I join the many Wilton citizens who have expressed outrage and concern about the school incidents of prejudice and hate displayed over the past weeks. I am disturbed by the mean, inflammatory discourse at the national level and worry to what extent that lack of civility has impacted our town and schools. At the same time, I am heartened by the response of the school administration, the Board of Education, Town leadership, parents, community members, and especially students to stand up and unequivocally repudiate these damaging acts.
The Board of Education can use these recent events as an opportunity to address, in part, the lack of civility, respect, and compassion. Specifically, I believe the Board should deeply examine how our schools can best promote civic learning. Are we doing enough through our curriculum and other programs to help students understand our democratic principles, values and framework? Are we helping students make connections between our governing institutions and their lives? How are we encouraging practice and participation in our democratic processes? I know we have a solid foundation. However, we can always improve. This examination would tie into the district’s mission statement, “All Wilton graduates will be innovators, collaborators, and creative and critical thinkers who are high achieving, socially responsible, civic minded and have internalized the virtues of compassion and empathy.”
Another pressing concern for the Board is to develop a school budget that meets student needs during a time of severe financial constraints. Overcoming this challenge takes rigorous management through continual review of financial practices with an eye towards ever greater efficiency. It also means finding creative savings, such as collaborating with town departments (as has been done in the facility and business departments) and investigating possible cost-savings by working with neighboring school districts. The budget process must focus sharply on a limited, clear set of annual priorities and their efficient implementation. Prudent budgeting also requires long term planning based on good data regarding enrollment, capital needs, and fiscal trends. It takes good information to make wise choices about limited resources.
The budget also must support continuous improvement. Like businesses and other professions, change is rapid and best practices evolve. If we hold back on improvements when times are tough, we create a backlog of needs and fail to do our best for current students. Fiscal responsibility ultimately means protecting our investment. Wilton’s reputation for excellent schools was built over decades of sustained work and thoughtful expenditures. Our school system is a major reason families move here and a determining factor in home values. I support targeted, steady, and well-researched improvements to protect this vital asset.
A defining responsibility for the Board is oversight of the district’s strategic plan. I support the district’s focus on personalized learning and high achievement. Turning the plan into reality requires intensive dialogue with the district’s leadership team and thoughtful analysis of results, informed by input from staff, parents, students, and community members. As with all good plans, adjustments and revisions should be made when indicated. The Board must ensure the plan has a positive impact on student learning.
Board of Education members should communicate through proactive outreach. I would listen to–and learn from–all constituents. I believe in considering all sides of the issues and incorporating as many points as possible when making decisions. I would work as part of the Board team to respond to patterns of concerns and questions.
During my 38 years as a professional educator, I have lived all aspects of the public schools and know what is required for educational excellence. I understand the district’s complexity and its numerous moving parts. I can examine issues critically and work collaboratively. I would bring a valuable perspective to the Wilton Board of Education
Being a school board member is both a great honor and tremendous responsibility. I would put students first and commit to improve upon Wilton’s tradition of educational excellence.