During the election season, Patch will profile candidates from all parties for Newtown's elected offices. In this story, candidate Laura Main describes her background and positions on security, enrollment and the superintendent search.
A Ridgefield native, Laura Main has lived in Newtown for 17 years and worked in schools her entire adult life. Starting as a teacher in Westport, she later assessed program accreditation for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.) She's served on the Board of Directors for the Children's Adventure Center for 10 years. She's currently the principal of Naugatuck's Western Elementary and working on her doctoral degree in instructional leadership at Western Connecticut State University. And this fall, she'll be a Democratic candidate for Newtown's Board of Education.
"Certainly, working in the trenches, I have a good understanding of the complexities presented in education right now," she says. "I've been in Newtown for quite a bit of time, I have a good sense of the challenges Newtown faces and the healing that's needed. What's gone on for the last however many years and the steps we can take collectively to move our town, schools and community forward."
In 2011, Main ran for the Board of Education under the Independent Party's ticket, falling short of a seat by 14 votes.
She admits she manages a busy schedule, but says she sees it as a plus.
"The phrase goes, 'If you want something done, give it someone who's busy,'" she says. She'll be completing her doctoral work this fall, in time to assume a position on the board if elected.
She says she's been supportive of the current Board of Education -- "They've had to make some difficult decisions, but they made the right ones." With this spring's change of leadership as interim superintendent John Reed took over for Janet Robinson, Main says it's understandable the district again faced woes as they fought to pass the budget.
"Reed was asked to sell a budget he didn't prepare," she says. "And I think he did a very nice job. But having to do the homework, I understand the challenges he's facing. After all, there are a lot of emotions in play."
Like other candidates for the board this year, she says she considers the increased security presence at Newtown schools a temporary step in the months after Dec. 14. She supported the initial approach. But Main also says the current plan is "too much" to continue indefinitely.
"I understand the emotional sensitivity, the fears," she says. "But I can say, having worked in an elementary setting, I'm not afraid going to work every day. I don't feel like those things necessarily would have mattered in this circumstance -- and I know that's a hard thing to think about."
Main -- a parent of two boys, one of whom attends Newtown Middle School -- says she doesn't have the same worries as some parents about threats in schools.
"The most important thing we can do is make sure we can take care of one another," she says. "If we're seeing something of concern we're reaching out and seeking help."
"Certainly, there's the potential to worry about enrollment," she says. "Newtown is in ... an unprecedented position. It's going to be a challenge, because it's going to be based on the current numbers more so than the projected numbers. We don't have a history of what our town will do post 12/14."
She says she'd support increased consolidation and efficiency -- as long as it's not related to education.
"To me, it's all about what gets into the classrooms," she says. "If there's overhead, building facilities, I'm all for trying to do that. I know how sensitive that can be as far as the neighborhood schools. People have been redistricted, and it works out in the end, but it has to be done thoughtfully."
On the Superintendent Search
"I think Dr. Reed is doing a fabulous job," she says. "From the day he stepped in, it was such a breath of fresh air. I think he's handled it with poise, honesty and dignity -- and he's really been able to establish a sense of trust with the public. We continue to need that. Trust isn't something you can recreate overnight. He continues to really amaze me with what he's been able to accomplish in a short amount of time."
As board members continue the search for a new leader after Reed leaves, Main says she'd look for a superintendent with the same leadership qualities the longtime schools chief brought since he stepped in this spring.
"Personally, I'm looking for someone who's honest, someone with integrity," she says. "I'm looking for someone who is willing to take a stand and make hard decisions. I'm looking for someone who really has a good sense of the complexities of education and can lead us on a path to manage the waters we're facing in terms of the mandates. I think that's really the most challenging thing."