Friday, May 24, 2024

Board of Education Candidates

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Bill O’Brien
Republican
Candidate for Board of Education

I have lived in Stratford for seventy-one years. After graduating from Fairfield Prep, I served in the Marine Corps including a thirteen-month tour in Vietnam and nine months with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Yorktown. The highlight of this duty was recovering the Apollo 8 and the crew of three astronauts.

After my service, I enrolled at the University of New Haven, earning a dual degree in Business/Public Administration. After fifteen years as a volunteer coach with Sterling House Community Center, I was hired and worked for twenty-five years as the Athletic Director, also serving as the camp director for thirteen years.

My resume is too long for this questionnaire, so I’ll highlight those areas most related to children. The oldest of eight children, my experiences with students extends back many years. As an adult I have coached basketball, soccer, Lacrosse, and softball. I have mentored an elementary school student and one high school student. For many years I was the President of the Stratford Youth Sports Association.

Sterling House uses the school gyms for basketball programs. Over the years, I had a good relationship with school staff, especially the custodians. I’m a past recipient of the Friends of Education Award, presented by the Stratford BOE. More recently, I received the John Wentworth Good Sport Award, presented by the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance.

My primary volunteerism today is with the Stratford Veterans Museum. I am a founding member and currently the treasurer. One important part of our mission is to engage students and teach them about Stratford’s long history of those who served in the military.

Why are you running for office?

Volunteering is something I’ve always done and can’t explain it. I’ll continue to do so as long as I’m able. I am proud of my three terms on the Town Council and all that we have done to move Stratford forward. It would be my honor to continue to serve and do what I can to move our education system forward.

What are your qualifications for this position?

During the past six years on the Town Council, I have served on the Board of Education Liaison Committee, four years as the Chairman. We have fully funded the BOE each year, proven by their annual surpluses. All my experiences and contacts throughout the BOE give me an advantage stepping into this new position. My ability to collaborate and communicate will also benefit all concerned as we do what is best for our children and our staff.

Celeste Burnett
Democrat
Candidate for Board of Education

Celeste has lived in Stratford for over 45 years, attending Honeyspot, Wooster, and Stratford High schools. She worked as a letter carrier throughout town and has always been active in the community. Celeste volunteered with her children in all their pursuits, recently completed the Parent Leader Training Institute, and wants all children to have the same opportunities and resources to thrive.

Why are you running for office?

I am running for office to be a voice for those who feel they do not have a voice. I would like to ensure that no child is ever left behind. This is the perfect opportunity for me to contribute and improve our community.

What are your qualifications for this position?

Being living proof of the Stratford school system, I have been able to experience a diverse town. I can speak firsthand of the positives along with the work that still needs to be done. Having lived in Stratford for 46 years, raising my family-sending my children to the Stratford schools as well, I have hope and I have faith that we can make the necessary improvements.

What is your vision for Stratford’s future? Please be as specific as possible.

My ultimate vision is to be able to work together as a board to accomplish our goals. I would also like to enhance the equity access to those with greater need; to learn, thrive and grow. I’d like to see our town stand together and unite.

What do you consider to be the most important issue needing to be addressed in Stratford?

We need to meet children where they are. I’d like to see more attention put into understanding children who act out or exhibit poor behavior. Let’s find the root of the cause and assist from there. Mental health has become a rising movement that I think we as a community need to cultivate harder than ever before.

Christopher Cormier
Democrat
Board of Education

My name is Christopher Cormier and I have been a resident of Stratford with my husband Jonathan for 18 years. We have 4 sons, Aaron 14, Steven 13, Ryan 11 and Jackson 9.  We brought each of our sons home with the intention of Stratford being our forever home, and the place that they could grow up in and come back to. I have dedicated the second half of my life to the support of my fellow citizens, younger and older.

I am active in my union, and certified as a mentor for new teachers entering the classroom. I am a member of the BOE Curriculum Committee and an alum of Stratford Parents SEE (Supporting Educational Excellence), which has given me the voice to speak for those that can’t.

“Speak out, even if your voice shakes, then speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Why are you running for office?

We need many more voices that put the children, faculty, and staff first, not the political party of the member. I have learned that my voice needs to be louder to better represent and advocate for those that don’t have the confidence to say what they need out loud and in public. I do all I can to represent those whose voices are softer than mine.

What are your qualifications for this position?

  • I am an active elementary school teacher of 14 years.
  • I serve as a union building representative for the Bridgeport Education Association.
  • I currently serve on the Stratford BOE Curriculum Committee.
  • I have served in multiple capacities with the Franklin PTO since its inception.
  • I hold a Masters in Elementary Education from the University of Bridgeport.
  • I am certified as a Connecticut Department of Education TEAM Mentor supporting new teachers.
  • I am an alum of the Stratford Parents Supporting Educational Excellence.

What is your vision for Stratford’s future? Please be as specific as possible.

The best version of a positive future for Stratford from a BOE view would be a relationship between the Town Council and Board of Education that encourages a positive, bipartisan collaboration between the bodies. This collaboration would be a partnership where the needs of the BOE are viewed by the Council as an investment into our town and encouragement for economic development. Well run schools encourage people to settle and create a life here for their families. When that happens, businesses thrive and expand, and the town and its people succeed.

What do you consider to be the most important issue needing to be addressed in Stratford?

I believe the most important issues needing to be addressed in Stratford from a BOE POV would be years of underfunding/flat-funding the Board of Education budgets, which has caused larger classroom sizes, fewer enrichment programs, and less support staff.  Our platform is designed to address those issues.

Democrat BOE Platform:

  • Ensure equity across the district
  • Invest in teachers and classrooms
  • Increase parental and community involvement
  • Advocate for behavioral health resources

Jill D’Angelo Powers
Democrat
Candidate for Board of Education

I am running for a seat on the Board of Education. I’m a mother of two children in the Stratford school system, Lauren and Logan. My incredibly supportive husband Blake and I bought our first home in Stratford 11 years ago. Blake is a third-generation Stratford native and grandson of the late Town Manager Richard Blake. Stratford is a special place for our family, and that is why I am vested in raising my family here.

Why are you running for office?

Stratford is a wonderful community. However, after years of insufficient funding, our schools need adequate resources in order provide Stratford students with a quality education. In 2022, Stratford was added to the list of Connecticut’s designated Alliance Districts, indicating Stratford as a bottom-performing school district based on Stratford’s pre-pandemic accountability index scores. As a parent, I have witnessed disconcerting challenges in our schools, exacerbated by poor funding, complex student needs, and palpable inequity. I am running to represent the concerns of Stratford students and their families.

What are your qualifications for this position?

I hold a bachelor’s in science degree from Central Connecticut State University in Hospitality and Tourism, and I have successfully managed restaurants, effectively balancing budgets, employee staffing, and food safety. In 2015, I became a Licensed Real Estate Agent. When buyers consider where to purchase a home, school performance scores are often important.

As the parent of two Stratford students, I volunteer as a board member on the Stratford Academy Johnson House PTSA, where I’m involved in planning and executing many activities. I participated in the Board of Education’s parent panel on the new 2023 Code of Conduct that went into effect at the start of this school year. I have also attended and spoken at Town Council and Board of Education meetings for the past two years. This has allowed me to get to know and understand the challenges of local government and the value of working together across the aisle from current board members.

What is your vision for Stratford’s future? Please be as specific as possible.

Stratford is an evolving community, and we embrace our differences. With a focus on adequate funding and equity in our education, our school system can regain its once profound status as a top-tier school district, with the added strength of increased racial and ethnic diversity. It is my hope that Stratford may continue to be a hometown that many alumni may choose to remain in or return to, because of the valuable opportunities provided for all residents.

What do you consider to be the most important issue needing to be addressed in Stratford?

Funding our schools, in general, must be a major priority for our town. Enhanced funding would help ensure low class size, robust art programs, extracurricular activities, and improve teacher retention. Resources must also be equitably allocated across the district, to ensure all students are equipped for educational success. Additionally, student wellbeing is of top importance, including creating a climate that fosters school safety and resources to support students’ mental health.

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