Tuesday is Election Day, and many CEA members are on the ballot. While presidential election years receive the most media attention, CEA President Kate Dias says, “It’s local elections that determine what you’ll be teaching and what your school year will look like.”
CEA spoke to several active and retired teachers running for seats on town boards and councils to hear why they are running and what they hope to accomplish.
Read about some of the teacher candidates profiled earlier here, and meet more below.
Lisa Bress, Retired Teacher and Windsor Town Council Candidate
Lisa Bress says she’s running for reelection to the Windsor Town Council this November 2 because it’s given her the opportunity to meet so many dedicated Windsor citizens and she wants to be a part of moving Windsor forward in a direction that benefits everyone in the community.
She’s looking to continue her work on projects such as the Citizen’s Advisory Task Force, Clean and Sustainable Energy, and Windsor Council on the Arts. She says she’d like to make sure clean and sustainable energy recommendations “become a reality because I feel it will have a positive impact on our children and environment for years to come.”
Bress says, “The skills I’ve learned as a teacher, such as developing strong relationships and establishing trust with others, have been invaluable in my role as a Councilor. Nothing gets accomplished unless people work together. My educational experience also helps when it comes to reviewing and voting on the education budget. It helps me ensure the budget is prioritizing the needs of our students and teachers.”
Moving forward, making smart decisions about using American Rescue Plan funds to meet the needs of citizens will be key, Bress says.
“We are also working on revitalizing our town center to attract small businesses and make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Windsor will be applying for Sustainable CT Certification to cement our commitment to using clean energy to benefit us economically, while working to preserve our environment for future generations Addressing quality of life issues that seem to be impacting our community will also be a priority, like increased speeding, trash, and truck traffic. We also need to increase our stock of affordable housing so that people of all ages and incomes can call Windsor their home.”
Come November 2, “Whoever you elect will make decisions that affect your schools, your children, your parents and grandparents, your homes and your health,” Bress says. “It’s more important than ever to vote for those who reflect your values and will work to make your community one that you’re proud to live in.”
Kevin Brown, CREC Civics and U.S. History Teacher and Vernon Board of Education Candidate
“I am running for re-election to the Vernon Board of Education because I believe strongly in the power of public education to transform lives,” says Brown. “I believe that a school district must provide equitable opportunities to all of its students, regardless of their background. I am a parent of two Vernon Public Schools students, a coach in multiple youth sports leagues, and a secondary social studies teacher, myself. I believe that these important perspectives are critical to the administration of a school district, and deserve a seat at the table.”
Brown says that, as a high school social studies teacher, a nationwide movement spreading misinformation about what is taught in schools is of particular concern to him.
“I have had multiple voters question me as to whether or not Vernon Public Schools teach CRT,” he says. “As a history teacher by profession, I believe that it is important to teach the history of this country as it actually happened, for its exceptionality and its flaws. Most importantly, I believe schools must incorporate a more multi-cultural approach to the teaching of history, in order to incorporate more diverse perspectives and experiences into the story of America, thus engaging more students in the learning process.”
Brown hopes all of his colleagues get out and vote this November 2.
“Local government impacts us on a much more intimate level, and yet we reserve our excitement and participation for federal and state elections,” he says. “It is absolutely imperative that everyone who is eligible to vote shows up to the polls on November 2 in order preserve our democratic systems at the ground level, and to elect those who will carry out the important responsibility of ensuring our school communities get the attention and resources they deserve!”
Lisa Fabian, Reading Specialist at Fairfield Warde High School and Stratford Board of Education Candidate
An educator with more than 20 years of experience, Lisa Fabian works primarily with ninth through eleventh graders at Fairfield Warde High School. She began her teaching career as a first and second grade looping teacher in Stratford. A graduate of the Stratford Public Schools, she is looking to give back to her community by serving on her town’s Board of Education.
“I feel indebted and committed to Stratford for the rich and diverse education and well-rounded development that it has given me and is now providing for my daughters,” she says. “I have never run for public office, but when this election came around, fellow educator Christopher Cormier and I decided that this was our moment to step in, step up, and attempt to make the change that all of our fellow teachers have always talked about.”
Fabian says that her many years of experience in education and her lifetime connection to Stratford Public Schools make her uniquely suited to serve on the Board of Education.
“I know firsthand as an educator that the funds do not always make it to where they need to go,” she says. “However, as a former Stratford teacher and parent of current students, I know our staff’s dedication to its students and this community.”
Fabian says that in speaking with voters, she has found that many people confuse culturally relevant teaching with critical race theory. “Though local boards of education have control over how specific courses run (like what credits they count for), the state legislature deemed it necessary to guarantee a course in every district to be offered on Black, Latinx, and Puerto Rican history because some communities were not offering sufficient classes. The legislation is simply trying to guarantee there are diverse course offerings in districts that may not have the resources to build such an extensive curriculum of their own.”
When it comes to voting in municipal elections Fabian says, “No election will impact you and your students’ lives like a local election. These are where the decisions are made about what you teach, how you teach it, and the resources provided for our students.”
Charles Marenghi, Naugatuck STEM Teacher and Candidate for the Naugatuck Board of Mayor and Burgesses
A sixth grade STEM teacher at Cross Street Intermediate School in Naugatuck, Charles Marenghi is running for reelection to the town’s Board of Mayor and Burgesses.
“Serving my community during a period of great challenge and opportunity has been a pleasure,” Marenghi says. “Given the economic slowdown, the work we have done to promote economic development and improve the borough’s overall fiscal standing throughout the pandemic stands out as an enjoyable achievement. Moreover, the way our town leadership worked together across party lines to keep our community moving forward through one unprecedented challenge to the next was inspiring.”
He says that, as a professional educator, he brings an ability to communicate and educate others about issues regarding remote learning, equity training, and navigating the challenges of teaching in a “pandemic world.”
“Good government requires solid communication skills that help educate the electorate,” Marenghi says. “As a teacher, I pride myself on effectively communicating facts and engaging in systematic data driven problem solving. I am proud to say that these skills were the cornerstones of my first term as a burgess.”
He says that going forward, the Board will need to assess the impact of this past year and a half on the children of our community. “Investments in programs that give students support to close learning gaps and to deal with the social and emotional issues that resulted from the pandemic will need to be carefully planned, funded, and implemented. Constructing and enacting sound policies that keep our community growing while at the same time preserving our natural resources and rich local history must be carried out.”
Marenghi encourages all educators to get out and vote this November 2, adding, “The things that we hold most dearly are impacted the greatest by local elections. Your family and neighbors depend on local government to provide educational opportunity to their children, keep their streets safe, and provide them with a meaningful quality of life. We must all lead by example and do what we as educators do best. We must inspire. Let’s inspire citizens to vote on Tuesday November 2. It is vital that we talk it up at social gatherings. We must communicate through multiple social mediums the importance of how local elections impact our everyday lives. Moreover, we must remind voters that the true impetus of positive change in this world (locally and globally) is participating in the democratic process.”
Bennett Nocera, School Social Worker at Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich and Norwich Board of Education Candidate
Bennett Nocera says that COVID-19 has profoundly affected his students and families. As a school social worker, he sees families struggling to provide the basic necessities for their children.
“Families have experienced hardships like at no other time,” he says. “Students are hungry, tired, and eager to get back to some type of normalcy.”
He says that it is fellow teachers who have protected, supported, and continued to instill hope for families and students during the pandemic. “It is without a doubt teachers who are the backbone of our community through these difficult times.”
Just as teachers go above and beyond for their students, Nocera says he will do the same for his students, their families, teachers, and the community if he is elected to serve on the Board of Education. “I will always keep teachers and students in the forefront of my decisions because teachers mean the world to both myself and the students.”
He adds, “Students and families deserve to have great schools to go to, more teachers, nice athletic fields/playscapes, and proper ventilation system to keep our students safe.”
If he is elected, some of the concerns Nocera looks to address include parents’ ability to voice their concerns, the lack of diversity in teaching, the achievement gap, and quality education for all students.
Nocera says that this year’s municipal elections provide an important opportunity for voters to ensure an equitable education for all students. “This year pubic education has a unique opportunity to leverage the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds allocated to the district. The Norwich district needs to think globally and seek long-term solutions with this funding to provide our families with the resiliency tools they need to recover and thrive during the challenges we are experiencing as a community.”
Dianne Nolan, Bridgeport High School Physical Education Teacher and Candidate for Stratford Town Council
A physical education teacher at Central High School in Bridgeport, Dianne Nolan is well known to many in her Stratford community as the former Fairfield University Women’s Basketball head coach. During her 28 years with team, the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer won a school-record 456 games, including three tournament championships. In addition to teaching PE, Nolan keeps her connection to basketball alive by broadcasting men’s and women’s games for ESPN-3.
Nolan says that her experiences as a teacher and a coach have prepared her well for municipal office. “A teacher has many roles, with many of them directly relevant to the town government,” she says. “Teachers engage the community, listen to their concerns, research solutions, and be a servant leader. A teacher makes over 2,000 decisions daily, and that experience applies to serving in the town government.”
And when it comes to door knocking ahead of November 2, she says, “It’s like recruiting a student-athlete.”
As she travels around Stratford, she hears from voters about the issues that are important to them. She says that the high tax-rate is concern for many residents, which is why growing the town’s grand list by attracting new businesses to the town is paramount.
When it comes to schools, Nolan says they need to keep pace with technology and grow programs—including special education, gifted and talented, music, and athletics—not eliminate them. “Working with the Board of Education, we must serve the students and their families.”
Nolan hopes to see a big turnout come election day. “Town officials make significant decisions and formulate policies that have a direct influence on our community. For example, our schools need resources to serve our students best and local officials make decisions on budget allocations. Your vote is vital to select the best leaders.”