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On the record: Five candidates for Board of Education

Published 7:18 am, Friday, October 25, 2013

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  • Brett Aronow, Democratic candidate for Westport Board of Education. Westport CT. October 2013. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News
    Brett Aronow, Democratic candidate for Westport Board of Education. Westport CT. October 2013. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Voters in the Nov. 5 municipal election will have a choice of five candidates for the Board of Education, including four who are seeking re-election.

The contenders are: Democrat Elaine Whitney, now the board chairwoman; Republican Michael McGovern, board vice chairman; Democrat Brett Aronow, and Republican Jeannie Smith, all incumbents, and Republican Karen Kleine.

Of the five, four will be elected to office, said Town Clerk Patty Strauss.

Issues in the campaign have focused on student safety, hiring quality teachers and school curriculum and programs. But above all, the candidates want a public school system that will prepare students to reach their full potential.

Here are the profiles submitted by the candidates, arranged in alphabetical order:

BRETT ARONOW

Party: Democrat

Age: 50

Family: Husband, Keith Stein; three children

Education: bachelor's degree in economics, cum laude, Dartmouth College, MBA Stanford University

Occupation: member, Board of Education; former investment banker and community volunteer

Issues:

1. Teacher quality is the most important factor in student outcomes. Recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining the highest quality teachers will continue to improve on the excellence of the Westport school system. Training the teachers to identify and meet the needs of all of our students and their different learning style, abilities and social and emotional maturity is what will keep our students performing to their potential.

2. It is also vital that we keep our children safe both in and out of the classroom. We are committed to further enhancing school security both with our physical infrastructure and, equally importantly, by developing policies to improve the social and emotional well-being and learning environment of our students.

3. Finally, we must continue to develop responsible budgets that meet the needs of all of our students and are also fiscally sound for all Westport taxpayers.

KAREN KLEINE

Party: Republican

Age: 50

Family: Husband Joseph Kleine; three children

Education: bachelor's degree, Dickinson College

Occupation: Community volunteer, mother. I am currently PTA past president at Coleytown Middle School, chairwoman of the Temple Israel Youth Committee, member of the Westport Library Teen Planning Committee and the Temple Israel Religious School Committee.

Issues:

1. Examining current school start times and the resulting changes in transportation.

2. Monitoring students' levels of stress amid an increasing number of assessments and more demanding curriculum.

3. Implementing school security improvements based on recommendations from the Kroll study.

MICHAEL McGOVERN

Party: Republican

Age: 51

Family: Wife Ginny; four children

Education: bachelor's degree, Manhattan College; MBA, Columbia University

Occupation: Investment banking

Issues:

1. Making sure our curriculum remains unique to our town and our values while meeting the requirements of the Common Core.

2. Focusing on the emotional well-being of our students and honestly examining if we are adequately educating the whole child.

3. Rewarding the trust placed in us by the taxpayers of Westport by managing budgets conservatively and looking for cost-saving opportunities through shared services with the town.

JEANNIE SMITH

Party: Republican

Age: 43

Family: Husband, Dave Smith; four children

Education: master's degree in teaching from Fordham University.

Occupation: Full-time stay-at-home mother and school/community volunteer

Issues:

1. The adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards and how the standards will be effectively aligned to our current curriculum and the Westport 2025 Initiative.

2. The implementation of new security measures to ensure the safety and security of Westport schools while protecting the overall emotional well-being of our students.

3. The examination of current school transportation logistics in order to restore parity among all Westport schools.

ELAINE WHITNEY

Party: Democrat

Age: 47

Family: Husband, John Garber; three children

Education: bachelor's degree, Yale College, cum laude; MBA Northwestern University (Kellogg), with distinction.

Occupation: Chairwoman, Board of Education, and former management consultant. I have a five-year track record of proactively improving our educational programs, while simultaneously keeping our operating budget increases at historic lows.

Issues:

1. Continuing Westport's educational leadership: It is critical that we engage, support, and challenge each child we serve, whatever their learning styles, abilities and interests, and fulfill our mission to prepare each student to reach his or her full potential as a life-long learner and a contributor to an increasingly global community. This requires continuous and proactive updating of our curriculum and programs; fostering collaboration among our staff and providing our teachers with top-notch professional development; and actively engaging and communicating with our community.

2. Proactive fiscal management and long-term planning: In order to focus our resources in the classroom and keep taxes reasonable, we must properly maintain our school facilities and continuously seek operational efficiencies outside of the classroom. We must also continue to proactively plan for our future needs in terms of our educational programs, the integration of emerging technologies, our physical infrastructure, and the development and composition of our senior leadership team.

3. Safety and school climate: We must ensure a safe, secure and positive learning environment in which our children can learn, grow and thrive. This encompasses our school buildings and, equally importantly, ensuring the social and emotional well-being of our students, in and out of the classroom. It also requires continuing our close collaboration with our first responders.