School Board Candidates Have Their Say

In their second annual forum, candidates answer questions posed by host Clinton PTA and the audience.

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.

Fran M. October 28, 2011 at 01:04 PM
I was able to attend the first half of this forum (up to "intermission"). Would anyone care to share some questions/answers that were discussed after the break? (the last 2 questions in the above article were post-intermission questions) Did no one ask about candidates thoughts on a potential new Morgan school? Perhaps because the BOE doesn't have any authority over that area? Perhaps because candidates would rather not answer that question before the election? Comments during a recent Patch article suggested that a meeting/presentation Re: new Morgan school was being considered for late October...is that now being pushed until after Nov 8?
Phil Sengle October 28, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Even though the candidate and public turnout was disappointing, it was worth the effort. I support the PTA in doing this. I've attended many of these events over the years and the sad truth is that it is mostly "insiders" who attend. None of us know how to fix this problem or it would be fixed by now. I hope the CTA, which is sponsoring a Forum between Willie Fritz and Carol Walter, does better with attendance. It will be held at 7 PM, Nov. 3rd at the Town Hall Auditorium.
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) October 28, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Fran - still no word on a date for a meeting with the Morgan School Building Committee and the architect. As soon as the date is announced, it will be posted on Patch and our Facebook page.
VIN CIMINO October 28, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Yes, Mr. Sengle. The CTA is sponsoring a debate on Nov. 3rd at 7pm at the Town Hall auditorium between me, Fritz and Walter, the 3 First Selectman candidates. I look forward to the opportunity and certainly hope the readers of Patch will attend.
Jonathan Sanders October 28, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Oh believe me I wouldn't miss that debate for anything. Who is bringing the popcorn?
VIN CIMINO October 28, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Thank you, Jonathan. Please help pass the word. The CTA is providing a valuable opportunity to hear the candidates speak and address the important issues facing the town.
Phil Sengle October 30, 2011 at 05:46 PM
BTW, click on this link and you will see Carol Walter's position on Education. Her full position will be published in the Nov. 3 Harbor News. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGRaSpeUq_U
Kirk Carr October 30, 2011 at 05:47 PM
What you missed was the question the Board of Ed refuses to answer, that the PTA refuses to ask and that the Patch refuses to report. After finding $84,000 in the 2011-2012 budget that was overfunded dental self insurance, the administration moved money off of that line but did not restore any of the announced cuts that the $75,000 Board of Finance budget cut forced. I have repeatedly asked why they parked $47,000 on a printing and publishing line on the Districtwide budget that has never been more than $3,500. Jack Cross explained that this was part of a consolidation of funds from individual schools they had failed to reflect on the Districtwide budget initially. But they reduced the printing and publishing budgets at schools only $293. So now, across all cost centers printing and publishing is $73,000 on which they have never spent mor than $26,000. So Mr. Cross' explanation was either misinformed or misinforming. And the Board and PTA have failed to demand restoring these lines with found funds. You can see how Kim Campanaro refused to deal with the question and claimed it was last years budget here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05OdP26ev3g And background documentation can be downloaded from: https://www.yousendit.com/dl?phi_action=app/orchestrateDownload&rurl=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.yousendit.com%252Ftransfer.php%253Faction%253Dbatch_download%2526send_id%253D1270308796%2526email%253Db5a00d27648fd8bcbc59ce1897ad784a
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) October 30, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Here is the article on the BOE's surplus funds that the Clinton Patch "didn't" report on: http://clinton.patch.com/articles/board-of-education-ends-fiscal-2011-with-surplus
Kirk Carr October 30, 2011 at 07:22 PM
Your linked story is about the previous year's (fiscal 2011) surplus and how it was reallocated. The story that was not reported, about which I provided a memo to the school board and a copy to you weeks later deals with the 2011-2012 budget. In that budget the dental self-insurance line had been over funded by $84,000 initially. In the final budget that line was reduced $84,000 and instead of using it to restore painful cuts to spending that parents and children will feel, the administration padded a printing and publishing budget. You and I spoke about it afterward and you indicated it was too complicated. Kim Campanaro seems to be confused about this too. The memo that is available through the yousendit link I provided and supporting documents are very clear this is not about the previous year's budget. Mr. Cross' story that this was part of a consolidation from individual schools to a Districtwide budget does not hold up under scrutiny. $75,000 may seem like small potatoes in a $30 million budget, but to parents and students who had field-trip transportation, equipment and uniforms cut, that is a real and totally unnecessary hardship. Why the Board of Education has circled the wagons on this baffles me. This is a bipartisan failure.
Phil Sengle October 31, 2011 at 12:57 PM
This again highlights why we need a change. Please check out the following link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGRaSpeUq_U
VIN CIMINO October 31, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Phil, this is nothing more than a pre-planned speech with questions fed to Walter by her campaign manager, Kirk.
Phil Sengle October 31, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Vin: No, it's her position and Kirk is not her campaign manager. He just had the best voice. Both Carol and you are still waiting for Willie's position on anything. Anyway I'm glad you dropped the "Mr. Sengle". It made me feel so old. See you on the 3rd.
Ted06413 November 02, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Sengle, You can judge a person by the people he chooses to associate with. Hitching your wagon to Cimino will only cost you votes and self respect. See you Thursday.
Ted06413 November 04, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Mr.Sengle, After watching the candidates for First Selectman's debate last night, I rescind my comment from Nov.1st (8:53pm). My opinion of Mr.Cimino was largely based on his letters to the Editor and comments posted on The Patch. Last night I saw someone was professional,polite and informed.
Ted06413 November 04, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Mr.Cimino, Congratulations on last nights debate. Admittedly,my opinion and expectations of you were not very high when I took my seat. (Unfortunately after the opening remarks) When you stood to answer the first question I thought "He doesn't want to be seated next to Mr.Fritz when the venom starts" How completely wrong was I. It seems (my opinion mind you) that you were standing to make your self more at ease and communicate to the audience better. If so it worked. If all three candidates addressed the audience in the same fashion, it wouldn't have worked. But they didn't and it worked. The audio and lighting problems that seemed to happen only to you (no conspiracy theories ,please) made you look vulnerable, in a good way. Anyone of us listening could imagine how we would be feeling in your shoes. You handled it as well as anyone could. When Ms.Walters imploded and gave the Town a 6 out of 10 for it's handling of Hurricane Irene your answer of "9 out of 10 because there is always room for improvement" seemed heartfelt and honest. My final impressions of the debate were that Mr.Fritz was the clear winner.He was comfortable in the questions and his responses. Ms.Walters was not.She seems uncomfortable and ill informed.As a sitting selectman it was not a good combination. She was the clear loser in the debate. Pleasantly surprised is my take on your debate performance. You presented sound questions and answered those asked to you in a professional and polite manner.
Ted06413 November 04, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Again my congratulations and advice. Fire your letter writer and give a raise to your speech writer.
Carol D Walter November 04, 2011 at 10:56 PM
Tremendous thanks to the CTA for their perseverance in hosting the First Selectman’s debate last night. It was a terrific opportunity to let Clinton voters know that I have heard your concerns about the size of your tax bills. I will make reducing your taxes job 1. Our strategy to lower taxes involves outreach to new businesses by the Economic Development Commission, working with Planning & Zoning to make Clinton more business friendly and working with the Capital Expenditure Committee to create a realistic and do-able plan for town infrastructure. We need REAL plans; enough of the ‘scatter-shot’ band-aid method of town management. I was happy to have the chance to speak on the New Morgan. Let’s bring every plan together and appraise them. The consensus of opinion will go to referendum and the will of the voters will prevail. I’m very aware of the sad state of Morgan right now, we need to reverse all the years of neglect. I’m glad to have the chance to set Morgan back on track, to make it the best it can be. No cares more deeply about Clinton than Team Walter. We live here, our families all went or are currently going through the Clinton school system and we all own businesses HERE IN CLINTON. We are completely invested in the success of this town. No other candidate or candidates can make the same claim. Vote with confidence, vote for Carol Walter, Kim Simoncini and John Giannotti.


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