Yesterday, “06880” published an “Opinion” piece by Candice Savin. The Democratic 3rd selectwoman and former Board of Education chair said she was “shocked, disappointed and highly concerned” about Republican Board of Ed candidate Camilo Riano, and worried about what it means “for the future of our top ranked school district.”
Today, Riano and fellow Republican Board of Education candidate Jamie Fitzgerald respond. They say:
Another day, another lengthy character assassination by Westport Democrats or their allies directed at Camilo.
How many thousands of words can be used to express outrage over one single word, “grooming,” that was used to protest inappropriate sexual content put in front of our children? At this point, we believe Westport voters can decide for themselves how they feel about that.
The much more important thing to do at this juncture is to turn our attention to what is really going on here, politically. Westport Democrats are clearly panicked about losing their control of our Board of Education.
So they are engaging in character assassination as a distraction from what voters in Westport are actually worried about: how the major initiatives of the Goldstein-controlled board are damaging the quality of education in Westport.
The Goldstein/Phillips campaign sent out their email on books, and fired up their proxies to try to tear Camilo apart as a human being, precisely because they don’t want to have this conversation.
But we do.
The 2 major initiatives championed by our rivals — equity and a strategic plan based around social emotional learning — rely on deeply flawed philosophies that are already degrading the quality of education in Westport.
Goldstein and Phillips try to take credit for a favorable ranking of our school district in a recent survey. We agree that our schools are still benefiting from a foundation of excellence that was laid over many decades. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it didn’t collapse in a day.
But to borrow a term from the NYU Metro Center, even though we are only at the beginning phases of “dismantling” the educational approaches and strategies that made Westport a leading school district, we are already seeing signs of trouble.
Earlier this year, the administration acknowledged enrollment fell short of expectations as parents are either pulling their children from Westport Public Schools or choosing not to enroll the younger ones in the first place. As we have campaigned, we have in fact heard a great deal of dissatisfaction with the educational experience in our schools, which has led many families to abandon them.
The emerging problems are particularly acute at the elementary level, and Camilo has witnessed this firsthand. Saugatuck Elementary, where Camilo sends his own 4 children, is now ranked 56th in Connecticut, a far cry from number one.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: According to the 2023-24 Niche rankings, Saugatuck Elementary School is ranked #10 out of 575 elementary schools in Connecticut. All other elementary schools are also in the Top Ten: Greens Farms #2, Coleytown #4, Kings Highway #5 and Long Lots #8. Overall, the Westport Public Schools are ranked #1 in the state.]
It is at the elementary level where the district’s accelerating shift away from traditional academic foundations, in favor of politicized approaches based on establishing racial equity and emotional programming, has already had its greatest impact.
It is worth noting, in the same Niche poll that our competitors cite, Staples High School is in fact not the number one ranked public high school in Connecticut, but is now second to New Canaan High School.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: See note above; for 2023-24, Niche ranked Westport first, New Canaan 2nd.]
The majority of the New Canaan Board of Education is controlled by elected Republicans, who have taken a principled stand against the same highly politicized DEI agenda that their own local activists are trying to foist upon the school system. Do not believe the myth that erasing academic standards and racializing education does anything to enhance student outcomes.
The erosion of rigor, the politicization of the curriculum and the classroom, the preference for emotional manipulation over educational fundamentals — these are real points of differentiation between the two tickets. This is what voters need to be talking about. Even if our rivals just want to engage in partisan antics, we will continue to do so.
We just dropped “Part 2: Equity,” the second installment of our Fireside Chat Series. You can watch it here.
It follows our well received “Part 1: Introductions,” which provides background on who we really are as candidates and parents in the community, available here.
We urge Westport voters to watch these videos.
Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/fitzgeraldandrianoforboe for more episodes and other useful content.
There are real substantive issues in this election, and the stakes could not be higher. Let’s call it quits on the political posturing and have these important discussions.