and when and whether to offer midterm or final exams must be made with community input. As a member of the Board of Education, I will be a voice for our district’s families.

Why is this position important to you?

Before I was even running for the Board of Education, I would receive phone calls from Board of Education members from both parties, parents, and friends that work in the district, concerned about our district and the administration, and who were seeking legal or strategic guidance on how to fight for their families and our schools. As a graduate of Stamford Public Schools, I know firsthand the incredible opportunities available to students in our district. I want my (someday) children to have the same great experience that I had.  But we might fight for the quality of our district. On the Board of Education, I look forward to being a resource for everyone who is trying to navigate our school district to get the best experience for themselves and their families.

Joseph Gonzalez (R)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

The Stamford Board of Education has a number of problems that need to be addressed. From new school buildings to diversity of the teaching staff. The one majoy priority for me is the educational curriculum. There has to be a solid foundation in core academic, math, reading, writing, science and social studies. I believe that by removing midterms and finals, as well as AP classes puts our students at a disadvantage. A student that graduates from our high schools must be able to read and know math at a 12th grade level. With a solid education, a high school graduate will be prepared to enter and succeed in college or succeed in the work force or pursue a trade. I also believe that bilingual programs for non English speaking students must be revamped. These forgotten, irgnored and mostly Hispanic students should and must be able to read proficient in the English language if they are to succeed upon graduating high school. The local newspaper reported recently that last year’s high school graduation rates dropped at all three of our high schools. The assistant superintendent stated that COVID-19 was a factor in the lower rates of graduation. But pre COVID-19 high school graduation rates are at around 86%. This number must increase if we are to help Stamford’s high school students succeed.

Why is this position important to you?

I am a stay at home dad. I have been for several years now, since I left the Stamford Police Department after a 20 year career. My wife is currently a Stamford Police Officer and has been for the past 16 years. We have a daughter who currently attends Turn of River Middle School. I have been a resident of stamford for 49 years since immigrating here from Ecuador, South America. My wife immigrated to Stamford at the age of 8 from Poland. We both attended Stamford Public Schools. Stamford has always been my home and that is why public schools are important to me. As a parent and I’m sure with all parents, I want my daughter to receive the best public education possible. I have seen how the public schools have changed, but not for the better since I was a student. Less emphasis is placed on education and discipline. We as parents sometimes blindly send our children to school thinking they are receiving the best education and trust that they are protected and in a safe environment. This seat on the BOE is important to me because I beleive we are preparing our children for a better future. Whether they are native or foreigh born, economically well off or not. All children in our public schools should receive the best education that this city can provide.

Rebecca Hamman (R)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

Strive for academic excellence and allow parent/stakeholder voice… YOU are our best advocates!
– Repeal the federal mandate that allowed special interest group dogma to be implemented throughout all K-12 learning programs! Bring back advanced programs-honors & AP, standardized testing (mid-terms/finals) and traditional grading. Mediocrity is the worst enemy of prosperity!
– Once the curriculum audit is complete, department/grade level teams need training and support to put teaching and learning first, rather than central office-dictated programs.
– Toquam, Cloonan, Roxbury, Hart & WHHS renovations need to be on the forefront—healthy, mold-free, up-to-date schools are essential.
– Schools need to be reconfigured:
a. Create additional alternative schools (gr. 6-8 & 9-12)—ALL students have the right to be safe while learning (our high schools are becoming far too large and we need zero tolerance dealing with violent student behaviors-bomb threats, fight clubs, etc).
b. Continue to create more inter-district magnet schools in Lower Fairfield County (e.g. classical, special education, etc.) to address the learning needs and gifts of EVERY child/teen.
– Call out Stamford BOE leaders…model listening, civility and bi-partisan collaboration in face-to-face meetings like all the other surrounding districts. It is too easy to hide behind Zoom. If we expect our teachers to be in front of students, we should be in front of parents!

Why is this position important to you?

As a 27-year CT/NY teacher & administrator, my vision is to create the best education for ALL students! I’m tried-and-true as a leader and listener. My motivation is not political. I’m here to be a servant leader and to keep all BOE members and superintendent honest, transparent and accountable.  We can do much better!!!

Michael A. Hyman (D)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

After two of the most challenging years of the Covid crisis, our school district seems to have lost its way and its ability to remember its promise and purpose; to educate a child’s “heart, mind, and body.” To do that we must put our children first. The pressing issue here is leadership, or a lack of it by several members of our board. Putting our children first requires the adults in the room to put aside personal vitriolic bickering and create some common ground to actually do the work of planning safe and inviting school environments that welcome our teachers and our children. The meanness, incivility and hostile culture we have seen on the board has gotten out of hand and jeopardizes the opportunity for us to succeed as a district. The citizens of Stamford deserve much better. The time wasted represents opportunities lost that would otherwise be spent laser-like on the most important priorities of creating a culture of educational rigor for all children, attracting and retaining the very best teachers, and creating an equity-centered culture that exploits the diversity of Stamford. To some, our system seems broken in many places, and it is, but it is within our power to fix it. I would work hard on ensuring excellent board relations internally that guides and assists the superintendent, and externally with other city boards and community groups. That foundation would allow us to get on with the important work of building new schools, attracting and retaining great teachers, and most importantly establishing trust with our families that an outstanding education awaits their child in SPS regardless of zip code, ethnicity, race, or gender.

Why is this position important to you?

I don’t actually care about the position. I am however concerned about our kids and our schools and the future for both within Stamford. We need mature adults to end the useless bickering on our BOE. It is time we get on with the important work of building new schools, and creating a truly equitable school district for all of our children. I also want to see our board backing up great ideas that allow us to improve our curriculum. We must look into the future and try to determine as best we can, “what’s next” for our children and how do we get there? I think this board membership, if maturely handled, can engage, excite, and unify our school community.

Benjamin Lee (D)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

My #1 priority is to give our children the schools they deserve — schools where every child has every opportunity to succeed, in physical environments that are conducive to learning. At the most basic level, this means schools that are free of mold and that have heating and cooling systems that work properly. On a higher level, this means classrooms and school buildings that inspire. It also means building new schools to meet our growing needs. To accomplish all of this, we ought to leave no stone unturned for innovative solutions and funding.

Likewise, to give our children the schools they deserve, we must also be committed to fully funding our operating budget, which covers teacher salaries, programs and services. It’s only when we do this that we can serve all families and children, from students struggling to read at grade level to students who are already excelling academically. I believe that if we take care of our school buildings and fully fund the budget, we can truly unlock Stamford’s potential.

Why is this position important to you?

Schools are the heart of a community. They are where our future is built. I’ve spent four years in elected office on Stamford’s equivalent of city council, the Board of Representatives. In this period, I’ve heard from countless parents about the schools. I’m a concerned parent myself, with a daughter who’s six months old and a toddler who will start kindergarten next year. As a member of the Long-Term Facilities Committee, a group of community leaders constituted by Dr. Lucero to develop a long-term plan for the schools, I have personally been in our schools and seen firsthand the decay and the mold. We must do better. 

I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our schools and, in turn, in Stamford. For too long, we have been afraid to dream big. Stamford deserves to think boldly about what we want out of our schools — and then we must commit ourselves to achieving this bold vision. I’m a former Army officer accustomed to leading teams towards a common mission and I’ve developed the political acumen needed to push this through our government bureaucracy. I hope to have the opportunity to do so.

Versha Munshi-South (D)

What would be your #1 priority as a member of the Board of Education?

This is the third school year impacted by the pandemic, and we simply can’t wait for the pandemic to be “over” to provide our students with an excellent education. As an educator, and as a mother with students in the Stamford school system today, I believe that the most pressing issue facing our town today is shifting from reacting to the pandemic to proactively planning and adapting our approach, so we can best educate students and support faculty and staff in this new reality.

Why is this position important to you?

I think it deserves calling out that I am the only Democratic candidate who currently has children in Stamford Public Schools. My children are graduates of Northeast Elementary and now attend Turn of River Middle School and Scofield Magnet Middle Schools.

As a parent, I have a window into the schools through the homework that my kids bring home, the parent-teacher conferences I attend, and the communications that I receive from school and district leaders. I have a real sense of urgency about the quality of our schools, and the significant impact BOE decisions have on our students, teachers and faculty in real-time, because I entrust these schools with my kids’ safety and education every day.

I am also the only BOE candidate with deep, professional expertise in education. For more than two decades, I have worked tirelessly and passionately in roles at every level of the school system, including as a teacher and a school principal. I know how schools work, I know what teachers and faculty need, and I know how students learn from my own first-hand experience.

Jaclyn Annette Pioli

Jaclyn Pioli is running unaffiliated. Requests for comments were not returned in time for publication.

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