Chairperson, Andrea Corcoran (U)
Stratford Board of Education
As the November 7th election draws near, the political rhetoric has grown louder and louder, as it does around this time each year. Armchair pundits muse on social media, political literature floods our mailboxes, and questionable information is easily mixed in to twist facts and bewilder voters.
Based on my own personal experience, I urge my fellow voters to remain critical of what you hear and read over the next few days. Take into account who is shouting loudest from the rooftops and question what their true motivation may be.
I have, for the last four years, served as an elected member of the Stratford Board of Education. I was elected as an endorsed member of a political party. This political group, based on my casual observations on Facebook and in the community, appeared to represent civility and a true desire to make my hometown a better place. Thus, when I decided to throw my hat in the political ring, hoping to create positive and lasting change for our schools and students, it seemed a no-brainer to align myself with this vision.
Once a member on the inside of this group, I was privy to the misinformation campaigns that are waged against opponents, carefully crafted narratives spread on social media and throughout the community. Opponents were painted as menacing grifters, villains focused on ruining the town. The alternatives – their endorsed candidates – were then, naturally, the only sane alternative.
After some time in my elected position, it became clear that I was expected only to vote the party line. The votes I was being persuaded to cast were not necessarily ones that would benefit children, teachers, families, or our schools. I was, instead, being asked to take a stance that would, ultimately, create favorable conditions for the maintenance of political power. Though our Board of Education Bylaws state that board members shall “render all decisions based solely on our judgment of the available facts and not surrender that judgment to individuals, special interests, or our own personal agendas,” I was being asked to make my decisions based on the will of a political group.
Eventually, I made the difficult, but necessary, decision to drop my political affiliation, as I was not comfortable being pressured to intentionally promote non-optimal conditions for our schools, simply to create an environment in which political players could flourish. My job was to advocate for the students, not the politicians.
When I was still involved with this political party, I was threatened that “when the BOE fails to give the council a reasonable budget, all bets will be off,” and if Town Council were to get “a parade of parents at the budget hearing because we aren’t giving the BOE the money they are looking for, it will be a very strategic mistake.” If I were to support a properly funded Board of Education, town leaders would be in the unenviable position of slashing what the schools needed to provide essential services, risking the political (and financial) futures of many.
Now, some time later and freed of political strings, I have proudly supported and advocated for healthy educational budgets, budgets that would create opportunities for our students to succeed. But the rhetoric flooding the airwaves – broadcast mainly by a predictable subset of people – is one of mysterious surpluses, BOE malfeasance, and a mil rate increase blamed solely on the schools’ budget. I can categorically state that all of these rumors and stories are false or grossly twisted. These untruths are being spread by members of one political party with the goal, of course, of winning elections and maintaining political power.
Over the past four years, I have realized the lengths to which some will go to in order to hold onto control, often without regard for taxpayers and citizens. When backed into a corner, these players will spread falsehoods and cast doubt on the true motivation of those actually seeking to improve the community.
I ask you – as somebody who is not running for office and only hopes to see continued growth in our schools and in our community – to please remember this in the days leading up to Election Day. Do your own research; don’t depend on social media, solely, to provide you with the information that you need and want to know. Get to know the candidates, their visions, their priorities, and who they truly plan on representing. Our kids, our teachers, our schools, our town depend on it.