Declining enrollment, facilities top issues for Old Lyme school board candidates

Old Lyme — The uncontested race for the four open seats for the town of Old Lyme on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education this election features three incumbents and one new member, who are all Democrats.

Incumbents Richard Goulding, Diane Linderman and Jean Wilczynski are running for re-election, and Martha Shoemaker is seeking her first term on the Board of Education.

Stacey Leonardo, a Democrat, is running for the one open Lyme seat on the board.

The Old Lyme candidates named continuing to address declining student enrollment and maintaining the district's facilities as among the top issues facing the school board in the next term.

Diane Linderman, 63, is married with two sons who went through the school district. She is working as a training manager at Black Rock Truck Group and has served four years on the school board. She said she is running because she feels she has something to offer in terms of her approach to education and commitment to the community and quality of schools.

"I want to see that continue so that the children in the future can get just as much of an education as my sons did as they went through the school system," she said.

Linderman said a top issue for the board is declining enrollment. She said the district is advertising the quality of the school system and working to try to encourage students who live in the area to continue to attend Lyme-Old Lyme schools and to encourage other students to come to the district, if possible.

In the face of declining enrollment, she said the district has done an excellent job in being creative and using facilities and staff to their maximum potential. 

Linderman said other priorities will be for the school board to continue discussions on how to address water shortage issues on the main campus and how to maximize field space for teams, the Physical Education department, and the community.

The board put together a committee that devised a plan to add an additional water source to irrigate the fields on the main campus, said Superintendent Ian Neviaser, when asked about the issue. The district has had to bring in tanker trunks several times in previous summers for the fields, as the water source for the main campus not only supplies water to the campus buildings and the fields, but also to the Town Hall, fire department, youth services bureau and historical society.

Once the water issue is resolved, the district would next look at the possibility of installing a synthetic field, he said. One of the three fields on the district's main campus is not irrigated. In dry months, such as August, when the field doesn't get enough water, it can be in bad shape, and the situation can contribute to overuse of the other two fields.

Goulding, 45, who is cross-endorsed by the Republican Town Committee, is married with three children and is a pediatric emergency medicine physician.

Goulding, the secretary of the Board of Education, said he is running for a second term because he enjoys the impact he believes he has had on the district over the past four years and the feeling that he is giving back to a town that is a wonderful community to live in and impacting young students. He said he feels privileged to be in that position.

Goulding named continuing to "stay ahead" rather than having to "catch up" on the maintenance of the district's facilities, and addressing declining enrollment as among the top issues facing the district.

He said Lyme-Old Lyme is fortunate that it has been successful with students' test scores and post-graduate placement and has an engaging faculty, which has opened up opportunities for the district.

"It’s enabled us to go out and start recruiting and competing against other districts and even private schools, so we have students who are paying tuition at the school district," he said. The district has embarked on a marketing campaign to advertise the district to attract new students and retain current students.

He said he thinks many other districts also will have to start looking at the public sector in different ways than they traditionally may have. If Lyme-Old Lyme's initiative continues to be successful and grows, it will enable the district to preserve programs and not have to worry about declining enrollment.

Shoemaker, 58, who is married with three children who graduated from Lyme-Old Lyme High School, is making her first run for the school board. Shoemaker just retired from teaching in Waterford and has served as president of the Waterford Federation of Classroom Teachers, executive vice president for American Federation of Teachers - Connecticut, and on the Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards. Shoemaker also has  served as president of Friends of Music - Lyme/Old Lyme.

"I'm one of those people who, if there's a need, and it’s a good need, I want to help out," she said.

With the state in tough budget times, Shoemaker said a priority will be maintaining the excellent education that Lyme-Old Lyme schools provide and seeing through contractual agreements with employees, while controlling costs for the district.

Wilczynski, 56, a Coast Guard veteran and certified financial planner who is the school board's current treasurer, is running for her second term on the board. She is married with three sons and serves on the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce board.

"The main reason I ran four years ago and I still feel so strongly is my three sons got an incredibly excellent education in our school system," she said. "The teachers we had were essentially our partners in raising our children, and I wanted to make sure that same sense continued on for generations."

She said continuing to provide a breadth of programs for students in the face of declining enrollment is a priority, and it will be important for school districts in the region to discuss potentially collaborating on educational programming.

She said the school district also is focusing this year on instilling a sense of balance for staff and students, as students in Lyme-Old Lyme, like other high-achieving districts, may feel overbooked. She said the district also is instilling how important it is to be a good person who cares about others in their community and not to solely focus on being a good student, or a good artist or a good athlete, or however students may define themselves.

She said that it also will be important to work with Old Lyme and Lyme town officials to keep on top of where state discussions, such as a proposal to shift the cost of teachers' pensions to towns, are heading.

Incumbent Board of Education member Nancy Lucas Edson, a Democrat whose term ends this year, is not running for re-election. She said she has thoroughly enjoyed her time on the board and is looking forward to pursuing other professional goals.

"I believe the town of Old Lyme truly prioritizes our school system and will continue to do so into the future," she said by email. She said she has witnessed firsthand how well the board works together "with our amazing team of educators, to keep our schools vibrant, and up to the highest standards both fiscally and educationally. I feel privileged to have served on the Board of Education of Old Lyme and even luckier to have had a child graduate from this exemplary school system."

Coming Sunday

A story on the Lyme candidate for the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education will appear in Sunday's paper.


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