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Letters To The Editor: Board of Education Request to Extend Member Terms

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by Andrea Corcoran, Board of Education Chair
Janice Cupee
Amy Wiltsie

Stratford Town Hall 2725 Main Street
Stratford, CT 06615

January 23, 2023

Dear Honorable Members of the Town Council:

We are writing to request your consideration to change the Stratford Term Limit ordinance (Chapter 32, Article 1 of the Town Code) to increase the number of consecutive terms Board of Education members are eligible to serve.

Of the 169 public school districts in the State of Connecticut, Stratford is the only town that limits Board of Education members to serve one single four-year term and be forced to wait four years after completing their term, before being able to run for that office again.

Changing the term limit will position Stratford to create a well-run school board that puts our students’ best interests at the center of the work; one where each school and classroom is a supportive environment for academic and social-emotional learning and funding is allocated equitably and effectively so that all students have equal opportunities no matter which of our thirteen schools they attend.

By changing this restrictive policy, you, as Town leaders, will have the opportunity to create effective board governance by allowing the building of institutional knowledge, thus increasing Stratford Public School’s performance in the State. The Stratford Board of Education will be better positioned to meet the needs of our children and represent the values and hopes of the community, which will subsequently benefit the overall town.

As elected members of the Stratford Board of Education who have been serving for the past three years, we speak from experience. School districts are complex and have many content areas in which board members must become well-versed – from school finance to academic programs and assessments, legislation, state mandates, and other legal matters. The current term limit and staggered terms impede the collective Board from acquiring this knowledge with the depth necessary to operate at its full potential. Every two years, half of the board members are termed out, just as they’ve acquired proficiency in those areas, and Stratford Public Schools loses institutional knowledge and the benefit of mastery.

Relationships are an essential part of this work and as board members, we work to cultivate strong collaborative relationships with each other and build consensus. We build relationships with our legislators and we help them understand our priorities as they work for us in Hartford. We build partnerships with local community organizations, businesses, colleges, universities. and professional organizations, all of which help advance Stratford Public Schools and create opportunities for our children.

Schools are not like other organizations. As a result, continuity is vitally important. Change in education takes time. It takes time to build trust among board members. It takes time to learn and understand the organization. It takes time to learn how to be an effective board member. Increasing Board of Education term limits will hold board members more accountable for the performance of our students and the district while minimizing unnecessary delays to already difficult decisions.

With Stratford’s current structure, Board members rarely have the opportunity to take on leadership roles and mentor other board members, both valuable experiences that enhance the work.

In conclusion, we are requesting that Stratford changes the BOE term limit policy to allow members to run for reelection, without waiting four years after their term ends. This creates an opportunity for effective governance to meet the needs of our children, benefit from the expertise of board members, and carry out the vision and priorities of the district.

Imagine Stratford Public Schools is ranked as one of the top-performing districts in the State of Connecticut, attracting families and businesses and generating economic growth.

You have the power to support the Board of Education and continue the work of rebuilding confidence in our school system and educational leadership.

We appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Andrea Corcoran Board Chair

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