The Bristol Press has a feature on the BOE candidates.
BRISTOL — Candidates for the Board of Education emphasized their city roots and community service experience, as well as passion for education, in a political forum held earlier in the month at Bristol Eastern High School.
The forum for the 12 candidates was sponsored by the Bristol Federation of Teachers and the Parent Teacher Organization. It will be rebroadcast later on Nutmeg TV.
Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce himself or herself to the public, alternating between Republicans and Democrats.
∎ David Scott, Republican.
He was born in Bristol “on the hill” as a fourth generation city resident and was educated here, having attended Bristol Eastern High School and then Southern Connecticut State University.
“A few years ago my wife and I decided to move back to Bristol to raise our family,” he said. Two of their children are in local schools now, and two will be soon.
∎ Tina Taylor, Democrat.
An art teacher, she formerly taught in Waterbury and now teaches in Hartford, “so I am very familiar with the issues of an urban district,” she said.
In Waterbury, she was a member of the legislative commission on the teacher evaluation commission, where she worked “to try to alleviate some of the stress on the teachers.” She was a parent member of the committee that brought full-day kindergarten to Bristol and is on the state arts standards review team.
Raised and education in Bristol, she has two children currently in school here.
“I want to make sure that they and all their friends have the best education possible,” she said. To that end, she said she has been attending board meetings for four years, studying the issues and taking notes on what she feels are good characteristics of a board member.
∎ Genard Dolan, Republican incumbent.
Born in New Britain, he served four years in the U.S. Navy and then graduated from Quinnipiac University as a “late bloomer” at age 43.
He is currently board vice chairman and he touted the accomplishments of the board under Republican leadership for the past four years: hiring Ellen Solek as superintendent, hiring Gary Franzi as permanent district director of finance, implementing full-day kindergarten, increasing the graduation rate and returning interscholastic sports and music and arts options in the middle schools.
∎ Chris Wilson, Democratic incumbent.
He has served on the Board of Education for the past 12 years, including two years as chairman, and served on all the committees. He is also past chairman of the Capital Region Education Council, which represents 35 school districts in the Hartford area. He also has three children who went through Bristol schools and seven grandchildren who are currently in school here.
“I’m running for the Board of Education again because I’m so passionate about education,” he said. “I’m passionate about all the children that come to our school district, not just a select few.”
∎ Lawrence Amara, Republican.
An incumbent board member, who is currently chairman, he stressed his 35 years of experience in education, including as a teacher, coach, guidance counselor, adult ed director and elementary school principal, overseeing 600 students and 75 faculty and staff.
“In running a school that size, you have to make decisions on a daily basis,” he said. “The one thing you have to keep in focus is, you’re going to make decisions based on what’s best for the kids.”
∎ Joe Grabowski, Democrat.
He is a recent graduate of Bristol Eastern High School and is currently attending Central Connecticut State University, where he is majoring in political science, history and education with the goal of becoming a teacher. He said he volunteers at his church soup kitchen and at convalescent homes, and worked as an election moderator. He serves on the Bristol Youth Commission and said he has a “unique perspective” to offer.
∎ Jennifer Dube, Republican.
She was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board at the beginning of 2014, and is a mother to two children in the local schools.
“I am a firm believer that they and all Bristol students should be able to maximize every opportunity possible, whether in the classroom, the music room, the art studio or the basketball court,” she said.
She has previously been vice president and founding member of the West Bristol PTO, a co-chair of the school store, and frequent classroom volunteer, as well as over 15 years experience as a pediatric dental hygienist. She said she will shortly become a mentor to a child at West Bristol School.
∎ Karen Hintz, Democrat.
A alum of the Bristol schools, she was very involved in the local schools when her own two children attended them. There were many students who were struggling with learning difficulties, behavioral problems, dysfunctional home lives and health issues, she said. “I realized I need to volunteer for those kids.”
She currently chairs the board’s operations committee and serves on the student achievement and finance committees. She said one goal has been to make it easier for the schools to seek donations from foundation and businesses, to fund projects outside of the school budget.
∎ Jeffrey Morgan, Republican.
He has been a resident of Bristol for 55 years, owns a business and has raised four children here.
He has been a member of the Republican Town Committee and a commissioner on the Zoning Board of Appeals for over 10 years. He has been a volunteer coach at Bristol Central High School and St. Paul Catholic High School. Having served on the board for almost four years now, he is also a member of the board of directors of the Bristol Business and Education Foundation.
∎ Thomas O’Brien, Democrat.
He served on the board back when members were all appointed and has served as an elected member for 12 years now. His family business, O’Brien Funeral Home, has been in the city for over 100 years. He graduated from Bristol Central High School, went to Boston College and worked for Exxon in Europe for 10 years before returning to Bristol.
“I care very much about the community and I’m very concerned about the direction we’re headed,” he said. “I believe that a community’s commitment to education is a reflection of its values, its moral values, its social values, and its property values, which as you may know have been declining since we’ve followed a policy of flat-funding education.”
∎ Jeff Caggiano, Republican.
He is a lifelong Bristol resident and he and his wife are graduates of Bristol Eastern High School, with two children who also went through the local schools and one who will graduate BEHS in 2017.
Currently he is vice chair of the Republican Town Committee, and he has served on the Zoning Commission for the last year and a half. His mother, Sandra Caggiano, taught here for over 30 years and his sister, Lisa Galske, teaches physical education at South Side Elementary School and was Bristol’s teacher of the year in 2011.
“So I’m very proud of the experience my family has had in the Bristol school system,” he said.
∎ Karen Vibert, Democrat.
Born and raised in Bristol, she has a son who attended local schools and a daughter who will graduate BEHS in the spring.
She has served two terms on the board, “been on every committee and chaired several,” she said. A current member of the Quota Club, she has served on the Family Center board, volunteered with the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Forestville Little League, and currently as a CCD teacher Eucharistic minister at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church.
“During my first term on the board I was on the personnel committee, and I’m pleased to say we successfully negotiated all the contracts,” she said. “We never went to arbitration, both sides always worked well together, both sides compromised. It was never all or nothing and it shouldn’t be.”
Among her accomplishments, she pointed to getting the ball rolling on studying what it would take for Bristol to commit to full-day kindergarten and working closely as chair of the finance committee with Franzi as he created a new state-mandated financial reporting system that has proved valuable to the board as well as to City Hall.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-584-0501 ext. 1802 or email@example.com.