Wilton candidates consider education issues
WILTON — Four women — all mothers of children in school — are running for the Board of Education. They answered questions from the audience at a candidates’ forum on Oct. 29, presented at Wilton Library by the Wilton League of Women Voters.
There were two questions on spending: one dealing with spending as it relates to declining enrollment and the other questioned whether the town is spending enough on schools.
“As a parent of two children, I don’t think you can ever invest too much in our children,” Schmauch said, adding, it was necessary to make “sure that investment is a wise one.”
As far as declining enrollment is concerned, she said she is prepared to work with the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen, but added “we have to make sure staffing is commensurate with the needs of students.”
Democrat Ruth DeLuca responded to the investment question by saying “a quality education requires sufficient resources,” adding she would be looking for “creative budget savings and solutions.”
As far as the enrollment issue, she said “enrollment declines happen across all spectrums, the loss of one student doesn’t mean you can reduce a program.”
Constantine, a Democrat, said one way to deal with declining enrollment is to “attract people here to get enrollment up.” She also called for creativity in finding savings within the school budget. She said she would work to find how “we can spend money better” and that she would advocate for the schools with the Board of finance “to let them know what we need and why we need it to support our number one asset.”
Republican Lalor said when considering budget cuts “it’s important to not cut per-pupil spending but to look at non-pupil costs.” As for investing in schools, she said “it’s important for us to take a look at all our children and focus on their needs and look at our budget and see what we can afford.”
All four support the alternative school for middle and high school students and they support expanded recess time for young children.
More than one question came up on grades, testing, A.P. classes and homework.
DeLuca compared grading to a form of communication, saying it is important for students and families to know how a student is progressing. “We want tests to measure what we are looking to achieve and is homework reinforcing what is learned in the classroom,” she said, adding “Is time spent out of the classroom rewarding?”
Lalor agreed that testing is important for measuring progress. Eliminating it, as one questions brought up, “goes back to having a conversation with the community — parents, teachers and administrators.”
Constantine pointed out A.P. classes are necessary for gifted students. “We can’t not give them that opportunity to keep learning,” she said. Of homework, she said, “definitely no busy work.” Any changes in the grading system should be a matter for open discussion, she said..
Schmauch said there is no simple solution to any changes in testing, grades, A.P.s or homework. “These questions need thoughtful solutions,” she said.
On the issue of building maintenance, all agreed transparency is of paramount importance and that deferring maintenance to balance a budget needs to be closely scrutinized.