The Milford Mirror asked Board of Education candidates to respond to two questions. Following are their answers. The candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the November ballot.
1st District
Patrick W. Pacelli, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

I have 20 years of management experience on both the corporate and franchise side managing all aspects of business operations, client relations and human resources.

I believe that utilizing historical data to learn from prior successes and failures along with strong lines of open minded communication leads to success. Through my experience in finance and budget planning along with accomplishments in human resources and revenue generation I feel that I can bring value to the Board of Education.

What do you hope to accomplish?

As a member of the Board of Education I look to assist the City of Milford’s Education System in evolving to become the leading school district in the State of Connecticut while continuing to properly position its students for long term growth and success. As we continue to improve the level of education we deliver, this will give each student better opportunities to succeed academically. I hope to develop strategies and assist in policies that define a clear cut plan to further improve our school district going forward.

Ann Grosso Arnold, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

I have lived in Milford nearly 30 years. I graduated from Stratford High School and earned an engineering degree from Virginia Tech. My husband, Ray Arnold, and I have two children that recently graduated from Jonathan Law High School and are now in college.

I am passionate about the children of Milford getting the best possible education we can provide for them, while keeping them safe and healthy.

My top three priorities are children's safety and well-being (both physical and mental), securing and keeping the best faculty and staff, and the proper upkeep of the facilities in which our children learn.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I would like to see the District reevaluate all of their current policies and put all policies on a schedule for update and review, based on the type of policy (one year, two year, and so on, intervals). I would like to see the emphasis shift from only using standardized testing as a measure of a student’s growth and toward using each child’s own performance in the past as a comparison to their current performance when measuring growth. I would like to see facility improvements in the Milford Public Schools become a more student-oriented initiative. I believe we need more mental health professionals in our schools to keep all of our students safe and healthy, physically and mentally.

Michael DeGrego, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

I am a current Member of the Board of Education. My Masters Degree is in Social Studies. I am a Certified Teacher and currently teach as a Substitute. Success and growth of the children is what is most important to me. I attend as many school functions as I can to get a better understanding of what the needs are of the students, teachers, staff, administrators, the parents, and the public. I like to become involved by participating as I do at Law High School on the anniversary of 911 and lecturing the crime and violence classes in addition to Veterans Day Assemblies and other social events. My background as a Police Officer allows me to offer my experience in the safety and security in our schools.

What do you hope to accomplish?

My passion is rooted in seeing that our children are afforded the best education that our community can provide. My desire is to see that our students (and their classroom teachers) are provided the tools they need to flourish, become civic-minded citizens and to know our American History as a basic foundation on which they can build their lives. I have an obligation to meet the needs of the residents of District 1 as related to the Board or Education.

 John DeRosa, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

As a lifelong resident and graduate of the Milford education system, working (10+ years) as an Associate Professor at Quinnipiac—I am a “teacher” at heart.

These experiences allow me to address the challenges — meeting the education needs of every child, addressing the growing population of special needs, and keeping our buildings safe/comfortable.

Employed with an international manufacturing company (20 years), involved in managing budgets affecting 7000+ people enables me to prioritize the needs of the district and fiscally allocate dollars in the most effective/efficient way. I have been a proven Leader these past 2 years on the BOE and hope to continue advocating for our children.

What do you hope to accomplish?

During the past 2 years much was accomplished – I was elected Minority of the BOE, led the charge to go back to K-5 schools, and led the charge to prevent the closing of Harborside. During this next term I would want to keep education goals obtainable/achievable while maintaining fiscal responsibility, bring new ideas to challenge the system (Administration) to provide an efficient way of teaching. We still need to address decreasing enrollment while costs are rising — how does the declining enrollment translate into effective building use. I would work with the Superintendent, the elected Board, and staff to address those needs. I promise to make myself and others in the system ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT by gathering input from the parents.

2 years ago I made the statement, “the Status Quo has got to go.” Now it’s another election and I have shaken and challenged the Status Quo. If I’m elected, I commit to

1. eliminate redundant and unnecessary testing and free up time for more teaching – let Teachers teach let students learn

2. improve Academic Performance – reduce testing time

3. reduce Administrative overhead – make them more accountable

4. expand bus service to include more students
2nd District
Susan Glennon, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

I’m seeking my 3rd term on the Board of Education and am the current Chair. Active participation in my children’s education, serving in leadership roles on numerous PTA boards and serving six years on the state PTA Board of Directors has also given me valuable experience. My own business centers on early childhood care and education. I value the importance of learning every day, believe in great public schools and understand the impact a school system has on our community. I take my responsibilities as a Board member very seriously and feel I can continue to make a valuable contribution.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I want to see continuous improvement within Milford Public Schools. There are many priorities and challenges within that over-arching goal. We must ensure our youngest learners are being taught age-appropriately and our graduates are well-rounded and ready for the next step in their lives, whether it be college, career, military, or a trade. The path needs to be flexible, to meet the needs of each and every child. We must continue to work to decrease the achievement gap between subgroups. We must also meet the needs of the school system’s infrastructure, so that our buildings are safe, inviting and well-maintained. Accomplishing these things will take creativity, group effort and balance. The ten elected members of the Board of Education must be able to work with the superintendent and administration in a collaborative manner to assure we have the necessary resources to allow our students and staff to achieve at the highest levels possible, in a way we can all be proud of.

Jennifer Federico, Democrat 

What are your qualifications for this position?

As a Mom of two kids in the Milford Public Schools, one in high school and one in elementary, I have seen where the school system has been for the past 10 years and I have a vested interest in the future. I previously served as a PTA Treasurer and Parliamentarian which provided great experience in community service and board operations. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and an MBA, plus I’ve spent over 20 years working in corporate accounting and finance which helps me tremendously in understanding budget and financial matters as a Board of Education member.

What do you hope to accomplish?

With the much needed return to K-5 elementary schools already completed, I look forward to continuing the work the board has begun on our Long Range Plan. The remaining components of the plan include working with the local community to provide college and career pathways for our students in grades 6-12.  It’s really important to me to focus on equity in our school system. Equity does not mean every student has the exact same experience, but it does mean every student has an equal opportunity to access the same resources in terms of staff, technology, classroom space and programs throughout the district. If elected, I look forward to continuing the work I have done on the board by challenging the status quo and challenging ourselves as a board and the administration to do better. I don’t ever believe we should do things just because “it’s the way it’s always been done”. I’m proud of the school system we have and believe that moving forward, focusing on achievement for all students and excellence in education we can do even better.

Daniel Faroni, Republican

No response submitted

Frank Musante, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

My qualifications for this position are the best in the field. I graduated from Jonathan Law High School. I was the 2014 class. I have been in the school system of Milford and have seen the ups and downs. I know what students are going through in the schools. I had the experience of the school system that has changed over the past four years and I know better than anyone else who is running what is really going on inside the schools.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I hope to accomplish what has been failed to be done in four years; we have seen our enrollment decline even more drastically. We have seen board members not listening to the parents of the students; I want to give them a voice. I want to make our school system the best. When we do this we will see enrollment increase. We need to make sure that kids are able to get to school safely. I want to accomplish a great school system that will have our kids learn and be able to meet their goals and accomplish their dreams. I also want to have fiscal responsibility and not spend taxpayers’ money irresponsibly. I want to make sure that these goals are accomplished and the only way to do that is to listen to the parents and not play with our children's education. The parents know best and the students know what is going on and I want to be their voice.
3rd District
Sonia Bannon, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

I have a background in business/accounting and in education. My first career was that of a comptroller. I became an elementary school teacher in 2001. I taught 5th grade for 5 years in the public schools in Milford. I taught in a magnet school for the Pulaski County Special School District in Arkansas. There I taught 4th grade and then became a specialty teacher for grades K-5th. While living in Costa Rica, I was a technology integrationist for an accredited USA private school. There I coordinated the technology program for grades PK-12th. I was also over the technology budget.

What do you hope to accomplish?

One of my first concerns is with the continuity of the Milford Board of Education. Two year terms, and the ability to elect an entire new board of education every two years, is detrimental to the process. Would it be productive to have an entire new teaching staff in schools every two years? It wouldn't make any sense.

Communication is such an important part of the educational process. I would like to have more communication regarding all levels of education, solving problems as they occur and preventing future ones.

I believe that to have the best education for our students, we need to have the best educators. I have worked in 3 separate school settings. Effective professional development and constant support is crucial for student learning. Education has changed tremendously over the past few decades. Universities have not been able to keep up with these changes and prepare educators accordingly. It is up to individual districts to instill and require Best Practices. This takes great management and money to accomplish. Working side by side with our superintendent is not an option but a necessity. What do I want to accomplish? I want Milford Schools to be the best they can be.

C. Robert Satti, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

I am serving an appointed term on the Board of Education and am the Majority Leader. I have served on St Gabriels’ School and St Joseph HS Advisory Boards for over 10 years. I was the first Chairman of the Milford Ethics Commission. I have been a Scout leader (and an Eagle Scout), a member of the Milford United Soccer Executive Board, a youth sports coach (soccer, baseball, and basketball) and a USSF Soccer referee. I was a co-president of St Joseph Parent’s Association for four years. I have been employed by the State of Connecticut since 1980 as an attorney.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I hope to continue with the work that the Board has made in the last two years including the reconfiguration of K-2 & 3-5 to K-5. We have also addressed the budgetary issues, the ongoing excellence in the AP program. I would work to assure that all students have the best education that Milford can offer. I have been deeply impressed with the work of Dr Feser and all of the dedicated employees of the Board of Education that I have come into contact with during my term. I look forward to working with them for two more years.

Thomas Jagodzinski, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

I’ve been attending Board meetings for the last 10 years and speaking out on issues with our schools. I have a granddaughter attending Meadowside but even if I didn’t have a family member in a Milford school, I’d still be passionate about education. I believe we all have a moral obligation to provide our kids with the best possible education and that a quality school system is critical to the success of our city.

I was a Senior Vice President and the Chief Technology Officer for Peoples Bank. I have extensive management and budgeting expertise and I hope to use my skills to make our schools even better.

What do you hope to accomplish?

There are a lot of opportunities for the Board to improve our schools. Our schools need to reduce testing and free up time for more teaching, improve academic performance, reduce administrative overhead and expand bus service. However, the Board is not going to accomplish anything meaningful unless members start acting in a non-political, non-partisan way.

Anyone who attended the meetings where the potential closing of Harborside was discussed had to be appalled. Party bosses roaming the hall, party line votes, cheap political posturing and frequent recesses so Board members could engage in secret backroom discussions. Our students and city deserve better than this.

As I talk to people about our schools, people keep saying the Board doesn’t listen. It’s not worth attending meetings and getting involved because no one on the Board cares what people think. I want to help create a non-partisan Board that listens and responds to the legitimate concerns of all our students and residents.

Susan Krushinsky, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

I am a parent of a child in the school system and a long time Milford resident. I am currently a realtor and have had a previous 25 year career as an architect with experience in educational projects. I have been an active member and president of JFK's PTO, as well as a dynamic supporter of Pumpkin Delight's and WSMS' PTAs. I regularly attend Board of Education meetings and I am familiar with issues facing our schools. I have listened to my neighbors and I hear the frustrations and issues that parents and teachers have regarding Milford schools today.

What do you hope to accomplish?

If elected I will work to create a climate of trust and mutual respect among board members, administration and the public. We need to address the lack of communication and the perceived lack of transparency of the Board of Education and the administration. Citizens need the occasion to have a two way dialogue with the BOE and I will work to encourage the board and administration to actively seek out more ways to interact and engage with our community. I also believe we need to eliminate redundant testing and give our teachers an opportunity to do what they do best — teach. I will work to promote the achievements of our students so that we can give our citizens a chance to celebrate their accomplishments and be proud of our schools. I believe I can make a difference by truly representing the interests of student centered, quality education. I will represent the parents and citizens of Milford, and be sure that their voices are heard.
4th District
Earl E. Whiskeyman, Democrat

What are your qualifications for the position?

I have been involved in  education ever since I first realized that there is an unlimited amount of knowledge. It seems that one never runs out of things to learn. My credentials include a BA, MBA, doctoral studies, teaching at Fairfield University (15 years), ending as Director of Graduate Studies in Software Engineering, and IT Director at Naugatuck Public School system (5 years). Plus 4 years service on the BOE at Milford and 4 years on the Board of Governors at ACES (Area Cooperative Education Services).

What do you hope to accomplish?

I believe in continuous improvement and incremental changes that provide growth and opportunity for excellent results. First, the Milford School District is a well-balanced organization, providing a wide range of educational opportunities at a reasonable cost to the community. The current superintendent has provided significant and substantial direction that is of great benefit to our student population and I hope to have her continue in that role for the foreseeable future.

I am pleased to support the continued balance of academic opportunities, cultural development through Art and Music, sports (over 20 different sports are supported), physical activity and community involvement (students are encouraged to participate in the community and volunteer).

The main roles of the BOE is to provide oversight, set policies, and pass a budget that supports the district while meeting the community’s financial and educational needs.  Achieving this balance is a crucial role and one that I hope to continue to accomplish over the next 2 years.

Jess Gregory, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

I am committed to serving the citizens and children of Milford. I have earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership and teach in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Southern Connecticut State University. Part of my degree and my subsequent work is critically investigating policy decisions and the intended and unintended impacts of those policies. This deep level of questioning will assist me in evaluating budgetary decisions and my familiarity with working with numbers (I have written a book on statistics) will support quick tabulations of any suggested edits.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I hope to continue the transparency that exists of posting policies on the Milford Board of Education website. This is something that not every district does. This aids in communicating with parents and community members, but it seems we can do a better job listening. I hope that if elected I can work with the rest of the board and the Superintendent to build stronger communication pathways for community members and parents to share their feelings on little things so that everyone feels heard. I don’t want community members, whether they have children in the system or not, feeling like they don’t have a voice. That is frustrating and does not represent the small town values that are at the center of Milford’s charm.

With respect to the issues that face the incoming board, such as walking distances and declining enrollments, these are great examples of where listening will be important. I can’t say that I won’t support closing one school or another — that would be irresponsible. I need to evaluate the data and do what is best for Milford. I care about Milford. I am a lifetime resident. I want to listen and serve fellow Milfordites.

Ila Tokarz, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

I have lived in Milford for over 24 years. I attended Bridgeport Public Schools until 6th grade and then private school through high school. I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. I am very active in our community and currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Milford as the Secretary and Co-chair of the Resource Development Committee. I am also the Vice-President of the Annual Milford Oyster Festival. Through these groups, I have learned to set and adhere to a budget and make sound business decisions.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I want our students to get the best possible education to prepare them for their future – both college and non-college bound students. I want teachers to be able to teach our students. We really need to evaluate the non-mandatory/non-required testing that is occurring in Milford. I hear from too many parents that there isn’t enough time for our students to learn because they are taught to take tests. While testing is important and can identify where student learning levels are, we need to spend more time teaching. We also need to continue to focus on the long range plan in Milford, as our demographics are continuously changing. But with all of the planning and decision making, we need to keep politics out of education and make decisions based on the well-being of the students, families, teachers and taxpayers of Milford.

Leigh Lepper, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

As a resident of Milford for over 14 years and having both my daughters attend Foran High School, I have seen the process of both administration and teaching that has affected their education and lives. Being in my field of sales for over 36 years and self-employed, I have established a clientele that listens to my suggestions and trusts me in any guidance and ideas that I present to them. I know that through my experience and success with people that I can bring to the board a working relationship between the parents, students and other board members that will better our educational system.

What do you hope to accomplish?

The trust that the board members are there to represent the parents and students for an education that will offer the students the best opportunity to succeed in this highly competitive world is a primary objective of mine. Students that are planning to go to college, technical schools or those that are looking to achieve other directions in life should all be given equal attention. We must find the objective of each student and guide them in the direction of their goals and aspirations. My oldest daughter was in special education so I know that we must also guide them, for they must also be taught to succeed in their field or direction of their choice.  From speaking with people I have met while campaigning, they seem to feel that the current Board of Education’s party majority is more politically motivated and not easy to reason with. I would like to change this when elected, to have the parent and residents of Milford participate in making suggestions and help mold the system to the benefit of the students who are the main concern.
5th District
Phil Zetye, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

My perspective as a teacher is my best qualification for this position. I have made science come alive for students in courses ranging from remedial science to Advanced Placement Chemistry over the past seven years. Previous to this I was a teacher in Japanese public schools for five years through the “Japan Exchange Teaching Program.” During this time I was exposed to an extremely efficient and effective public system that is different from our own. My perspective as a teacher allows me to understand where resources make a difference in the lives of students and where they might not.

What do you hope to accomplish?

In the next decade, I believe that it is in the best economic and social interests of all people and families in our small city that Milford becomes a destination for young families seeking top schooling for their children. I believe that the path to this goal must be must be based on an efficient and effective model of education that keeps students and teachers at the forefront, and asks of management only how best to support students, teachers, and learning.

With an emphasis on a stable, consistent, learning environment, I would like to see less money allocated to testing and supervisors, and greater resource allocation to smaller class sizes, an emphasis on recruitment of top teachers, retention of these teachers, and the ongoing development of teachers. I want improved programming that focuses on developmentally appropriate love of learning, thinking, and engagement in society. School can be and should be a safe and stimulating place that children from kindergarten through high school embrace.

Thank you fellow citizens of Milford for considering me with your respective votes this November 3rd.

Claire Casey, Democrat

What are your qualifications for this position?

As an educator for many years in the Diocese of Bridgeport, I believe there is no greater priority than the education of our youth. I have taught 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades in 3 Catholic schools, and have tried to provide students with a sound foundation to develop skills and knowledge necessary to move on to middle and high school. I have spent many years involved in PTA, as well. Although I haven’t taught in a public system, I share similar goals for my students as my colleagues in the public system. We all want students to get the best education.

What do you hope to accomplish?

It is of the utmost importance that the Board of Education and the administration work hand in hand to implement the principles, guidelines and policies in our school community. I also think it is crucial to cultivate a love of learning, whether it is for History, Math, Science or Technology.  Our students should be challenged at a level that is suitable for them. We need to take into consideration all of their strengths and weaknesses. We also need to be mindful of the very important role teachers play in our students’ lives. We must make sure teachers are supported and valued by the administration. Equally important is finding a balance between the amount of testing that takes place throughout the school year, and completing the required curriculum.  We must be mindful of our budget, and make sure that we are equitable with all our services to all of our students. I am committed to making our schools the best they can be. I believe we can do this by having a continuous, ongoing dialogue with the administration and our teachers about curriculum, testing, and technology. These are some of the issues that I believe are relevant to our school system.

William P. Farrell, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

I have 40 years’ experience in budgeting, financial and accounting. I have been a senior bank officer, have been a chief financial officer and have been employed by Wells Fargo as a Vice President in their wealth management and brokerage business for the past 15 years. I have also been an instructor with the Milford Adult Education program for the past 15 years. I’m a former member of the Milford Pension Board, Board of Assessment Review, and a past president of the Milford Downtown Business Association. I have lived in Milford for 36 years and have four children all of which went to Milford schools.

What do you hope to accomplish?

To develop fiscally sound budgets where every student is receiving the highest level of education we can provide. To develop an open environment which encourages administration, teachers and parents to participate in the process. To adopt a long term plan that will make Milford a place where every parent wants to send their kids to our schools.

Suzanne L. DiBiase, Republican

What are your qualifications for this position?

The Board of Education budget is 91 million dollars this year. Throughout the years, some of my job positions have included purchasing, inventory control and working within certain budget restraints. That knowledge does help. However, when you must decide on certain matters, you can ask questions, listen to the answers, get feedback from the public, and make a common sense decision.

I have lived here all my life and was educated in the Milford School System. I take pride in doing the best for our students and the taxpayers of our city.

What do you hope to accomplish?

If elected to the board, I will make decisions that place a high priority on student achievement and at the same time balance that priority with sound fiscal budgets.