Amanda Aronson, Secretary of the West Hartford Board of Education and art docent, urges you to vote with the healthy development of children in mind.
By Amanda Aronson
This is not a general Op-Ed about why I hope you will join me in voting for Deb Polun, Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, Jason Chang, and Clare Taylor Neseralla for Board of Education (BOE).
And it’s not a general Op-Ed about why, if you care deeply about education, that you also need to care about your Town Council vote, since the Town Council allocates the funding for the BOE.
This is an Op-Ed about children and their development.
This past Sunday, I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. I popped in to see the Four Freedoms, but as I rounded the corner beyond the welcome desk, The Problem We All Live With stopped me in my tracks.
It’s a piece I had seen many times, but it landed differently as I viewed it in today’s context.
As I stood there looking at that 6-year-old child, arriving for her first day of school with a composure most adults would strive for on an ordinary day, I felt my eyes well up. Knowing her story, and how she was the first Black child to enter an all-white school in the south, I didn’t focus on the label. I focused instead on the elements in the painting: the text written on the wall on either side of the U.S. Marshals on the left side of the canvas; the crushed tomato on the ground and the smash marks above it where her head had been moments earlier; the arm bands on the towering U.S. Marshals surrounding her tiny body, and their clenched fists and official strides.
I thought about what that girl would have heard: screams from enraged adults. I thought about what she would have seen in their faces as she took in their expressions. I thought about how her first day unfolded, wondered where she put her ruler and her notebook, and how she felt when she took off her little white socks at the end of her day.
We know the answers to some of these questions. This is one of the most famous pieces in American art and illustrates one of the most significant moments in American history. That little girl is Ruby Bridges. She spent her first day in the principal’s office as the rage from the adults carried on around her. She spent every day after that alone, a single student in her classroom that year, her teacher as her only playmate at recess.
To fully absorb that adult rage could get so intense that the needs of a tiny child could be overlooked completely is hard to do.
But here we are – and it’s not that different.
All around us, in communities near and far, time-tested knowledge about the basic elements that support the healthy development of children is being ignored as incensed adults overtake school boards, ban books, pull resources, and rage publicly around young children, not acknowledging that they are sacrificing the long-term development of children to advance short-term (actually long-term) political strategies.
And this rage is risking the stabilization of our society.
We need to ensure that our schools are nurturing the basic needs of children. Supported children grow to be supported adults. Supported adults maintain supported communities. Supported communities are calmer, safer, and able to focus on advanced work. Ensuring the healthy development of children should continue to be the focus of school boards, and they will need brave, calm, and prepared leaders to protect children through this stage of rage.
I know my current colleagues Deb, Lorna, and Jason, will be among those protectors of children. They have proven time and time again that they are prepared to lead with the healthy development of children at the forefront of their work. And I trust Clare. She is a seasoned educator and emergency responder, and, as the parent of a child who receives special education services, she will bring vital knowledge of special education to the table. Together they will be child-centered leaders who will continue to challenge each other’s thinking and lead with the mission of our district as their guiding star.
As my own term comes to a close in a few short weeks and I prepare to support the work we have started in other ways, I urge you to vote for proven, informed, and prepared protectors of children Deb, Lorna, Jason, and Clare, and to understand that how you vote for Town Council also matters significantly in terms of education.
The Town Council allocates the funds for the BOE budget. They have to work hard to balance the other areas of the town budget that compete with education to ensure that all areas can get the support they need. It’s an unbelievably difficult job, and I trust the Democrats on Row A to continue doing it.
I will be voting for Mayor Shari Cantor, Deputy Mayor Leon Davidoff, Liam Sweeney, Ben Wenograd, Carol Blanks, and Adrienne Billings-Smith, who if you are just getting to know her, has a depth of knowledge and a process for how she approaches her work that will astound you.
Our Democratic BOE and Town Council candidates on Row A are crisis-tested and proven protectors of children. Please allow them to continue their work by casting your vote for them.
And help us diffuse the rage that surrounds children. Children need us to show up for them on all fronts. We are living in complex times, and we need to stick together to get through them.
Our work continues next Tuesday.
See you at the polls.
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