The original eight candidates running for a seat on the Clinton Board of Education include (in alphabetical order):
Kimberly Campanaro, incumbent Democrat, full-term seat
John Carbone, Republican, to fill a vacancy for two years - WITHDREW from the race on October 25
Peter Giannotti, Republican, full-term seat
Joan Johanson, incumbent Democrat, full-term seat
Lois Ruggiero, Democrat, to fill a vacancy for two years
Rachael Rutkis, petitioning candidate, registered Unaffiliated, full-term seat
Charlene Voyce, petitioning candidate, registered Democrat, full-term seat
Phil Williams, incumbent Republican, full-term seat
Of the seven now running, four (Campanaro, Ruggiero, Voyce and Williams) were able to make the candidate forum held October 25 at Andrews Memorial Town Hall. The forum was hosted by the Clinton PTA.
Here are a few highlights from the forum:
Question: What do you think is the single most important issue facing the Clinton Public Schools system?
Answered by Phil Williams: "Funding." He noted that the town has gone to a second referendum vote several times in the past. "It's not my job to say you can't have this money and expect the schools to do the very best they can for our kids. I know it is very hard economic times. I have had to find a way in my business to make more money with less."
Question: What do you bring to next year's board that will impact positively the issues that we will face given the current economic climate?
Answered by Lois Ruggiero: "Experience." "I have served on many negotiation teams as part of a union. Also, I am familiar with how the budget process works for the town. I have attended lots of board meetings and have had interactions with many other town agencies."
Question: What should the Board of Education's action plan be in the event of funding cuts from federal and/or state sources?
Answered by Kim Campanaro: "Prioritize." "Cutting things is not what we like to do. We need to find places where we can be more efficient and look for efficiencies. We can double-up on some things and some positions. We can work on this so we do not take away anything from the kids."
Question: What specific steps would you propose and support in creating the link between the three components of our education community: the BOE, the parent community and those without children in the Clinton school system?
Answered by Charlene Voyce: "Public conflict." "There is a public conflict over the services we provide. I feel that there needs to be more communication when the BOE makes plans. We need to relay real costs to the community. We can increase communication by getting the information on online news, the newspapers, and newsletters. People need to know the "why" of what is coming out for programs and how it benefits the kids. Let's not be "penny wise and pound foolish.""
Question: We hear a lot about test scores. Do you think they are the end-all?
Answered by Phil Williams: "They are not the end-all. Test scores will give you just a snapshot of what that kid did on paper at that exact time. To measure the success of education we need to teach the kids to learn. We need to teach them now to learn the skills they will need after leaving the school system.
Question: How would you handle it (as a BOE member) if you had a direct conflict of interest such as an immediate family member working within the Clinton school system?
Answered by Charlene Voyce: In a small town such as Clinton, it is often quite likely that you would have this situation. It's unavoidable. How I would handle it is if there was a direct line - such as it were a question of promotion, hiring, or granting tenure, I would recuse myself. But for bigger and broader issues such as the school budget that affects large groups, I would feel comfortable voicing my opinion and voting on it.