First, I would like to thank each of the candidates running. Running for public office is grueling and each of you deserves our gratitude for answering the call to public service.
I hope in this year's election you will all answer the questions residents have been asking for some time. Recently, it feels as if the discussion about education in our community has been reduced to a disagreement between the Board and the Teacher’s union on how to distribute points on a salary scale. Despite the amount of real estate, this has taken up on lawns and social media, this is not my primary concern.
I have three questions I hope candidates can answer.
The first has to do with the increasing amount of security theatre occurring in our schools in the past three years. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests police in schools, active shooter drills and turning schools into facilities that are beginning to look like lockdown facilities are actually harming children while demonstrating little to no benefit in their intended goal.
For the past several years I have asked the BOE and Town Council to implement reasonable changes that include increasing parental involvement in the SRO program for example. This is a very simple change that would simply start with reporting to the general public on some key indicators:
(1) The number of incidents resulting in a juvenile arrest for conduct on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event.
(2) Number of incidents resulting in other forms of law enforcement intervention including searches and seizures by SROs; questioning by SROs; issuance of a criminal citation, ticket, or summons; filing of a delinquency petition; and referral to a probation officer for juvenile conduct on school grounds or at a school sponsored event.
(3) Number of suspensions or other disciplinary consequences imposed on students, broken down by school; offense/infraction; student’s age, grade level, race, sex, and disability status; and disciplinary consequence imposed;
(4) Regulations, policies, and protocols governing the SRO program;
(5) Budget information for the SRO program including funding and expenditures;
(6) Number of SROs deployed to each school;
(7) Training materials for SROs;
(8) Number and types of complaints lodged against SROs;
(9) A simple and straightforward mechanism for any student, parent, teacher, principal, or another school administrator to submit a complaint, orally or in writing, of abuses or misconduct by SROs that protects the confidentiality of the complainant.
The message from the BOE and the current Town Council has been clear: we don’t need these items communicated to the public as there appears to be strong support for the program. This isn’t about popularity but transparency, best practice and giving the public hard data with which to evaluate what is a concerning trend in not only our district but in schools across the country. Why does the BOE or Town Council have such a difficult time with this? Would you?
I would like to know whether the candidates running for office would be willing to provide the public with this information. This information can be provided in a manner that protects student confidentiality while, at the same time, giving the public an opportunity to evaluate and speak to the need and efficacy of these measures.
Second, the issue of technology.
There is growing evidence that technology as a conduit to learning is actually harming students' ability to retain and understand the material presented in classrooms. Additionally, my understanding is that IPADS are being used over more reasonably priced and designed alternatives (Chromebooks for example). Are candidates willing to re-evaluate the implementation and use of technology against evidence (studies) and reverse, eliminate or modify components of the current strategy to align with what the evidence suggests?
Third, the issue of performance.
The entire narrative surrounding pay increases for teachers has been focused on years worked, years of experience. Why is this the singular measure being discussed? What about performance which can include test scores and parental feedback for both teachers AND administrators. Performance-based increases have been evidenced to work, why are residents and parents locked into a debate on one method of measurement. As candidates, would you be willing to evaluate and openly discuss the option of merit-based increases for teachers and administrators that include parental feedback?