NewCanaanite.com recently received the following letters.
So let me get this straight : the Town Council approves the new library, P&Z approves the new library, the Board of Finance approves the new library, students want the new library, moms want the new library, community organizations looking for beautiful places to meet want the new library, musicians who like performing at nice outdoor venues want the new library, the realtor’s association wants the new library, pretty much all the business owners want the new library, donors donating $27 million want the new library and the overwhelming majority of people who actually live here want the new library and yet a small uncompromising handful going around begging for signatures to stop the new library claim to know what’s best for the town? The sight of an old building that nobody uses? Interesting. And lousy community spirit. Let’s stop this referendum nonsense before it starts. And call this out for what it is – an annoying attempt to deny New Canaan from getting the amazing new library it deserves. And wants.
There has been a lot of noise on social media regarding the Board of Education race and it is time to set the record straight. The Republican BOE candidates, Hugo Alves, Dan Bennett, Julie Toal and Phil Hogan, have strong academic and professional experience and have all been involved as volunteers and in leadership roles for local organizations, clubs, non-profits and youth sports teams within the community. This speaks to their ability to work well with others on the BOE if elected and to engage with parents and the community to provide more accessibility and improved communication to the BOE. Collectively, the four Republican candidates bring personal experience with Special Education as well as legal, data management, financial analysis, communication and management experience. As these Republican candidates ran their campaigns through the summer, they have shown that they have the energy and commitment as engaged parents in the community to work on the BOE to continue to deliver the best education for all New Canaan kids.
None of the Republican candidates has stated that Critical Race Theory or “CRT” is in New Canaan’s classrooms nor have they made any stance on mask policy despite misstatements by the Democrat Candidates and their 203Action/DTC surrogates. However, one cannot ignore that the National Education Association at their annual conference on 6/30-7/3/2021 issued a resolution supporting CRT being taught in curriculum.
On the state level, the CT Department of Education held its first of four Summits on August 11, 2021, for Administrators and Faculty on another “CRT”—Critically Responsive Thinking which encourages teachers to adopt such elements in their lesson plans for all grades and across all subjects, including Math and Science. We encourage everyone to get informed.
This summer, Democrats alone in the state legislature passed an education bill to write K-8 curriculum on numerous topics at the state level that “may” be adopted by districts. Those that are paying attention to state legislature know how quickly a “may” turns into a “shall” with unfunded mandates through “incrementalism” or bringing the camel’s nose under the tent. The underlying theme with regionalization bills in 2019 and zoning bills in 2020 and 2021 is the attempt to take away local oversight and decision making to be controlled by the state instead. Those regionalization attempts in 2019 saw a number of our New Canaan town leaders, BOE members, superintendent and many other leaders of other towns statewide headed to Hartford to testify against the regionalization bills that would do nothing to actually improve educational outcomes.
Republicans in Hartford and locally have always stood against such over-reach and centralization of power, while the state Democrats are the ones that initiated those bills. When Democrats began to face understandable opposition as constituents statewide became aware of what was actually happening in Hartford, they pivoted and claimed to support local decision making, backed down or softened their stance. It is Democrat legislators at the state level that are increasingly politicizing education and pushing down mandates, not these local BOE candidates.
The New Canaan Republican BOE candidates are suggesting greater accessibility, communication and visibility to parents. They are solely focused on maintaining the academic excellence of our schools by keeping state and national politics out of our schools. Any assumptions that the recent examples of education policy making and curriculum writing at the state level will not be repeated again is misguided. Further, any assumptions that these strong agenda-driven currents at the state and national level may not have an impact on our town in the future would just be putting our heads in the sand. This lack of acknowledgement and understanding from the Democrat candidates should be concerning to everyone.
Finally, many members of the New Canaan community have noticed that this year’s Republican Caucus brought out a new, younger demographic of voters that prior to this year had not been very engaged in local municipal government. Over 1,000 votes were cast on July 21st in an open and “democratic” election process to select the Republican slate. As Republicans, we welcome all perspectives and opinions and hope many more members of the community will engage in the municipal election process this fall. No one should ever be afraid to make public comment in a meeting or state an opinion for fear of being personally attacked or shouted down or “cancelled” just because their views may not align with a particular agenda.
The municipal election is still a few months away, so please take the opportunity to meet the Republican BOE candidates: Hugo Alves, Dan Bennett, Julie Toal and Phil Hogan and learn more about them personally and their platform. Most importantly, go beyond the “noise” of local Democrat partisan mischaracterizations and distortions from social media and campaigning and instead engage directly with these excellent Republican candidates for yourself.
E. Irene Barrack
Letter to the editor:
Given the challenges our children faced over the last 18 months, this year’s Board of Education election is more important than ever. It is critical we vote for experienced candidates with a demonstrated commitment to, and passion for, representing all parents in the NCPS community. That is why we, previous members of the West School PTC Executive Board, are endorsing Erica Schwedel and Karen Willett.
Both Karen and Erica have a long history of dedicated engagement with our schools and our children through their volunteer work including as PTC Executive Board members (VP Programs and VP Parent Education, respectively) and as PTC Presidents for two years each.
One of their biggest accomplishments was the creation of the Outdoor Learning Center at West. Under their leadership, a focus group of West School principals, teachers and several talented parents conceived, designed, fundraised for and built the Outdoor Learning Center over a nearly 3-year period.
Karen and Erica demonstrated their leadership abilities throughout this extensive project. They identified the talents and skills of others, built an effective and collaborative team and showed that they are great at compromise and open discussion.
Under their leadership during Covid, the PTC worked harder than ever, redesigning, and reinventing PTC enrichment programs to work in a Covid environment. They focused on ensuring that the year was joyful and memorable and not a pale replica of a ‘normal’ year.
Karen and Erica demonstrated their commitment to our children and our school system through years of volunteering and getting real things done that have a lasting impact. They have been inspirational and effective leaders developing collaborative partnerships with administrators and faculty. They are uniquely qualified to lead our school district into the future and we hope you will join us in voting for them on November 2.
I wholeheartedly endorse Kim Norton for New Canaan’s Town Council and urge you to vote for her on November 2nd. Kim has all the fine qualities that would make her a valuable addition to the Town Council. Her ability to listen and understand challenges, her willingness to work hard to represent her constituents, and her expertise in bringing people together for positive change will be a huge benefit to New Canaan.
Having worked with Kim on the Student Data Privacy bill, I was able to witness first-hand her commitment to protecting students and parents, and the fortitude to follow through on the process that resulted in the creation of one of the earliest state laws to protect students’ private information.
While Kim’s background is extremely impressive, with a Ph.D from Fordham, work as an NYPD Psychologist, her private practice, as well as being a published author, she maintains a humble dedication to local service to our town. She is a volunteer at St. Aloysius Church, in our schools, sports clubs, dance associations and other local organizations.
I am proud to support Kim Norton for Town Council and hope you will join me on November 2nd to vote for Kim, as well as everyone on Row B.
I’ve served on the New Canaan Public Schools Board of Education for over eight years and I couldn’t be more proud of the excellence in our district and how we have navigated the pandemic. Our teachers and administration are best-in-class heroes. Our students are able to pursue a rigorous academic course of study, while participating in an extensive variety of athletics, extracurricular and academic clubs. My two eldest children were extraordinarily well prepared for college and my youngest is thriving at New Canaan High School.
It is with this perspective that I urge you to engage in the upcoming Board of Education election. Learn about and vote for candidates that will continue the excellence in our schools, while fostering a culture of respect and belonging.
I will vote for Penny Rashin, Janet Fonss, Fatou Niang, Karen Willett, Jenn Hladick, and Erica Schwedel. Each of these candidates has the professional background, skills, and perspective to move our district forward. Most urgently, we must re-elect Penny Rashin to the Board. This November, we will lose a combined 28 years of experience. While fresh perspectives energize, we must know and be informed by our history. It has been an honor to serve alongside Penny for eight years and witness how her sharp, legal mind often guides the Board. I have learned much from Penny, especially the importance of asking challenging questions and pushing, persisting in the name of excellence. When reviewing curriculum, policies, or operating procedures, Board members ask thoughtful questions and provide effective oversight and feedback. In my tenure, the Board has been constructively challenging, supportive, and never deferential to the administration. Our results bear witness. I also have personal experience with Fatou Niang, Janet Fonss, and Karen Willett. I can attest that these are talented, professional women, whom I deeply admire for their community leadership. Beyond her impressive professional accomplishments, Fatou inspires as a nonprofit leader, while Janet and Karen have been uniquely committed public servants of our schools and town.
I don’t believe that school governance should be entangled with politics. Educational leaders shouldn’t be focused on the political color of a community, but rather, laser-focused on delivering student-centered needs and excellence. This November 2nd, get out and vote for the candidates who will do that and lead us forward.
I am writing to express my unqualified support of Janet Fonss, Jenn Hladick, Fatou Niang, Penny Rashin, Erica Schwedel, and Karen Willet for election to the New Canaan Board of Education. All of us in New Canaan are so proud of the high marks the New Canaan schools get for performance and for their excellent COVID response last year. With years of PTC, PFA, and BOE experience, these candidates are perfectly positioned to ensure that this tradition of excellence continues.
This slate of candidates has a deep understanding of the district’s goals and priorities and has demonstrated an ability to work collaboratively and effectively with the school administration to provide the best education possible for all New Canaan children. Their strongly held belief in a philosophy of educating the whole child by creating an academically rigorous curriculum while maintaining a healthy, supportive, and inclusive learning environment means that the needs of all children in New Canaan will be met.
A vote for these stellar, experienced candidates is a vote that will assure continued excellence of our New Canaan schools.
Alicia Longobardo Wyckoff
[NewCanaanite.com will publish endorsement and election-related letters through Sept. 30. Comments are disabled on this post. One letter-writer’s assertion regarding contested races at the GOP caucus was inaccurate and has been removed. We also removed what appear to be inaccurate descriptions of local reaction to education-related policy from the same letter.]