Antonia Better-Wirz (D)

Stamford Board of Education

Education Coach at All Our Kin supporting licensed family home-based childcare providers

While achieving full literacy for all our students is a top priority, I believe this is especially true for our English language learners. ELL students are those whose native language is not English. There are several categories of ELL students and each student’s needs are very different. There are also many languages spoken adding to the complexity. I believe most city residents embrace our city’s diversity and it’s one of the reasons people choose to live here. This is one of the many reasons I chose to raise my family here. Stamford Public schools already offer many excellent resources that are available for these students and there are several programs currently provided for our ELL students. The challenge is connecting the students and parents to these resources. I believe we are still not fully supporting all these students. Helping our ELL students to be successful in school is vital to the success of all our students. We can significantly improve the overall literacy in our schools by specifically and strategically addressing the needs of each of our English language learners.

Our immigrant students need different support systems than those who have lived here for a few years. Our new arrivals program is focused on assisting those students and I believe they do great work. However, I believe we can do a better job of welcoming those students and families. It’s vital we embrace those families as early as possible when they first arrive in Stamford.
As a parent I always trusted that the curriculum provided by our teachers and schools was based on proven methods and objectives. I have three children who all attended Stamford public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. They all graduated and are doing well as young adults. We were always involved in their schools and we were connected with their teachers and administrators. I have confidence in our teachers, their training and their knowledge as professionals. Nearly all of our teachers have master's degrees and our administrators are extremely dedicated to their jobs. Collectively as parents I don’t believe it is our position to directly participate in curriculum writing. Having said that, I believe it is important that our district actively communicates its curriculum goals and any planned changes. The district needs to listen to the concerns of parents in regards to curriculum. I know there have been many efforts to do this, especially in recent years. I also believe parental involvement is critical. Parents need to be involved in their children’s education at all levels. I know that for many parents this is difficult and for many different reasons. I have seen efforts by many schools to get parents involved, but I know there are parents who still feel disconnected and uninformed. Language and cultural differences are often barriers to parental involvement. We need to continue to make efforts to develop resources that welcome all parents and encourage them to participate in school activities.
I believe the school district is generally very well integrated with the other departments and boards within the city. One good example of this integration is clearly apparent from the results of the creation of the long-term facilities plan. This complex plan could not have been developed without the coordinated efforts of many people, departments and boards. There is still much work to be done but the framework has been set. I believe our city government, including the board of education, is already designed to operate with checks and balances in place. Certain redundancies are important and necessary, but we also need to operate fairly and efficiently. It’s important the people have a voice and that the leadership listens. The respective boards need to hold their constituents accountable. As someone new to serving in the governmental process, I’m not sure how much day to day integration there should be between boards, except perhaps during the budget process, as each have their specific objectives and tasks as documented, but it is important that each board and department works toward the common goal of serving the best interests of our community and people.
I don’t see that this ballot referendum as presented would have a direct impact on the board of education, although if these changes were to be implemented I believe the overall efficiencies of our city government could be compromised, which could have an impact on our schools. I also don’t believe it is in the best interest of Stamford to support all these changes with one blanket response. This single referendum question that will be on the ballot is confusing and misleading to the general public. As I read it there are about nine different questions all rolled into one. Some voters might want to answer yes to some parts and no to other parts. I do not support this ballot referendum on the charter revision and will vote "no".