Board of Ed Elections, Party Politics vs. Principle



Town elections this November may seem like a non-event, with the Democrats having trouble finding a candidate willing to challenge Peter Tesei for the First Selectman’s spot and the rest of the board of selectman likely to remain unchanged. But wait! There is a very important reason why we should make a trip to the polls for this off-year election, and it has to do with the Board of Education (BOE), which by state law is a partisan organization with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats elected to its eight-member board.

It is no secret that over the past dozen years the record of the BOE has been less than impressive. Our schools are ranked well below neighboring districts in academic performance, as measured by Connecticut’s standardized tests. The board has made one bad choice after another in school superintendents (six in the past eleven years), capped by attempts by the Republican Town Committee (RTC) to cover-up the failure of the board’s chairman, Steve Anderson, to exercise proper governance and his lack of oversight of the recently departed superintendent Sdney Freund. 

Anderson was accused of failing to communicate to his board the unauthorized commitment he and Freund made to adopt controversial International Baccalaureate (IB) programs for elementary and middle schools—commitments also made without public hearings. Peter Sherr and Marianna Pons Cohen had the courage to bring to the board’s attention this and other serious irregularities in governance by Anderson and Freund. Whereupon, Sherr and Cohen were publicly and loudly vilified by Anderson and members of the RTC for impugning Anderson’s governorship.

This is a critical time for the Board of Ed. Just as it faces having to implement a potentially radical plan to meet the state mandate to redress racial imbalance in Hamilton Avenue and New Lebanon schools, as many as four incumbents will be leaving, including Peter Sherr, who was denied re-nomination by the RTC in an act of pure political retribution. He is therefore running as a petition candidate. Should his bid to win reelection not succeed, the board will lose one of its most capable and experienced members.

In the eyes of RTC’s executive committee, Peter Sherr’s sin was to vote his conscience and refuse to support its choice of Anderson to return as Board Chairman in 2011. Sherr and Pons Cohen had rightfully held him responsible for the debacle that culminated in Freund’s abrupt resignation, with an odor of misdeeds preceding and following his exit. Sherr did not believe Anderson’s failure of leadership should be rewarded. The RTC then turned to Barbara O’Neill who first agreed to be chairman but at the last minute reneged, saying that she was going to vote to elect Leslie Moriarty, a Democrat, for chairman regardless of  “what the RTC chairman thinks.” The committee went back to propose Anderson, but Sherr held his ground, making it clear, as he had at the very outset, that he would vote for any Republican except Anderson. As a result, the chairmanship went to a Democrat.

While the angst of the RTC’s executive committee is understandable, a very significant number of its regular members looked beyond pure politics and supported Sherr’s nomination based on his independence and integrity. In spite of the committee’s effort to block his nomination, he was only a few votes short of nomination by RTC’s full membership. 

Over the years the RTC, as the majority party, has been a constructive guiding force in town government. And it is true that the unexpected decision of Barbara O’Neill not to accept chairmanship put the RTC in an awkward position. Still, in view of his track record there seems to be no justification for returning the chairmanship to Anderson, and none for denying the return of Sherr to the board. It is unfortunate that politics had overcome principle. 

Peter Sherr has a strong point of view. He believes we need a realistic plan that doesn’t just meet racial balance quotas, but will actually improve educational performance. “It is fundamentally wrong,” he says, “to be classifying children by race and forcing them into social engineering schemes their parents don’t want. Our focus should not be on redistricting and busing to appease a potentially unconstitutional racial quota system developed in Hartford, but should instead be on closing the achievement gap in the schools in question with better programs and digital learning.”

He believes that the true interest of the children themselves on leaving their neighborhoods, as well as that of their parents, should be determined by in-depth interviews, rather than creating policy based on predisposed assumptions. And he adds, “While collaborating with the state board on ways to improve education, we should be prepared to challenge, if necessary, potentially unconstitutional schemes that don’t improve the lives of our children and undermine our neighborhoods.”

The degree of support for Peter Sherr and his concept of how Greenwich public education can be improved is evidenced by the fact that with a mere two-week window this summer, 1,345 people signed his petition, including over 1,000 Republicans. All he needs now is our vote in November.

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • TREEHOUSES: Look Who's Living in the Trees!

    2014.06.21
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Saturday, June 21 - Monday, September 1 Hidden in the leaves, snug in the trunk or burrowed under the roots, what types of animals actually...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

    2014.09.09
     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

    2014.09.09
     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

    2014.09.10
     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.13

    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

    2014.09.14
     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

    2014.09.16
     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Best of Greenwich
    Delamar Greenwich Harbor
  2. 10 Things Greenwich Teens Can Do This Summer
    One Greenwich teen shares some suggestions for summer fun!
  3. Villa Maria School: Annual Spring Gala
    Richards of Greenwich
  4. American Red Cross: Red and White Ball 2014
    NetJets Hangar at Westchester County Airport
  5. Save the Children Benefit
    Riverside Yacht Club