The Milford Mirror had questionnaires sent to candidates for the Board of Education asking them to discuss the key issues and their education and experience. Following are their responses. If we did not get a response, their information was pulled from the town committee’s promotional material.

DISTRICT 1

Ray Arnold

Democrat

While many would say the budget is the key issue facing the board, I see the following as the key issues; the balance between measurement and performance, how to instill a drive for excellence, and to get people to realize a solid school system is fundamental to a successful town, whether you have children in the system or not. Finally, after attending a few meetings, what I like to call “the emperor has no clothes syndrome” has galvanized my desire to be on the board. Everything is not always positive. If you can’t recognize and discuss issues, solving them is impossible.

Background: I am an Industrial Engineer by degree, and work for a Unicorr, a corrugated container manufacturer in North Haven. I consider myself the corporation’s chief librarian. I have extensive experience creating metrics and analyzing metrics. I decipher and present information so that others can understand it. I have seen how measurements have improved performance. But I have also seen how too much emphasis on “the numbers” can detract from an organization’s larger goals.

In today’s environment, much of the assessments are to satisfy the state and federal government. But some of the assessments being done are to validate the board and the administration decisions, rather than developing the students. All types of resources are expended to measure against goals. What is lost is the expectation that all children are to know how to read, and do arithmetic, if not algebra and above. We have become turned around. The focus is on doing well on the test, rather than the test indicating that everyone has mastered a skill.   

Desi Tango

Democrat

The current issue facing the Board of Education is the budget crisis. I would like to see more transparency as to where the funds are being allocated and what kind of return we are getting on those investments. An example at the high school level would be — why are we paying full-time educators (FTEs) to sit in a learning center when that is something an in-school tutor can do at a fraction of the cost? Those FTEs should be in a full classroom — reducing class size for all the FTEs in Math and English, the subjects most highly regarded on standardized tests. Spending a full day teaching our students is what their salaries warrant.

We need to worry less about numbers and more about the students. The focus needs to be on smaller class sizes. Statistics show smaller classes improve scores.

Another concern for me is to find out what we are doing wrong as a district with respect to Individual Education Plans (IEPs). We have to be proactive instead of reactive in meeting the needs of students at risk. If the tier two and tier three interventions are put into place with fidelity, studies show that the number of IEPs can decrease. This would also be more cost-effective. For the students who do need IEPs, are they being handled properly in the best interest of that individual student?

We need improvement and that only happens with change and progress; we cannot allow the district to stagnate and leave our children behind.

Background: I am a devoted and persistent person; I will work as hard as I can for our students. My husband and I have put two very different children through the Milford Public School system. I have seen how the system works over a 19-year span. Many changes have occurred over the years, not always for the better. I have seen the system from each end of the spectrum because of how different my children are.

Scott Firmender

Republican

Lived in Milford Since 1992. Married to Holly, father to two sons, Marshall and Michael, ages 13 and 11. Member of City of Milford Pension Review Board. Volunteer/Supporter of Milford’s Camp Happiness. Medical Imagining Systems - CF)  Firemender & Company, owner.

Walter Hagedorn

Republican

One of the key issues today is the state budget and what is going to happen if they cut funding to Milford. My stance on that issue is as of right now we do not know what is going to happen but I do know that I will do everything I can do to make sure we do not cut key learning programs or any art and sports programs because our kids need balance in all areas to grow.

Background: I am the manager of Trans-Clean Truck Wash and The PowerWash Guys in Milford, almost two years’ experience on the Board Of Education, and four years in the U.S Navy as a 3rd class Petty Officer, and I serve on several Board of Directors for several groups and have worked with kids as Scout leader.

I enjoy working on the board and seeing what all the children of Milford can do, from the art they post in the hallways, and the strides they make with class projects to the leadership they show all the time. Liking what you do makes you always want to do a good job.

I have a stake in the education system by already having two of my children go through the school system and now having my grandchildren in the Milford schools. That has me wanting to do the best I can for all.

DISTRICT 2

Susan Glennon

Democrat

Student achievement is a main priority of a board member. I am proud of the district’s improvement in recent years. Continuing that growth, while meeting the needs of all students, is a key issue. I believe there are many things that measure the success of a school district, with test scores being only one part of the equation. We must ensure our youngest learners are being taught age-appropriately. Our graduates should be well-rounded and ready for the next phase in their lives, whether it be college, career, military or a trade. Learning should be student-centered. Staff must be supported. Creativity and innovation are necessities in today’s world. I would like to see Science, Technology and Engineering education expanded in elementary school. Options such as distance/online learning, commuting between high schools, and cooperative student learning communities should be considered as ways to efficiently maintain the rigor and diversity of our programming.

One of the biggest challenges for the new board will be funding. As the state seeks to shift more responsibility for school funding to the local municipalities, I strongly believe the board should present a budget that represents the true needs of the district and the students we represent. The board will have to work with municipal leaders, the community and our taxpayers to find common ground to ensure we have the resources necessary to maintain well-roundedness within the district as well, so our students and staff can succeed at the highest levels possible.

Background: Attended Southern Connecticut State University as an Art major; PTA member since 1992, serving in leadership roles on Meadowside, Harborside and One Voice PTAs; President of the city-wide PTA Council 2004-2006; CT PTA Board of Directors 2004-2011; Owner and operator of a licensed childcare facility for more than 20 years; Elected member of the Board of Education since 2011, Chairwoman 2013-17, Member Long Range Planning Committee, which gives me valuable background on our school infrastructure.

Jennifer Federico

Democrat

Budget – we are unsure how Milford will be impacted when the state budget is finalized.  However, once we know the final outcome, if changes to the Board of Education budget become necessary, we need to give careful consideration to all options and make sure that our core instructional learning programs are protected. It’s important that we don’t follow knee-jerk reactions or make rash decisions.

Technology/Innovation – We need to prepare our students to succeed in a rapidly changing world. I fully support any ideas that come forward to help us to achieve this goal, even if changes from the “old way” of doing things are necessary. I believe we shouldn’t ever continue a practice or process just because “that’s the way it’s always been done”.

School Climate – Our children need to feel safe and secure in school. They should also have access to any social and emotional support they need. I have supported every measure that’s been proposed to improve or enhance the safety, security and emotional well-being of our students.

Transparency/Clarity – it’s very important to make sure everyone understands the information presented to the board. If the information is unclear or confusing, I always follow up with questions until it is clear, both for my understanding, and for the public’s understanding as well.

Background: Since the time my children started school, I have given back to the community by volunteering for PTA events and serving as PTA Treasurer and Parliamentarian. I have three years of experience serving on the Board of Education. I am currently the Minority leader on the Board and a member of the Permanent School Building Committee.

I’ve spent over 20 years working in corporate accounting and finance, plus I have earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and an MBA, all of which help tremendously in understanding budget and financial matters as a Board of Education member.

Frank Musante

Republican

The key issue that I stand for is making sure that we have fiscal responsibility on the Board of Education to make sure that the taxpayer's money is being spent wisely. Ensuring that the students are receiving the best-quality education, and teachers have the resources to provide it. I believe that we need to start preparing our students for the 21st century, and the new economy that we have and provide classes and courses to help ensure that they are ready for it and college.

Background: I graduated from Jonathan Law High School in 2014. I am going to Housatonic Community College. I am studying Political Science. I have been president, vice president and treasurer of the Political Science and History Club at Housatonic Community College. I am also a participant in the New York Fed Challenge.

Mark Macchio

Republican

I am running for the Board of Education in Milford because there are red flags I see with our education system. Public school has taken away all trades. Plumbers, Welders, Auto Mechanics are no longer taught in schools. Back in the day if you graduated high school you would be trained in these accentual trades. Trades such as plumbing will be in such high demand with no person to fill the vacant spot. BMW today is looking for people now to fill spots that could make six-figure salary jobs. As of September 25, 2017, the Board was briefed on the public school’s ability to meet testing scores proficient to the state. We see scored as low as 32% achievement at goal. If you take a quick glance over the scores we as the city of Milford are around the 50% achievement goal. This is for the SBA, PSAT, and SAT. Milford compared to other towns such as Shelton and Southington are scoring lower on there SBA such as grades 3-4. A gap as big as 14% difference! The US ranked 35th in math, 27th in Science, and 24th in reading. It ranks below the OECD average in every category. As a City, we are failing the youth and future of the country! How we fix this is we push learning limits. We give the teacher the power to stop disruptive children. Evaluate and expect teachers to be masters in the subject they teach.

Background: My qualification that I obtained for this position on the Board of Education for Milford is above proficient. First of all, I am a graduate of Platt Technical High School. I received a Plumbing degree and I am pursuing a license in Plumbing and Heating field. 4-year Member of the Knights of Columbus. Owner of Nutmeg Services LLC.

DISTRICT 3

Warren Pawlowski

Democrat

We need to ensure Milford continues to be the go-to city for a great education system, and to do that we need to attract the best teachers with the best ideas and give them the tools they need (and want) to deliver outstanding results for our children and families. That can be difficult when we also want to ensure our budget doesn’t get out of control, but by building on the foundation laid by Mayor Blake and the current Team Blake members of the Board of Education, I’m going to do everything I can to do both — and to keep Milford the best city in Connecticut.

Background: A writer and editor for nearly a decade, first with Simba Information and now with UnitedHealthcare, I previously worked for several years in the Special Education Department of Cooperative Educational Services (CES) in Trumbull as an instructional aide.

Erin Pinsince

Democrat

In this political climate, funding is being diverted from public education. This does not serve Milford students or families well, nor does it serve the community as a whole. If our schools suffer, we will lose community members to other towns that better accomplish the goals they have for their children. Families are rarely transient in towns like Milford with great schools and it is often these families that invest time in the type of community growth that makes Milford so special, like the recreation programs, PTA/PTO initiatives, environmental protection projects, small businesses and entrepreneurship, and more. We want to improve our schools, not make it harder for them to offer an amazing education. Funds for education must not be cut and the integrity of all current and future programs must remain intact.  

Milford students are receiving an amazing education. Our teachers, school staff and administrators alike are always looking to include new ways to teach and immerse kids in the learning. As a high school educator, I would love to see more college readiness programs, like more AP course offerings, more UCONN ECE course availability, more job skills and internship programs, etc. I am a believer that experiential programs set Milford apart from neighboring towns and draw more families to our city that produces intelligent, driven and successful members of society.

It is not the school board’s job to micromanage schools. Rather, to set policy regarding program requirements and educational equality throughout the district that the superintendent can implement.

Background: I have a BS in Biology with my certification to teach secondary education. In addition to teaching high school science for the last eight years, I have worked with special needs students as a paraprofessional at Foran High School, been a Home Bound Educator for the town of Easton, worked with gifted students, run summer science programs and been a tutor. I am the PTA treasurer at Meadowside Elementary School, helping to run programs for that school community as well.  

Susan Krushinsky

Republican

The board may have to make some very difficult decisions in regards to the budget in the coming months. Of course that depends on what is decided in Hartford, and ultimately if or how much the Board of Aldermen cut the Board of Education’s budget. Any decisions must be made keeping what is best for all students and student centered, quality education in mind. There is still much work to be done to achieve the BOE’s vision statement “Milford Public Schools will be a progressive school district in which students are prepared to achieve at their highest level, surrounded by an engaged community that is proud of its educational system." MPS has done a great job with AP class offerings as well as the career pathways, but we need to make sure that every student has educational opportunities that meet them at the level they are at and help them to grow. There has been improvement in communication with families and the community. However, in speaking with both parents and teachers, many still do not feel that their voices are heard. They are the stakeholders and we need to make sure that they not only feel heard, but their thoughts, opinions and expertise are valued.

Background: My first term as a member of the BOE has been a great learning experience and I hope that I will be able to serve the families of Milford for another two years. I have volunteered my time and been involved in the schools since my children started at JFK elementary and continue to do so now that my youngest child is a freshman at Jonathan Law. I am a Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate. Prior to my career in real estate I worked as a registered architect for more than 20 years. I have a BS in Architecture from the Catholic University of America.

Tom Jagodzinski

Republican

The board needs to ensure that the district’s academic performance is constantly improving. No matter how good our schools are, they can always be better and we have an obligation to students, parents and our city to make that happen. The board has recognized that each student is unique and teachers need the flexibility to address each student’s individual needs. When it comes to schools, the board’s emphasis has been on ensuring that each school is treated the same. In reality each schools is unique with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The board needs to address this reality and ensure that the district has the flexibility to meet the needs of each of our schools.

The board now needs to focus more of its attention on high needs students. These are students with special needs and disabilities, English learners, and students from low income families. A district can’t be great unless it’s meeting the needs of all its students and ensuring that these students reach their full potential will help the district in its effort to improve its overall performance.

The biggest potential problem the board may face is budget cuts. The state is threatening to substantially cut education funding for Milford and depending on how the  Board of Aldermen decide to deal with this issue, it could substantially affect the District’s budget. If confronted with this issue, the board needs to ensure changes don’t compromise the quality of our student’s education.

Background: I am a retired Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of a major Connecticut bank. I have over 30 years experience as a manager dealing with the types of issues that confront our district’s administration. I have a degree in mathematics. My granddaughter attends Meadowside School.

I have been a member of the Board of Education for the past two years. Prior to that I had been attending board meetings for at least 10 years, became familiar with our schools’ strengths and weaknesses and spoke out regularly about issues affecting our students.

DISTRICT 4

Craig Zentkovich

Democrat

One of my key issues is to focus on programs for special needs children. I want to ensure these children have the resources and assistance necessary for them to succeed as adolescents and adults. As the father of a 16-year-old boy with Autism and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I know the battles parents face when coordinating with school administrators, special education staff members and school counselors when developing an IEP, or Individualized Education Program. This happened quite often as the Army moved my family and me roughly every three years. With every move came new school administrators, counselors, teachers and IEPs, and a son who was slowly falling behind. During my 20-year Army career, there was a three-year span where my son had IEP development sessions with three different groups at two different schools. If elected to the Milford Board of Education, I would serve as a tireless advocate for all students, especially those with special needs.

For the past 20 years, I served as a print and photo-journalist, and public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army. I served in five combat deployments – four to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. My job often enabled me to highlight the efforts of U.S. troops in providing aid to the children in many of these dilapidated, war-torn schools. Through the donations of notebooks, pencils and backpacks, U.S. soldiers did what they could to help the children of Iraq and Afghanistan have some of the basic school supplies that we in the United States often take for granted.   

Background: I received my public school education in Milford. Beginning with kindergarten at Lenox Ave., continuing with elementary school ay Kay Ave., and culminating with four years at Jonathan Law High School. I was fortunate to benefit from one of the best public school systems Connecticut has to offer. I believe all children should be entitled to that same level of quality education.

Rita Hennessey

Democratic ​

​My key issues are maintaining the high quality of our school district, and protecting students' rights under IDEA Act and Title IX Act​.

Background: I have a BA in English Literature from Smith College as well as master’s degrees from CCSU and SCSU​. I am a public school educator with 23 years' experience​.

​I am an experienced educator committed to ensuring that all students receive a quality public education. I am committed to protecting the rights of all students, especially IDEA Act and Title IX protections.​

Win Smith III

Republican

Some of the key issues that are important to me and should be important to every Board of Education member are: (1) creating, implementing, and maintaining a fiscally reasonable and responsible budget that provides sufficient funding for education while maintaining the integrity of our fiscal needs/concerns; (2) reducing non-mandatory standardized and other testing in order for our teachers to be able to teach our students; and (3) working to bring our school system to a competitive and elite level where families desire to reside because of the impressive education and athletics programs.

Background: I work as an attorney at Dey Smith Steele, LLC in Milford. Growing up I attended schools in Milford. I received my Bachelors Degree from the University of Rhode Island and my Juris Doctor from Roger Williams University School of Law. I have always been involved in the community as well as politics nearly my entire life. I achieved my Eagle Scout from Troop 721 in Milford and was involved with my father's, Win Smith Jr., campaigns for State Senator over a period of 12 years.

Katie Martino

Republican

There is currently no state budget. The Democrats passed a city budget relying on $8.3 million in education money from the state. We do not have that money, and we may never have that money. There needs to be a plan in place for how to deal with the possibility that we may never receive this money. After reviewing the current Board of Education budget, I am appalled that certain Board of Education members want to consider closing schools and cutting special education spending as cost-saving measures. All they need to do is take a close look at the budget to realize where spending can be cut. We have some high school sports teams with two full time coaches and two part time coaches — for one team. Foran High School is asking for $500k to update their planetarium. In different times, that may be a worthwhile expenditure. But right now, where is this money coming from? More importantly, which special needs students are not going to get the support they need because there are not enough aides and paraprofessionals? Before spending money for projects that are not necessary, we must find a way to make sure that none of our students are bearing the cost of wasteful spending. That is why there needs to be more transparency on the Board of Education. If the Milford taxpayers are better informed of how their hard-earned money is being spent, it will produce greater accountability on the part of the Board of Education.  

Background: I attended Housatonic Community College where I studied early childhood education. In 2005, I became a full-time preschool teacher at ABC Learning Center in Stratford.  I subsequently worked for the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch from 2009-2012. After attending Norwalk Community College for paralegal studies, I was employed at a law firm that had a significant child protection and juvenile delinquency practice. I have since started my own paralegal company, iParalegalCT, LLC, which provides legal support to law firms on an as-needed basis. I am also a REALTOR at Century 21.

DISTRICT 5

Claire Casey

Democrat

I think the students in Milford Public Schools are receiving a great education. Our administration, faculty and staff at all of our schools are tremendous individuals who work tirelessly every day on behalf of our families and students in Milford. We must continue to educate the whole child, including the social emotional well-being of every child. The district has clearly set forth priorities and goals, and continues to build on those goals by giving every child the opportunity to engage in rigorous learning every day in their classrooms. Assessments given throughout the year in our schools give us important information, but we must remember it is  just one piece of the puzzle of their academic success. The day-to-day interaction in the classroom with their teacher gives us relevant, critical information, as well. Our teachers know our students best. We also want to make sure that all our high school students have an equal opportunity to thrive, to be challenged, to gain those critical thinking skills, and have a clear understanding on the subject matter, regardless of class level. Overall, I believe the children of the Milford Public School are providing excellent opportunities for our students and their future endeavors.

Background: Education: B.S.  Psychology, Sacred Heart University, M.A. Education  University of Bridgeport. I have worked for the Diocese of Bridgeport for 26 years. I have taught third, fifth and sixth grade in various schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport. I presently teach at St. James School. I have been there for 16 years. I am very involved in many outreach activities in my school. I am presently a member of  the DTC  and have been a member since 2007. I have served on the Board of Education since 2015. I have also served on the Conservation Commission.

Adam De Young

Democrat

I am an elementary school parent. The Board of Education would benefit from the perspective of someone with young children in the schools who is having some of the same experiences as other parents.

Over the next few years Milford Public Schools will be faced with some very difficult decisions relating to budgeting and declining enrollment. There are a number of ways that these two issues can be dealt with.

First, on budgeting, we as a community can choose to make cuts to school budgets and ask our educators to try to do more with less or we can choose to make much needed investments throughout the district which will position our students for continued growth and success. When faced with these two choices I will support the investments that our district needs.  

Second, on declining enrollment, the district will be faced with ongoing questions relating to class size and its ability to continue to offer the highest quality education choices for our kids.  This issue will continue to reopen the debate about how to best utilize the city’s current infrastructure to serve our students. It is important to me that our schools continue to be neighborhood schools which afford students the opportunity to flourish in an environment that is comfortable and familiar.

Whatever the issue, students will be my #1 priority. Our sons and daughters deserve the very best education we can give them and I will be a fierce advocate for them.

Background: I own and operate a small, family-owned business here in Milford. My wife and I started the business four years ago. I am a graduate of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI), a 20-week course that helps parents learn how to be advocates for their children and families in their local community. I sit on the Executive Board of the Orchard Hills PTA and was a contributor to the Milford Public Schools website redesign committee.  

William Farrell

Republican

We are facing challenging times. The state has decided to reduce the amount of funds that would normally go to each city. This has and will continue to place a great financial strain on our budgets. In addition, enrollment is decreasing which limits economical efficiency. We have to find ways within the budget that do not hinder student achievement but are financially responsible. We also have to continue to insure safety and security in every building. Our goal is to look for ways to continue improvement to our educational system and give our kids the best education we can provide. My priorities would be to continue to seek improvements, provide a quality education to every child and maintain a safe environment. We must find ways to continue our high academic standards but in a fiscally responsible way.

Background: With 20 years’ experience teaching in the Milford Adult Education program and over 40 years’ experience in banking and financial management I feel I could bring a depth of knowledge to the board.  I am currently a senior officer with Wells Fargo.  Since I have been in Milford I have served on a number of boards and commissions. My four children have all gone to Milford schools and I have been a resident of Milford for 40 years.

Patrick Tokarz

Republican

I want our students to be prepared for the future by having the opportunity to receive the best education possible. In order to do this, the Board of Education needs to ensure that funding is going in the appropriate buckets and being used to educate our youth. Every taxpayer in Milford contributes to the budget for the Board of Education, whether they have youth in the education system or not. I want to represent all residents of Milford on this front. I want to be sure our teachers have the sufficient time and flexibility to teach our youth. With the ever changing demographics, we need to make smart decisions and consider not only short term effects, but also long term affects – a smart decision for today may not be smart five years from now.  Bottom line, the Board of Education needs to work together and not put politics in the middle.  All parties need to work together and make decisions with our youth in mind.

Background: I am a current trustee on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Milford and a Board Member of the Annual Milford Oyster Festival Committee. I served on the Flood and Erosion Board. I served two years as Lieutenant Governor in the New England/Bermuda District of Kiwanis and a year as Vice-President of the Milford Kiwanis. I am an Eagle Scout and am always be prepared to help individuals. I am a proud graduate of the Connecticut school system, including graduating from E.O. Brien Technical School.  I also served in the US Army and Army Reserves in Connecticut.