Gabriela Koc (D)

Stamford Board of Education

Executive Secretary and Scheduler at Office of the State Treasurer

One of the greatest challenges facing our schools are an overwhelmed school staff and a growing student population with complex needs. In an ideal world the Board of Education of years past would have been pushing policies with a future-focused mindset, but it is easy to say this with hindsight. Student populations did not change overnight and years of not prioritizing the needs of marginalized student groups when they were the minority has led to what seems like a bottle neck effect. Over 70% of our students are BIPOC, over 50% Hispanic/Latino, 50% reduced or free lunch eligible, and 16% ELL (2022-2023 SPS Annual Report). Although school staff and teachers have tried to compensate for the lag in a systemic response, it is hard to sustain. In most recent years there has been thoughtful and intentional dialogue around this issue and I attribute that to more diverse representation, more organized parents’ groups from different backgrounds, teachers and staff who are tired of witnessing the shortcomings and want to take action, and a central office that seeks to be responsive and accessible to our community. With the momentum shifted in progress’s favor I hope I can contribute to our district’s next steps in making our schools more equitable and rigorous institutions.
Although no issue is objectively minor, I would say I would like to see diversity celebrated across all schools equally in the form of artistic displays. I think showcasing, with pride, our diversity would help with school culture.
From my understanding I believe since the curriculum audit we have come a long way. There is a curriculum portal that is accessible to parents that came out earlier this month and I have also seen information sessions hosted by the superintendent's office to help families learn how to navigate it. One suggestion I might add is perhaps looking into offering and getting curriculum for more Computer Science courses, especially for 7-12th grade.
The Board does have adequate checks and balances and is well-integrated with other city boards. Although the BOE can make suggestions and present a budget, it is not the only body of governance that has to review and vote on it. Not only is there local integration but there is also the state board of education that is a policy creating entity at the state level that affects local board work, as well as the CT Association of Boards of Education which helps to professionally develop BOE members from across the state in best practices. There are also regional entities known as Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs) that provide cost-effective education resources, programs, and services to the state’s public schools, Stamford is in CES which works with schools in southwest CT.
I don't believe the Board of Education will be affected by the charter revision's proposed changes, but I personally don't support it. As someone who doesn’t have a family yet and is looking to establish roots in Stamford in the years to come it is hard for me to support revisions that would make it harder for younger professionals who are more economically disadvantaged to live and raise a family in our city. After reading these changes I believe it would make it harder for people like me to afford to live here and create bureaucratic inefficiencies in our city government, and durably corrode our checks and balances. I encourage everyone to look at the document themselves, however that is not a fair task to present to an average voter given the level of literacy and disposable time it would demand to read a 195-page legal document. We already have low engagement when it comes to their local governing bodies despite it being so important to a healthy society. Underneath all the apathy is a small group of people dominating the decisions. What was noteworthy in this case was the interest from the public, that was perhaps not expected but crucially needed, to allow more time to discuss the proposed changes and to have their testimony more carefully considered. I hope that the proposed revisions, under the guise of “change is good", do not misguide or take advantage of someone's desire to see more equity in our city's trajectory.