2019 Board of Education Forum Recap

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On Sept. 24, at 7 p.m., a Board of Education Forum was conducted in the Granby Memorial High School Auditorium by Mr. Dombrowski’s Honors Civics Class. The candidates who participated in the forum were Jenny Emery, Mark Fiorentino, Lynn Guelzow, Rosemarie Weber, Monica Logan, Christine Peaslee, and David Peling. These candidates discussed topics including school budget, equity, superintendent process, relations with town boards, and school safety.

Throughout the forum, the candidates agreed upon several topics regarding musical literacy and foreign languages at the elementary level, prioritization of extracurriculars, rigor of curriculum, and the superintendent hiring process. However, there were discrepancies in some areas of discussion.

The first topic with an array of views was universal Pre-K. Select candidates believed that in an ideal society, with an unlimited budget, this should be offered, while others disagreed and felt that it should never be offered. Emery articulated that she would be “very surprised if the board doesn’t look to the state for federal guidance in getting an education for the kids.” She also connected this issue to the implementation of full day kindergarten, saying “we thought then we couldn’t afford it, but now that we have it, I don’t think anyone up here or running for board of education would want to remove full day kindergarten.” Following this, Guelzow stated that the board needs to support the programs already in place and use the available money to expand existing programs before launching additional programs such as universal pre-K.

On the discussion of supporting students who are looking to jump into vocational studies directly following high school rather than college, Logan particularly articulated her viewpoint. In an interview directly following the forum, she stated, “I think it’s very important to start a little younger than high school to find those niches for students who are looking for something else.” 

While other candidates generally agreed with Logan’s statement, none shared the same emphasis. She adamantly encouraged improvement in communication between employers looking for vocational workers and students. Other candidates, including Fiorentino and Emery, stated that there are programs and opportunities for these students, yet agreed with Logan that improvement is necessary. Furthermore, Guelzow expressed similar views on the need for improvements, and hopes that the new superintendent will resolve this issue.

When discussing the cost of special education, Peaslee stated that the board should examine how they are spending their money. She asked, “Why has enrollment decreased but the funds for special education have increased”?

 Peaslee continued to explain how there has been a lack of support for the majority of students falling in the middle of two extremes, and she doesn’t want these students to experience an educational version of “middle child syndrome.” Fiorentino spoke about how he would improve the special-ed program if and only if it did not interfere with existing programs.

The topic of school safety brought up discussion about not only physical safety, but mental health as well. Weber introduced the idea of physical safety by bringing to light the new “double-door” system being installed at Granby Memorial High School and how this will improve student safety. Finally, Peling and Guelzow articulated the importance of providing students with mental health support.

In a post interview with Guelzow, she stated that “we should focus on the classroom, focus on the kids in the classroom” in regards to the declining enrollment. She emphasized that the last thing the budget should cut is classroom sizes or arts and music. 

As a whole, all candidates agreed that communication needs to be improved by the board to the residents of Granby. Surveys are sent out at various times regarding BOE topics that allow residents to voice their concerns and opinions, including during the superintendent selection process. A higher level of communication would lead to the board spending its budget on community desired programs. In addition, Weber expressed that she felt that, “the public got a balanced view of the board’s priorities,” and Fiorentino explicitly stated that there needs to be an emphasis on “people need to go out and vote.”

The responses at this forum provided residents with a deeper look into the candidates’ views surrounding the improvement of the school system while taking into account budget limitations. The multiple perspectives represented the unique characteristics the candidates bring to the table. However, it is clear that all candidates aim to enhance the school system for the residents and students. Tuesday, Nov. 5, the people of Granby will have the final say when they vote for these candidates. Therefore, as the candidates emphasized, “get out there and vote!”