Milford GOP school board candidates seek to give parents a voice

MILFORD — Giving parents more of a voice in their children’s education — specifically regarding the district’s curriculum decisions — is the focus for Republican Board of Education candidates.

Those running on the GOP ticket this November gathered at the Republican headquarters last week, urging supporters to diversify the Board of Education, which stands at nine Democrat members to one Republican. Candidates argued this will allow those parents who feel left out of the process to have a chance to make their voices heard.

“This is an election, we know we have the right candidates to do the right job and get in there and actually change something,” Bill Bevan, candidate for District 5, said.

Bevan said one of the concerns he is hearing from parents is they can’t drop their kids off at school and can’t pick them up because the lines are too long.

“The issues are all over the place,” he said. “I’m trying to get parents more involved in the education of their children or their grandchildren because now you don’t have a voice at all. If you decide to honor us with your votes, you now have a voice within the Board of Education.”

Terri Smith, another candidate for District 5, said she decided to start running after she started participating in the Unmask our Kids initiative because she was wondering who was making all the decisions that affect schools.

“I wondered who my Board of Ed representative was, and I didn’t know. I have lived here for 15 years and I have no idea how the Board of Ed works, and I’m a voter,” she said. “Then I said, ‘Why am I not running, I’m qualified, I have kids in the district.’ So I just said if not me then who, so I stepped up, and I have become passionate about all of the issues. I try to go to the doors and talk to citizens to just kinda make it all about that the parents don’t have a voice right now, and that is the most important thing right now.

“Everything that is getting presented is being passed,” she argued. “There is no discussion, no healthy questioning, no checks and balances, and that is not OK.”

Raquel Hernandez Bonessi, candidate for District 4, said she lived under communism for 10 years and has seen how the United States has been “going down the drain” for the past 20 years.

“I see it in education,” she said. “We have heard substitute teachers tell students you don’t have to stand up to do the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Bonessi said she received a call about two months ago encouraging her to run for the Board of Education and at first, she was hesitant to do it but eventually decided it was a good idea.

“I said I do have a passion for education, and I am upset,” she said. “I’m not upset at Milford. But then I started opening the school website, and I started to look at everything...To me, some of the things the kids are doing are not developmentally appropriate. Most of these courses they are pushing on these kids, people don’t take those courses until they are in college and by choice in high school through electives. They take African American History, Latin American History.”

Mark Macchio, candidate for District 2, said he wants to bring more awareness of opportunities for jobs after students graduate from the Milford Public School system.

“I advocate for college because college for certain people is great,” he said. “But, there should be more education through the public high schools for technical schools or for programs like the USMP (United States Military Apprenticeship Program). Or help students look into jobs that will actually pay for their education. I think there are lots of opportunities that kids just don’t know.”

Wally Hauck, candidate for District 1, said he’s running for Board of Education because the priorities of the current board are not the same priorities as the citizens of Milford.

“I run a business that teaches organizations how to serve their customers. Who are the customers of the Board of Education? They are you,” he said. “You are the customers of the Board of Education. How are they treating you? They are trying to replace you. They are replacing you with what they think is best for you and what is best for your kids, how could they possibly do that?”

Renee Casey, candidate for District 3, said education should focus on creativity for students to be competitive in the workforce and encourage students to do things better than anybody else.

“All the other things that the board and curriculum are trying to insidiously and secretively instill in our children is political ideology and agenda, it’s indoctrination in a sense, it’s raising up voters for a certain party they want them to be and they started at the college level, then the high school level and now the kindergarten level,” she said.

One of the biggest talking points brought up during the forum was the topic of critical race theory.

CRT is a controversial academic framework through which to view systems of racism and oppression in America. Even though it is generally considered a college-level theory, not taught as part of K-12 curriculum, the term is used by some conservatives to refer to certain school programs that encourage inclusion, diversity and equity.

Superintendent Anna Cutaia said the school district does not incorporate CRT into its curriculum in a recent letter to parents.

Casey said politics and social justice issues are not developmentally appropriate for children. She said lots of the issues, being talked about at the elementary level, are hard for even adults to understand, so it can be harder for children to understand.

“These are things, that I think, we can model for our children the way we behave in our households and with our families,” she said. “We are the problem, not the children. Teaching them to think what to them is right is not going to make a difference when they go to a household that is totally convoluted and confused.”

Dolores Rieth Hannon, candidate for District 4, said when they get elected, the people will be their bosses because people elect candidates to represent them.

“Let's get the triangle straight, the Board of Education is at the top, and they should be representing their constituents from their district,” she said. “So when I’m in the 4th district, I need to find out from my constituency what they think about certain topics and how does the majority of the people feel, and that’s what I need to bring forward to the board.

“Then the board of education gives the marching orders to the superintendent and her board,” she added.

Smith said she feels the racial focus in schools is not OK for children.

“I was lucky enough to be exposed to a ton of different cultures and races and my parents were amazing. I literally had no idea what race even was until I was in high school, and high school kids were talking about it,” She said. “I just thought it was like you have red hair, you’re tall, you’re fat, you’re whatever. That was literally what I saw skin color as. I didn’t even know it was a thing. I just thought it was like someone looked different than me. That was just a healthy time in our country, and everybody I’ve grown up with had just a health concept of how it worked, and now it’s just being destroyed before my eyes. That is what I’m seeing.”

Rieth Hannon said social, emotional, equity and racism issues need to be discussed at home with the parents.

“A lot of people I argue with, pretty much Democrats, say there needs to be social, emotional learning at school because the parents aren’t doing it so the teachers have to do it,” she said. “I tell them that’s not the job of the teacher, they do not go to school to be your child’s parent.”