Six candidates face off in the race for the Stamford Board of Education

Six candidates are vying for spots on the Stamford Board of Education: Republicans Joseph Andreana Jr., Lisa Butler and Diane Melchionne and Democrats Daniel Dauplaise, Michael Hyman and Versha Munshi-South.

Hometown: Stamford

Education: Bachelor of Journalism/Mass. Communication

Previous political/civic experience: Softball Coach, Little League Coach, Community Center Volunteer, Volunteer with Rebuilding Together, Participant (Chef) for Chili Cook-off to benefit the Lower Fairfield County Food Bank

The two main problems you want to solve and what you would do about them:

The two main issues I will prioritize are (1) educational excellence for all SPS students and (2) the safety of our children and teachers.

First, we must evaluate our program and seek to develop policies that will develop our Stamford students and our future. We must focus on excellence in the education of our students by creating programs to raise current levels of reading, writing, and math from 4% below the CT average to standards that raise the average.

Second, the safety of our loved ones, not only physically but mentally. We need to have more support for our children through the staffing of our social workers and look at revamping policies to help our children. We need to make buildings safer. We must seek to correct our air quality from extreme heat to harmful toxins rather than spending more money on studies.

Lisa Butler, Republican

Hometown: Stamford

Education: Southern CT State University

Previous political/civic experience: Stamford Secondary School Governing Council, Rogers International PTO, Trinity Catholic PTO

The two main problems you want to solve and what you would do about them:

We have a $300 million education budget and 48.5% of Stamford residents’ taxes fund our public schools. We must raise the academic standards of all students and provide them with a quality education, so that when they graduate from high school, they can use the skills they have learned and apply them in college, trade school or at work. If we don’t hold students accountable for turning in their class work or excuse absences and allow excessive lateness, we are not preparing them for future success.

I am passionate about improving our school buildings and facilities, having been involved in the revitalization of Stamford High Yard. While the city builds our schools and the Board of Education maintains and operates the schools, our school facilities suffer. Some schools more than others, due to years of neglect, deferred maintenance, and lack of proper care under a previous outsourced management company. We cannot expect students and staff to do their best when dealing with old buildings that lack air quality, ventilation, or even functioning windows or bathrooms. in some cases.

With the recent federal stimulus funds, I would like to see a full breakdown of what has been done to ensure air quality in schools and that these funds are not just reallocated to other projects. We need to work with the mayor, council of finance and council of representatives to make sure schools get the money and infrastructure updates they need. The quality of our facilities is critical if we are to retain quality educators and students leaving the district. We need to do better for our community.

Daniel Dauplaise, Democrat

Hometown: Stamford

Education: BA Cornell University 2007 (Government), JD University of Connecticut Law School 2014

Previous political/civic experience: Stamford BOE 2019 – Current

The two main problems you want to solve and what you would do about them:

Number 1 – Building Schools: Stamford has received very generous reimbursement packages from the state, allowing us to build schools at a fraction of the cost it would have been earlier. We can replace aging infrastructure and build 21st century schools that will help all of our students succeed.

Issue 2 – Budget Strengthening: The next few years will be very critical for the BOE budget as we move to a budget without the COVID ESSER funding. I hope to continue to lead the way in building a fair, equitable and sufficient budget that will allow Stamford Public Schools to carry out its mission.

Michael Hyman, Democrat

Hometown: Stamford

Education: Franklin & Marshall College; Political science

Previous political/civic experience: Vice President Ferguson Library, Past President NAACP-Stamford

The two main problems you want to solve and what you would do about them:

First, there are unfortunately more than two major problems. From a financial management perspective, the construction, rehabilitation, maintenance and upkeep of existing and new school facilities are a concern for the new board. Failure to properly manage this process will cost taxpayers and our children dearly. Decades of inappropriate board attention has gotten us to this point, arguably costing us millions that could have been spent on other educational priorities. We now have the opportunity to fix this, and with the right controls, we can.

Second, if we envision and create world-class facilities, what happens inside our schools? the health and safety of our children and all school staff is always a priority. The establishment of school-based health centers and an emphasis on social-emotional care are expected to become hallmarks of Stamford schools. In short, ensuring the facilities, tools and resources necessary to thrive educationally are my top priorities.

Diane Melchionne, Republican

Hometown: Stamford

Education: Graduated from Stamford Public Schools (Springdale Elementary, Dolan Middle and Stamford High) and later earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Connecticut.

Previous political/civic experience: Other than being the recent treasurer for my brother Danny Melchionne’s campaign for state representative (January 2022), I have no prior political/civic experience.

The two main problems you want to solve and what you would do about them:

Learning loss and improved academic performance: BOE policies promise to provide a rigorous, high-quality education for our students, yet we have eliminated AP classes, canceled midterms and finals, and allowed high school students to graduate regardless of attendance. The BOE is failing to deliver on its commitments to our constituents by holding the superintendent accountable for these policies. Some schools offer Saturday school for exceptional students, and some do not. We need consistency at all levels. We need to challenge our academically inclined students and provide extra support for those who are struggling. I will hold the Superintendent accountable for these actions.

Fostering a Collaborative Environment for Parents and Teachers: Today, there are policies on the books that ask teachers not to disclose certain information to parents, such as a student’s gender identity. This makes parents suspicious of the whole system and puts teachers between parents and their children. It also implies for students that it is okay to hide certain things from their parents. I would change these policies and ensure that parents and teachers work together in the best interests of students.

Versha Munshi-South, Democrat

Hometown: Stamford

Education: BA in Sociology from the University of Chicago, MA in Elementary Education from Washington University in St. Louis

Previous political/civic experience: BOE 2021 candidate, volunteer for various campaigns

The two main problems you want to solve and what you would do about them:

Our top priority must be the health and safety of our students and staff. They deserve to frequent clean, comfortable buildings that use consistent security protocols. We also need to look after their emotional health by making sure our teachers and students feel supported so they can focus on the job of teaching and learning. As a member of the BOE, I would work to ensure that we strategically invest our federal and state funding so that our schools are headed for recovery.

We must also prioritize academic excellence. COVID has impacted students in a variety of ways and some students need targeted support to catch up to grade level standards. All of our students must receive up-to-date and rigorous educational materials so that they have the opportunity to excel in school and in post-high school life. As a member of the BOE, I would support the district in making decisions regarding the selection of effective curriculum and instructional resources.

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