Our Endorsements

by Christopher O'Brien

This year’s election provides a well qualified group of candidates for voters to choose from. Many have had experience on various boards and commissions in Wolcott, and several newcomers bring a wealth of experience from other towns and from their professional lives. We at the Whisper have decided to highlight some of the candidates whose profiles or work has not been highlighted enough and are uniquely suited for the positions they seek.

We are not selecting candidates for every office, nor for each seat that you have an option to choose from. These are just suggestions and the most notable highlights.

 

Mayor – Tom Dunn deserves re-election

Treasurer – Anthony Marino is completing his first term as Treasurer. He promised to make this position his full time job and has done so. He has improved cash flow and accountability in the municipal offices, worked with the Municipal Finance Officer, Mayor and Town Council to improve the Town’s bond rating, and is undertaking new projects.

His opponent, Joe DelBuono has about 30 years experience handling municipal budgets with the Waterbury and Newtown Fire Departments, as well as almost three decades managing the Waterbury Fire Fighter’s Credit Union, a local bank. He says that he has kept that credit union in the black every year except for one. While he is certainly qualified for the position of Treasurer, we throw our support towards Mr. Marino because of the astute eye and keen focus he and his deputy have already begun in improving Wolcott’s finances with significant results.

We do hope that Mr. DelBuono stays involved and takes advantage of future openings in town government that we could benefit from his experience.

Town Council, District 2

Rachel Wisler is known as the “inquisitor” on the Town Council, frequently armed with a list of questions for any topic. She is usually not critical, but simply asking how things work. Not long afterwards, she often takes the lead in new projects. She assisted in writing a new contingency policy which has resulted in higher bond ratings for the town, saving money overall. Because of her initiative, we believe she should be re-elected.

Town Council District 3

Gale Mastrofrancesco in particular has served on the negotiating committee for the Town Council and succeeded in negotiating contracts that are both fair to town employees, as well as the taxpayers. This isn’t an easy role, as municipal employees have seen peers in other towns do very well, yet are also firm in their commitment towards serving the Town of Wolcott. Gale is also open to ideas, able to communicate the nuances of the the council and responsive. She deserves re-election.

We certainly will be voting for other members of the Town council as well, but wanted to highlight these two members in particular for their pivotal roles as they should be returned again for another two years.

Board of Education

While the BOE has come under some questions over the handling of  the Trifection group contract, whether or not they should take insurance bond on a technology contract (would this save or cost more money in the long run?). or whether the Budget Director should have a part time job with the Thomaston School District – are just some of the questions entering this year’s campaign season.

Since none of the Democratic members voiced dissent to the contract at the time it was enacted – in fact, Mr. Buzzelli and Casagrande were the members who proposed approving the contract – we believe this attack on Republican members of this Board has been nothing but opportunistic. In fact, Buzzelli and Casagrande said nothing about this episode – defending their actions, nor attacking their fellow members – regarding it during a recent candidates’ forum, the Wolcott Community News, flyers, or any other space where they could have availed themselves that opportunity.
Yet, these large issues present an opportunity for new voices to enter the Board of Edcuation – or, if re-elected, for current members to improve their service to taxpayers by responding more openly to these criticisms and relevant suggestions.

This brings us to a second concern we at the Whisper have had for many years about the Board of Education as a whole: Group think.

Boards of Education across the state often pride themselves as working as a a non-partisan group rather than a political party. There is a sense of pride that educating our children should not be influenced by political ideology. This is true, however in recent years we can’t help to notice political correctness and national agendas being presented in our schools – whether the local leaders want it or not. At the same time, while most issues, even in the State legislature are decided unanimously, we find it just a little unbelievable that nine people could agree on EVERYTHING all the time.

In an era where parents are increasingly concerned with Common Core and the rest of us shake our heads in disbelief when a twenty year old graduate of the Wolcott School system can’t make change, we must wonder about the curricula being taught in our schools. Wolcott Schools rate high – as evidenced by Wakelee being awarded a Blue Ribbon School – a national distinction. Yet, employers nationwide have complained more and more about the readiness for graduates entering the workforce in even the best school districts. There are also many many mandates and requirements placed on our local schools by the state that handtie our local Board. Hopefully members elected can still work around these rules with a creativity to provide our students with the skills they need to succeed.

We can’t help but notice some of the political-correctness creep locally. Several years ago a conservative High School student was forced to change his shirt on a day when gay-rights views were expected to be accepted and endorsed at the High School. The ACLU threatened to sue Wolcott’s schools to ensure that student’s first amendment rights were equal as other students. The BOE stayed silent on the issue.

Around the same time, Wolcott Schools made national news when a High School administrator announced over the PA system that an intruder was roaming the halls. In an era of post-Columbine and Sandy Hook fear, homerooms were locked. Students hid under desks. Window shades were drawn and lights were turned down. Who was the intruder? A state police dog searching lockers for drugs.
What was really going on? Just a routine locker search by a state police drug dog. The superintendent at the time denied such an announcement took place, despite 700 witnesses to the contrary. Again, the BOE was publicly silent.BOE members should be responsive to the taxpayers who elect them. They manage 2/3 of the town’s budget and are accountable for the education and future of our children. Many taxpayers have seen budget allocations for text books shrink while educator salaries increase – “for the children”, of course.

We digress because there again are some excellent candidates seeking the office of BOE. Nine of the twelve candidates will be elected. You can vote for six. Here are a few of their notable backgrounds:

1. Kim Lumia – As a nurse and the CEO of Sharon Hospital, she is used to working in an industry with rigid mandates and stringent regulations. Ms. Lumia has served on the BOE for two terms with an eye on budgets, creative solutions, and also ethics to take a different road. When the Trifection Group contract was placed before the board, she chose to abstain from voting, citing a possible conflict of interest. Lumia is a Republican and the CEO of the company was the Chairman of the town’s Republican Committee. She deserves re-election.

2. Donna Ferguson – we admit we don’t know alot about Ms. Ferguson but are impressed with her past experience working on contracts and budgets for the Norwalk school system. She has also promised to look at the kind of innovative public-private grants that make the news in other school systems to see if they can be useful here. While she is a newcomer to Wolcott, this kind of out-of-the box thinking deserves consideration.

 

As you consider the other ten candidates, we believe there should be a balance of experience and new ideas. Some of the candidates should be parents, and the Board should not be overwhelmed by educators. At the same time, its good to have one or two members who have first or second hand knowledge of the schools from an educator level. Candidates such as Mr. Gugliotti, Mr. Lerz, Mr. Buzzelli, Ms. Gubitosi, Ms. Leonard, and Ms. Najarian have all served as employees of the school system at one time, or their spouses have. These candidates also have some of the oldest knowledge of working with budgets and have served Wolcott on various commissions before.

Ms. Mancini, Lumia, Hlavna, Ferguson and Mr. Ficeto all have children in the schools now. The rest all have had children who have graduated previously.

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