Letters to the editor: Endorsements for 2019 elections

Candace Banks for RTM

To the editor,

As District 6 residents and Westport Public School parents, we wholeheartedly support Candace Banks in her campaign for RTM representative.

We got to know Candace five years ago when we worked closely with her as PTA presidents. In her PTA roles first as Long Lots co-president and council co-president, she was an unwavering source of support and information for school families. She regularly attended and spoke at dozens of public meetings on school funding and policy and continues to do so today.

Candace’s communications to Westport families on current developments in the WPS, particularly on the redistricting and rezoning proposals pending before the BOE that disproportionately burdens District 6 residents, are succinct and thoughtful. Her emails on these proposals have distilled hours and hours of public discussion for our parents to get to the heart of what matters to them.

Busy Westport families rely on their elected representatives to keep abreast of developments in school and town and sound the alarm bell to their constituents when action items that impact them come up for a vote. Candace has demonstrated both the willingness and an effective ability to both inform constituents and advocate for the interests. This is kind of representation we need on the RTM.

Sue Rubin and Melissa Signorile


Support for Heyer, Muktavaram, Heller, Kramer

To the editor:

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, I’m asking you to join me in voting for Westport native Liz Heyer and incumbent Vik Muktavaram for the Board of Education.

We are at a critical point in our town where leadership and commitment to excellence must happen now on our Board of Education.

Vik is the only candidate with experience, and one of the few who has not been afraid to speak up against the status quo. Vik’s solid financial and marketing background, combined with his strength and ability to always take on BOE challenges straight on, is someone we can’t afford to lose.

Westport native and Staples High graduate Liz Heyer will bring over 10 years of business marketing experience as well as her current PTA experiences to our Board of Education. Liz is a proven leader who will ad a voice of strength, commitment and passion to our children and schools.

Again, please join me in helping our children and schools move forward with leaders who will lead.

I urge residents of District 9 to re-elect Dr. Velma Heller to the RTM on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

I have had the privilege of serving with Velma over the last eight years. As our moderator, Velma has lead our body of 36 over the past two-plus years. Velma’s leadership skills, combined with her exemplary educational background, is an asset to our town and RTM.

To all my friends living in District 5, please support my friend and colleague on the RTM, Karen Kramer for re-election on Nov. 5.

Karen has lived in the Greens Farms area of over 32 years. Karen was very instrumental in helping our town get Greens Farms Elementary School back online.

As a colleague, one couldn’t ask for a better RTM member. Karen always has represented her constituents and town issues with honesty and integrity.

Jimmy Izzo


Banks an advocate for special needs community

To the editor:

Candace Banks has done so much for our community. We served on the Special Needs PTA together for several years supporting and advocating for the special-needs communities at our respective elementary schools.

During that time, Candace spent months planning the Diversity Day pilot program at Long Lots, which is a series of workshops that promotes empathy and understanding by educating fourth-graders about others with different learning styles and abilities. The following year, Diversity Day was rolled out to all Westport elementary schools and it remains an important part of curriculum to this day.

With Candace in the RTM, I am confident that special-needs children as well as adults with disabilities will have a key ally and strong advocate.

Laura Robinson Franklin, Melissa Ligouri and Laura Campagnino


In support of Candace Banks for District 6

To the editor:

We were very excited to learn about the candidacy of our neighbor Candace Banks for RTM District 6 representative.

Many Westport school parents know Candace for her tireless dedication to the Westport Public Schools through her leadership roles in PTA, both at Long Lots and townwide over the last five years.

But those of us who live on or near North Avenue were fortunate to have her on our side in a separate context, as she helped us resolve the dispute regarding the new water tanks in our neighborhood.

Over the last two years, Candace has been a point person in dealing with the town and Aquarion’s lawyers, and steered us through a convoluted path to a settlement of the matter which is currently pending approval at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. The concessions from Aquarion that Candace worked to get for us puts us in a markedly better place than the Planning & Zoning decision of September 2017, and we are grateful for her significant effort.

Throughout the process, Candace worked hard to keep us abreast of all of the developments in the negotiations, kept the lines of communication open and tirelessly pressed to find common ground among the parties. We have not doubt that she will serve the constituents of District 6 just as well, and feel we would be fortunate to have her as our RTM representative.

Jan and Tom Chunovic, Shira and Alan Honigstein, and Kuku Fleming


Heyer and Muktavaram for BOE

To the editor:

While there are many issues the new Board of Education will face, the first one will be the decision of whether or not to redistrict. Liz and Vik offer a plan to protect the middle school instructional model and prioritize smaller class sizes.

Their opponents have not offered a redistricting plan yet, but have publicly communicated that they support fewer teaching teams which will create larger class sizes. We are voting for Liz and Vik because we do not believe Westport should have classes with over 30 students.

Liz and Vik have analyzed the data, offered a concrete plan and demonstrated the leadership we sorely need on the BOE. This is exactly the type of thinking we need to avoid further delay and indecision regarding the future of our town’s educational system.

Liz and Vik are committed to excellence in our schools. They are dedicated to providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to inspire and learn, as well as fostering a safe, secure and positive environment for Westport’s children.

As parents of three children, we know that our schools are Westport’s most important and valuable asset. Having grown up in Weston, I (Juliane) know first-hand that great schools in our area not only provide a top-quality education for our children, but they also enhance property values and make Westport a desirable place to live. This benefits all Westporters.

A vote for Liz and Vik to the Board of Education is a vote for excellent schools and a vote for a better future for Westport.

Juliane and Jason Sunderland


Support for Goldstein and Chao

To the editor:

I am writing to express my enthusiastic support for Youn Su Chao and Lee Goldstein for Westport’s Board of Education. If ever candidates have shown a willingness to roll up their sleeves and do the work, it’s these two impressive women. They walk the walk.

Not only have Lee and Youn Su taken on active roles in the PTA, they have attended every meeting of the PTA and its subcommittees to figure out the reason for last year’s facilities crisis. They understand that the issue is not just Coleytown Middle School, but a townwide concern.

They have proposed creative and responsible solutions to the issues at hand. They have taken a deep dive into our school budgets to determine how to maintain our excellent schools prudently.

In addition, Lee and Youn Su are experienced educators and team players. They are well liked by their PTA colleagues because they are fair and knowledgeable collaborators. In this time of increasing partisanship, Lee and Youn Su are willing to consider all ideas and do the work to strategize for solutions that benefit all Westporters.

Please make it a priority to get to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5 and cast your ballot for Lee Goldstein and Youn Su Chao.

Vicki Volper


Heyer and Muktavaram for Westport education

To the editor:

Too often for important elected offices we turn to our friends and family and say, “Are these the best candidates we can find? There must be better.” Well, there is better for the Westport Board of Education and the answer is Liz Heyer and Vik Muktavaram.

The future of Westport relies on the quality of our schools. Liz and Vik provide the integrity, sentiment, questioning attitude and first principles of fighting for our children that we need now more than ever. When the choice is obvious, let’s come together and make the right choice for our kids.

Please join me in voting for Liz Heyer and Vik Muktavaram on Nov. 5 to secure our children’s future.

Steve Obsitnik


Vote Liz and Vik for Board of Education

To the editor:

Since I turned 18 and have been old enough to vote, I have been a registered Democrat. I have strong political views that align almost exclusively with the Democrat Party.

That said, I believe that national partisan politics should not play a role in Westport’s local election for the Board of Education. Our children, teachers and staff, and taxpayers deserve the best candidates to lead our school district forward over the next four years.

In my prior role as PTA Council co-president, I worked with all four BOE candidates regularly for many years. Based on that experience, I believe that all four candidates are qualified, but I believe that Liz Heyer and Vik Muktavaram are the best choice for the future of our Board of Education.

Vik works tirelessly for all Westport families. He is known for asking tough questions of the administration, reaching out to funding bodies in order to work in a collaborative manner, and questioning the work of consultants. Vik, often times alone, is not afraid to push back, question and respectfully challenge the administration or other BOE members in order to make sure that a recommendation is the best option for our district. His thought process is methodical, his work is analytical and logical, and he is able to balance the needs of taxpayers with decisions that are best from an education standpoint for our district. I truly do not think our BOE can function in this manner without Vik.

Liz is a product of the Westport public schools, having attended CES, CMS and Staples, her children are in elementary school and middle school in Westport, and her parents live in Westport. She very clearly understands what is best for the town as well as the schools. Her leadership skills truly set her apart, and her business experience is evident in her thorough analysis of all issues pertaining to our school. She has thoughtful decisiveness was apparent in her roles on the PTA executive board, the Workshop program, and town athletics.

On Nov. 5, I hope you will look beyond national politics and vote for the best candidates — Liz Heyer and Vik Muktavaram.

Carolyn Caney


Character is key; vote Chao and Goldstein

To the editor:

I am pleased to recommend Youn Su Chao and Lee Goldstein for Board of Education.

Much has been aired about today’s hot issues: facilities, redistricting, and so on. But beyond the immediate, voters should remember that the BOE term is four years. This is as long as the interval between Olympic games, U.S. presidencies, or even starting and graduating high school.

In that light, may I suggest Westport’s core need is not candidates who favor one position or another, but leaders with character, temperament, and stamina for the long run.

As a Chao family member, and having gotten to know Lee, I witnessed Lee and Youn Su’s shared strengths:

1. They build strong networks. Lee and Youn Su have forged personal relationships across schools and demographics, from special needs to senior citizens. This is a deep pool of wisdom to draw on, including many teachers and administrators. You may be surprised to hear that their supporters often differ on policies, but are united in ensuring Youn Su and Lee stay close to reality.

2. They are board ready. Youn Su and Lee have taken board training and gone through budget cycles, scenario planning, and policy drafting. They arrive at BOE meetings prepared and engaged. They respect good governance, review and challenge, and the discipline of accountability.

3. They leverage outside expertise. Lee and Youn Su know there is much to learn from top districts in Fairfield County and beyond. They seek out best practices and benchmark key statistics to solve problems at home.

On Election Day, consider candidates with qualities who will serve Westport well: Youn Su Chao and Lee Goldstein.

Ed Chao


Endorsement for BOE candidates Chao and Goldstein

To the editor:

I’ve lived in Westport nearly 20 years, and generally I believe that we are lucky to have elected officials who do their best to work in the interests of the town and its citizens. But it’s become obvious that good intentions are not enough. What we need is pragmatic leadership.

Both Democratic candidates for BOE are proven leaders. In various roles, they have been strong voices advocating for the Coleytown community during the crisis at CMS, while understanding the issue as town-wide, and searching for solutions that all constituencies could support.

As former educators they are well qualified to lead our BOE out of the endless nowhere discussions and onto a pragmatic and responsible path forward. I trust them to work with the town on better facilities oversight, to find us a superintendent that is responsive to all of our stakeholders, to hold the school administration accountable for maintaining priorities and equitably distributing resources. Youn Su is my neighbor, and Lee’s daughter grew up with my own, so I understand that when they make a promise to bring leadership and accountability to the BOE, they mean it, and they’ll get it done.

In contrast, the Republican slate seems to first want to pretend that they are new to the board (one of them is an incumbent) and second, that hard decisions can be avoided by magical thinking and pandering to one group of vocal parents after another. Example: the incumbent’s “self-redistricting” hopes are reminiscent of Romney’s “self-deportion” — not likely. This candidate also likes to portray himself as thoughtful and responsive, when what we saw in practice looked a lot more like indecision and unwillingness to make tough decisions.

It’s time for a change. Chao/Goldstein for BOE, new leadership for Westport.

Michael Kaplan


Liz and Vik for BOE

To the editor:

As parents with two children in Staples High School, and one who graduated from Staples, we understand the importance of having the right leadership on the Board of Education. We believe the two candidates for the Board of Education in this election that have the leadership skills and business experience to govern our school district effectively are Liz Heyer and Vik Muktavaram.

Liz is our neighbor and we have continually been impressed with her leadership and involvement in the educational community. She understands the challenges facing our state and the need to preserve the interests of the entire Westport community. In addition, we have appreciated her dedication to important town issues beyond the educational arena — Liz worked tirelessly with town leaders to secure funding for safe sidewalks given the number of adults and children regularly walking our neighborhood streets.

We have been impressed with the depth of Vik’s knowledge on educational issues facing the district and his continual collaboration with the Board of Finance and other town bodies to work towards alignment on educational initiatives.

We believe this is the team that can help our school district successfully and efficiently resolve the many issues currently on the Board of Education’s agenda and navigate future unknown topics as they arise. We also believe this is the team that will position Westport Public Schools for even greater distinction.

We will be voting for Liz and Vik and strongly support them both for Board of Education in the November 2019 election.

Amanda and Mitch Thaw