Students from Granby Memorial High School had the opportunity to question candidates seeking election to the Board of Education during an hour-long candidates’ forum on Sept. 27. The event was held to honor National Voter Registration Day and was hosted at the Town Hall by Registrars Laura Wolfe and Paul R. Willis and moderated by John Adams.
All of the candidates on the ballot for the Nov. 7 municipal election participated in the forum. They received a list of questions drafted by GMHS civics students in advance of the event, but were not informed of the specific questions they would be asked.
Kimberly L. Becker, Valorie A. Hollister and Brendan C. Webster represented the Democratic slate. Republicans were represented by Melissa E. Migliaccio, Stephen Royer and Sarah Thrall. Both Migliaccio and Royer are incumbent BOE members.
The event drew community members interested in hearing the candidates address a number of issues, as well as having a chance to learn more about the candidates themselves with their opening and closing remarks.
Round One programming questions were asked by Ahmad. She covered the need for advanced art classes, special education programs, Granby schools’ curriculum, programs for English language learners, whether the gifted student program will ever come back and thoughts on Granby’s One-to-One Computing Program.
Candidates made opening statements following Round One due to an oversight by Adams, before the program moved on to Round Two and budget questions from Fisher. She covered candidate priorities with regard to class size, renegotiating teacher salaries, the way to adapt to a lack of funding from the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant, how extracurriculars such as music, drama and sports will be treated when considering cuts, declining enrollment numbers and increasing foreign language offerings.
Drossel presented the Round Three questions, covering graduation requirements and the importance of Capstone, issues with the school dress code, weighting grades for AP and ECE classes, possibilities of instituting a No Homework policy, ways the BOE can improve anti-bullying efforts and the level of support Granby schools provide to the LGBTQ+ community.
The bonus impromptu question from Drossel asked whether candidates saw lack of diversity as an issue in Granby, and how they might seek to increase diversity in both the faculty and the student body. Candidates Becker, Webster and Royer each offered answers.
Becker pointed out that a recent seminar put on by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education had listed diversity as a statewide issue and identified the need to ensure support structures for minority staff and students were in place. Webster added that having more diversity helps minority students because they are able to see themselves reflected in their teachers. It also exposes both the schools and the wider community to different cultures and ethnicities. Royer agreed that it is good when classrooms represent the diversity seen in real world situations such as the workforce, but also pointed out the importance of hiring the best, most qualified staff.
During closing statements, all of the candidates agreed that Granby is facing a budget crisis that will require the board to make hard decisions over the coming school year. They each hoped to make their case for why voters should choose them in the municipal election.
Another area where there was unanimous agreement was the importance of voting. Throughout the forum there were reminders to register to vote and take an active role within the community.
Registering to vote in the Nov. 7 election must be done by Oct. 31. For eligible voters who miss this deadline and wish to vote, Election Day Registration (EDR) is available. To be eligible, unregistered voters must be U.S. citizens, 18 years of age or older and able to provide proof of identity and proof of bonafide residence in Granby. EDR will take place at the Registrars’ office in Town Hall on Election Day. Those whose registrations are complete by 8 p.m. will be able to vote at Town Hall.
For some in attendance, hearing the candidates’ sharing what they would bring to the board was enlightening. For Drossel, it helped her to make up her mind.
“I definitely know who I’ll be voting for,” she said at the forum’s end.
The forum was filmed live for Granby Community Television and can be viewed at: http://gctv16.org/viewshows/view/granbyboardofeduca5/