Election: Meet the 2019 Board of Education candidates

We asked the Board of Education candidates the following questions:

1) The BOE began last term with $1.9 million in Education Cost Sharing funding cut by the state. Balancing budgets were a big challenge in the schools for the last two years. What did you do to address this issue (incumbents) or What would you have done? (challengers).

2) Not counting the budget, what was the most important issue faced by the Board of Education during the most recent term? How did you handle it? (incumbents) or How would you have handled it? (challengers).

3) What do you see as the most important issue for the Board of Education over the next term? How will you handle it if you are elected?

Here are their answers (Candidates are grouped in the order they will appear on the ballot):

BOE 4 year term

Foster White

Foster S. White

(Democrat, incumbent)

1) The complex process of creating and establishing a Board of Education budget, process has been compounded recently by mid-year State cuts in ECS funding. The BOE utilized its long-standing practice of re-evaluating costs, re-allocating funding and re-investing funds in addition to collaborative efforts with other areas within town government, to permit our schools to continue to effectively operate within a balanced budget.

Despite unanticipated ECS funding reductions, the BOE working collaboratively within town government, was able to gain the benefit of a full time, highly effective, school resource officer. In addition, utilizing these same processes we have been able to add indoor track to the winter athletic program at Plainville High School. It is anticipated that this same concept will acquire funding to retain spring sports at the Middle School of Plainville in 2020. It must also be noted that the unanticipated reduction in funding has necessitated the postponement of several capital investments, these must be reinstated in future budget preparations. We have been and will continue to be most mindful to place a high priority on student safety, security of our buildings and keeping pace with technology advances.

2) Our most important task is to ensure that our students be provided with a safe caring learning environment that will promote academic growth, health, and emotional wellbeing. We have taken the first steps in developing social and emotional learning in Plainville Community Schools. This has been accomplished with the introduction of the Ruler. Ruler is an evidenced based approach to social and emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Social and Emotional Learning. It is imperative that the concepts of the Ruler be implemented throughout the entire structure of Plainville Community Schools.

3) The most important issue for the Plainville BOE for the next term, will be the creation of our 2020-21 budget; most significant in this process will be the restoration of capital items eliminated from budgets from prior years. Plainville Community Schools must keep pace with technological advances and must not fall behind in our existing technology replacement plan. We must also be most aware that our five buildings must continue to receive required periodic maintenance and existing replacement plans be strictly adhered to. This will not only permit our buildings to remain safe secure learning facilities, it will also eliminate the higher costs of emergency repairs to worn out or inadequately maintained equipment.

Rebecca Martinez

Rebecca Martinez

(Democrat, challenger)

1) The Board of Education budget requires careful attention and even when the board makes a decision, often things change and adjustments are needed. Most of the time those adjustments mean reductions to the board’s budget. As someone who has observed this process several times over the past few years, I feel that I understand the importance of focusing on the needs of students and the schools rather than reaching a random percent increase that sounds acceptable. Board members are elected to ensure that the schools and students have the best tools we can provide and the budget plays a large role in making that happen.

2) There were a few important issues the BOE faced this term but they all had to do with the same thing, leadership. Hiring a new superintendent is the most important responsibility a BOE member could have. I am thankful someone as highly qualified as Steven  LePage was already here in the district. Having strong leadership on the BOE is also critical to our children’s education. I was disappointed when the school resource officer was originally proposed and five BOE members voted against it even after hearing the chief of police and administrators speak about the need to have an officer in the schools. Who would know better than the school staff and our police about the need for an officer within the schools?  Student safety should have been the BOE’s number one priority. It wasn’t until the Parkland shooting happened that the SRO conversation was back on the table. It should not have taken Parkland for that to happen. We need to have elected officials that will listen to the school staff members, public safety officials and the community.

3) Communication between the BOE and members of the community will be imperative throughout the next term. Plainville deserves BOE leadership that will make every effort to ensure that community members are well aware of the budget vote as well as the budget process. When the community is notified and understands what is at stake they do come out and vote. There will likely be another very important vote regarding the much needed renovation at the middle school during this next term. Community members will need to know why the renovation is.

Crystal D. St. Lawrence

Crystal D. St. Lawrence

(Democrat, incumbent)

1) A function of the Plainville Board of Education is to develop, approve and monitor the implementation of our Plainville Community Schools budget. The last two years of budget balancing has been a challenge with the mid-year state cuts in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding.  We collaborated as a board and district administrative team, keeping the best interest of our students in mind, as we re-evaluated, re-allocated, and re-invested the budget.  However, as we re-allocate things other things do get cut along the way.  During BOE budget sessions, I did stand up for items that were facing cuts or that wouldn’t be added to the budget.  I stood up for the full-time school resource officer at Plainville High School and the indoor track at PHS.  If I am re-elected, I will continue to stand up for things that I believe support our districts strategic plan and help to maintain the high quality education we have here in Plainville Community Schools.

2) Each term there are important issues for the Plainville BOE.  During the most recent term, the hiring of the superintendent was an important issue.  Another function of the BOE is retaining and evaluating the superintendent of schools.  In my current term on the BOE I have had the opportunity to participate in two superintendent hires.  We have been fortunate to have had amazing internal candidates for superintendent both times.  The decision of hiring a superintendent of schools is integral to ones district.  Our superintendent is the district’s chief executive office and implements board policy.  An excellent leader at the helm of our district is needed for our schools to stay on track of the strategic plan.

3) The 2020-21 budget is an important upcoming issue for the Plainville BOE.  Developing, approving and monitoring implementation of the district’s budget is one of the BOE’s biggest functions.  We must work together with the best interest of our students in mind as we ensure that the budget provides adequate resources for the educational priorities of Plainville Community Schools. We must maintain our high academic standards, safety, technology, buildings, and also activities where our students can learn and grow. Strong schools keep property and resale values high. We need to communicate to all citizens of Plainville our district mission, listen to the community and incorporate our citizen’s views into the discussions and actions of our Plainville BOE.

Michael Guiliano

(Republican, incumbent)

Michael Guiliano did not return his questionnaire for review. He is a Plainville Republican. He currently sits on the Plainville Board of Education.

Deb Hardy

Deb Hardy

(Republican, incumbent)

1) This is what should taken place: have a conversation with the superintendent to discuss what their recommendation is. Board of education chair and superintendent could then make a decision as to where the money should be allocated. Then bring it to the rest of the board for discussion. We also need to continue communication with town council who is the financial board for the BOE. Team work is essential.

2) The BOE was responsible this summer for hiring a superintendent, assistant superintendent, and a principal for Linden Street School. This was taken care of before the start of school. In addition to successfully completing the custodians, teachers and office professionals negotiations.

3) The concern and most important issue is improving student achievement. I believe if we follow our vision statement which is : To inspire and prepare lifelong learners to follow their passion, engage in their communities and positively impact our global society. We will have a positive result on our students if we continue to follow this vision.

Laurie Peterson

Laurie Peterson

(Republican, incumbent)

1) We had to cut items from the budget. Just like any budget, you can only spend what you have. You buy what you need and if there is any money left over, you can buy what you want. We kept the things that we felt were necessary for a solid education and thought hard on what we should cut. Cutting is never easy but was necessary, we had no choice.

2) Finding a new superintendent who was a proven leader and could handle any issue or challenge that would come up, no matter the who, the what, the where, the when or the why. What was amazing is that we had this individual already employed by the Plainville school system. He was the assistant superintendent and when we reached out to him he accepted our offer.

3) The answer to, what is the true state of our state? The main responsibility of any board of education is the school budget and we will always depend on state funding for a lot of things in our budget, at least for now. The first step would be to put people in office who not only know how to create a budget that can work but actually puts it into action. Connecticut is one of the smallest states in the union and I believe has one of the largest legislative representation in the country. Maybe we should cut the legislative fat and put the savings into the education cost sharing fund.

BOE 2-year term (to fill a vacancy)

Brent Davenport

(Democrat, challenger)

Brent Davenport did not return his questionnaire for review. He is a Plainville Democrat campaigning to fill the 2-year term on the board of education created by a vacancy on the board.

Rachel Childress Buchanan

Rachel Childress Buchanan

(Republican, challenger)

1) Extraordinary and unusual situations like the $1.9 million in education cost sharing funding cut by the state demonstrated that working together as a team is a top priority. My goal would be to work with my fellow board of education members and my town council to find creative ways to cut spending without harming programs. I would take the time to look at item by item to see where we could consolidate services and make smart spending cuts. The situation may have called for a hard freeze on spending or not filling a vacant position until a later time frame.  All paths would need to be considered. This situation, though not the norm does make one reflect on how important it is to adapt to the situation right in front of you and how vital teamwork is to ensure that our citizens get the very best outcome.

2) Not counting the budget, one of the most important issues faced by the BOE during the most recent term and I’m sure for terms to come is the ongoing effort to ensure that proposed programs are in the best interest of our students and taxpayers.  As a BOE member I will do my due diligence on each proposal.  I believe in research, education and asking questions. A terrific way to ensure a program is the right fit for Plainville students is to ask if it meets the terms of our mission statement and drill down from there.  Does this program “provide rigorous and enriching experiences that prepare each student for success in a changing global society?”  My roadmap is clear.

3) The issue that I see to be one of the biggest for the BOE in this next term is maintaining a balance between fiscal responsibility for the taxpayers while continuing to exceed expectations for our school system. The Plainville Republicans do a great job with this balancing act, and I plan on staying the course.  I think that one of the most important ways to find and keep this precious balance is by working together with your fellow board members. One of my favorite expressions is ‘Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.’  Maybe it’s the coach in me, but I genuinely believe that anything is possible if a team is working towards a shared goal.  I plan on working with Republican and Democrats alike to ensure that we keep a laser focus on what’s best for Plainville.