Monday, November 04, 2013

Letter to the Editor: BOE Should be Board that Drives Middletown by Brian Kaskel BOE Candidate

The essay reflects views and opinions not necessarily shared by the Insider staff, and is published as a courtesy to readers.
Brian Kaskel (R) is running for election to the  Board of Education.
His bio can be read here:

To the Editor:
The election season is coming to an end and I now have a chance to look back at my experience. It was just over four months ago, that I started having conversations with a fellow running mate about what it would mean to run for the Board of Education.  
I said to her, while standing at the grocery store, “I am not a politician.” I was just a very active and involved parent. I thought about it for a few days and weeks and decided that that was exactly what the board of education needed — less politics and more action. 
So I sent in my letter of intent, went through the interview process, received the Republican Town Committee’s nomination, and thus began Brian Kaskel for Board of Education 2013. I went into the process with a strict “NO POLITICS” stance, and very quickly had my ideals challenged.  

Whether it was my fellow Republicans, the Democrats across the aisle, Independents, parents, teachers, community members, current board of education members or even other like-minded board of education members from other parts of Connecticut; it seemed everywhere I turned there were nuances of politics.  

The Board of Education is the real deal in Middletown politics, and if I wanted a chance to have my ideas (my platform, if you will), taken seriously I need to have my voice heard.
Now, I still believe that politics, or at the very least, the politics we see at the city level, have absolutely no place in education.  

Please do not get me wrong, I do believe that the current board of education here in Middletown shares that sentiment. The children of Middletown are the most important asset we have as a community, and we cannot gamble their future by playing “politics as usual.”  
I have always been very inspired by the current board’s willingness to work together to make some very tough decisions — but there have been times where there were some party line divisions on some very key issues. When elected, I will practice what I preach, and stand up for what I believe in, I will negotiate in good faith, and I hope to have the support of my colleagues to do so as well.

I recently had a wonderful opportunity to speak to some high school students in their U.S. Government class, and that is where it all hit home.  
These young people have valid ideas about some very real issues, and they need a venue to be heard. Parents and their children need to feel empowered to have their voices heard. This classroom, which was a tiny sample of the entire student population, had many concerns that many of us had no idea even existed.   

In my opinion, there is a fundamental disconnect between the Middletown School District and the City of Middletown itself. As a parent, I feel that the Board of Education is a merely cog in the wheel that is Middletown. We need to be the engine that drives Middletown.  

Ultimately this does come down to money, and let me take my “battle stance” here. I DO NOT want to raise taxes on the citizens of Middletown. I do not want to continue to tax and spend. I do not want to kick the can down road and let future administrations and future generations figure out how to pay for it after we are long gone.  

I want to have a balanced budget and live within our means. Our children's futures cannot afford to be determined today based on our unwarranted habit of writing out checks and spending money we don’t have (I know very political sounding wasn’t it?).  

Bottom line, in order to deal with the unfunded state mandates, the Board of Education needs to be given more city dollars to accomplish its goals. How do we do this without raising taxes, you ask? Simple — reallocate existing funds. Take a hard look at how and where the money is being spent — and be ready to say “no” and make tough decisions.  

Priority should be placed on Public Safety and Education, period. Downtown revitalization and tourism is wonderful as it entices people to come from surrounding areas to have dinner and enjoy what Middletown has to offer.  However, it’s Public Safety and Education that will get people to move to Middletown and stay for the long term.

The National Association of Realtors says the second most important reason (after price) that people choose their homes is because of the schools. It is simple math. Improving the schools will make people want to live in Middletown. When Middletown becomes more desirable, home values go up, it is supply and demand. When home values go up, tax revenues increase.  
When tax revenues increase — money becomes available to work on the ancillary items that make a city like Middletown all it can be.  Start with the kids — it becomes contagious.
So, yes — spend more of the existing money on the schools today — create money for the city in the future. We need technology in the schools, we need more teachers and smaller class sizes, and we need to prioritize school health and safety.  

We need fair and equitable resources and programs from the top down.  The schools are doing wonderful things with what we have and are given — we can do so much better with more. Our teachers are being asked to prepare children for jobs that don’t even exist today, yet they have to do it with tools and resources that are long out of date.

Last is marketing. We already have a great product that people don’t know about. We’re losing families and money to magnet schools, based on promises and promotions — but many of those families come back because the grass is not always greener on the other side.  
The fact of the matter is we have more educational success stories and extracurricular accomplishments than most school systems in the area — but nobody knows because we don’t get the word out. In today’s world of social media, it is easy and inexpensive to show people how amazing we truly are.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the Middletown Federation of Teachers and the Middletown Federation of Para-Educators for publicly endorsing my candidacy and for putting their trust in me that I can make a difference. I also want to thank you, the readers, for allowing me to be on my “soap box.”  
If you want checks and balances in YOUR city, then please vote Row A. 

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