Soon election day will be fast upon us. Toward that end, I realized I needed to start making some decisions.
It’s a sad fact that municipal elections in an off year are routinely ignored. For some reason people think it’s more important for them to participate in state or national contests. Yet, when you think about it, it’s the decisions made at the local level that most directly affect us.
How much we pay in property taxes, the quality of our children’s education, community recreational opportunities, police protection and the quality of the roads we travel on every single day are the stuff of our lives.
I feel quite comfortable about how I intend to vote on the executive side, the Board of Finance and the Legislative Council.
The Planning and Zoning commission? That’s a no-brainer given the current board’s apparent willingness to utterly ignore practically the entire town regarding housing at Fairfield Hills.
That leaves the Board of Education – arguably the most important entity of all — at least for me, given the fact that my two little grandsons will be in Newtown schools very soon.
In an effort to be prepared when I start filling out that paper ballot, I attended the recent .
Before going to the meeting I already had some idea of what I would be looking for in a viable candidate. For example, I knew that like every other area of government the person’s particular political party is absolutely irrelevant. I know competent — and wholly incompetent — members of all three parties. That aspect of their résumés is therefore unimportant.
Rather, I was listening for the presenters to convince me that they were going to do what I personally believe to be their job, i.e. put in place those policies and procedures that result in a quality education, do so within the financial constraints imposed by the taxpayer and recognize that the taxpayer is who they answer to — NOT central office administrators and managers.
Six of the seven candidates were present.
John Vouros left a prepared statement wherein among other things he emphasized he had been a key player in the school system and knew it inside and out. His quest for academic excellence is well documented.
The participants were allowed to make beginning and ending remarks. In between they were asked a few questions.
Here are a few of my general impressions.
From Keith Alexander, Cody McCubbin and Laura Roche I heard a lot of talk about money. Clearly that is a topic important to them. In fact in Mr. McCubbin’s case I didn’t hear much at all about “student achievement” or “quality education.” If they're elected, I hope those things don't get lost in the shuffle.
In addition to familiarity with matters of a financial nature, Ms Roche has logged in many hours in our schools. This should provide a valuable all-around perspective.
Laura Main spoke at length about her analytical skills and eye for detail along with her lengthy experience in various fields of education.
Eric Paradis admitted from the onset that his primary concern was with special education.
Additionally, they all managed to slip in some mention of things like transparency, being open to new ideas, listening to the public, responsibility, trust, financial acumen…Well, you get the idea.
Finally, I found that with one exception the candidates had an annoying tendency to “wander” from the topics. They tried much too hard to be all things to all people.
The exception to this was Mr. Dan Shea. Agree with him or not, he left absolutely no doubt as to what he regarded as the No. 1, top priority if he is elected. That is create the conditions needed to provide every single student of Newtown public schools with a top-notch, world-class liberal education so they can compete successfully with everyone else in the world. Period.
So there you have it, One Man’s Opinion.
Good luck with your choices on election day. I know what mine will be.