Parents Raise Bar for BOE Candidates
Judging by sheer numbers, the Board of Education issue that drew the most people to meetings in the past two years was this past spring's hurly-burly over the ouster of former New London High football coach Jack Cochran.
Though now that it's election season, the Cochran affair is getting scant mention from those involved in parent-teacher organizations in the city schools.
As Nov. 3 draws near, New London parents say they want the new school board to tackle nuts and bolts issues, such as providing staff with resources and financial accountability to the taxpayers.
But they also want the school board members to increase their presence in the schools, be more accessible to the public, and improve their sometimes ornery relationship with the City Council.
The Democrats are fielding four incumbents, including 2007's top vote getter Bill Morse, family lawyer Susan Connolly, Centro de la Comunidad president Elizabeth Garcia Gonzalez, and realtor Alvin Kinsall.
Newcomers Delanna Muse, Louise Hanrahan, and Sherri Brooks round out the Democratic ticket.
The Republicans, whose lone board member James Pearce is not standing for reelection, are running a mix of New London political veterans and newcomers.
Former city councilor Jason Catala, who previously served on the school board, is once again seeking office.
Barbara Major, who had been a GOP "placeholder" in past years, is running in earnest, along with newcomers Sherry Pardy, Nicole Dallas, Sharon Wyatt, and Jefferson Harris.
Green Party candidate Ronna Stuller also has been endorsed by the New London Republicans.
Much like the past two years, the new board will likely grapple with yet another dismal budget year, with diminished state and federal funding, and in the coming months will be negotiating a new contract with the New London teachers union.
And parents want to make sure the candidates are equal to the task.
"[The board needs] to realize the importance of that position," Jeffery Baez, a member of the Jennings School PTO, said. "There are parents that are concerned."
Baez said future board members need to know first hand that when there are calls for budget cuts, children in system are concerned if a certain teacher will lose their job.
"They need to be visible," he said.
Mamie Rock, a member of the Nathan Hale PTO, said board members need to be in the schools more, to "know the human faces there."
Rock said the new board should work to end any acrimony with the City Council, which past boards have sparred with over the flow of financial information.
"They should not have an antagonistic relationship with each other," she said. "Like pre-schoolers…they need to play well in the sandbox."
Patricia Santiago, a member of the Harbor School PTO, said the new board should work to improve and sustain academic programs.
"Like at the middle school," she said. "We want the enrichment program to come back."
Brenda Eikenburg, who has a son at C.B. Jennings School, said that overall she has been pleased with the education her son is getting in New London but would like the school board to "focus on what we can do better."
"Like the graduation rates at the high school," she said.
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