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Letter: Political Agendas Do Not Belong on School Boards

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Dear West Hartford Community,

We worry for the children in our schools and what the Board of Education in our town has come to represent.

Political agendas do not belong on school boards, yet the Democratic majority on the board has unabashedly for the last two years pushed through one political agenda after another. Any attempt by members of the Board of Education to re-prioritize academics and potentially improve our board and schools has been squashed by the majority party. The development of a finance committee and a curriculum committee which were both raised in motions last year by Republican members was voted down by all Democrat members.

Be aware that West Hartford is one of the few districts in the state without such committees. These committees would significantly enhance our schools, yet instead of embracing something non-partisan to improve our schools and board, the Democrats on the board voted no every time.  The main victims of this constant barrage of radical politics at the board are our children.

The main function of the Board of Education should be to set policy, hire a superintendent and pass a budget. Last year the board appointed Paul Vicinius as our superintendent via unanimous decision. It was the only significant decision that was unanimous in the last two years. We wish there were more unanimous decisions at the board table.

Most recently the Democrats appointed Ms. Latoya Fernandez to the Board of Education to fill the seat vacated by Dr. Jason Chang. Ms. Fernandez is on public record in support of defunding the police, removing resource officers from schools and signed on to an antisemitic memorandum full of lies and misrepresentations regarding the Middle East conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. When Ms. Fernandez was confronted with these issues before her appointment, in a district that 30% of our students are Jewish, and in a town that is seeing a huge spike in crime, she did not back away from these stances but instead embraced her radical positions, having the chair of the board tell us that Ms. Fernandez’s fiancée didn’t think the memorandum she signed was antisemitic so therefore it wasn’t.

At our last meeting there was a large rally regarding the recent racial issue at Sedgwick Middle School before the board meeting. At the board Dr. Lorna Thomas-Farquharson made a motion to suspend the rules at public comment so that protesters and concerned citizens could speak at the meeting about their concerns. What’s infuriating about Dr. Thomas-Farquharson’s motion is not that she wanted to allow protesters to speak – we want the public to have the ability to speak with no limitations at the beginning of every Board of Education meeting. However Dr. Thomas-Farquharson and Dr. Chang were the two board members that pushed hard to shut up the public by pushing through a communication policy that severely limits public comment at meetings. They made it all the more difficult for concerned community members to speak at board meetings and the fact that we had to actually make a motion to allow these concerned citizens to speak goes against the notion of freedom of speech and the democratic process. Yet Dr. Thomas-Farquharson and Dr. Chang with the support of every Democratic board member voted to stifle free speech last year at board meetings.

The BOE is now so politicized where the rules may be unilaterally suspended by the majority, if the majority believes certain groups with special access or worthy causes have a right to speak – but what about West Hartford residents? Is the chairwoman of the board going to now determine who can and who cannot speak at every meeting supported by her Democratic colleagues? Will she afford the same suspension of the rules if someone wants to speak about another topic off agenda? Or will the Democrats led by Dr Thomas-Farquharson now become the arbiters of free speech at the board? Every concerned citizen whether Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated, should be deeply concerned about recent developments at our Board of Education, and what impact the majority’s politicization is having on our schools, children and community.

Ethan Goldman, candidate for West Hartford BOE and current member
Dr. Gayle Harris, BOE member
Kyle Zelazny, candidate for West Hartford BOE

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