With Election Day around the corner, CEA President Kate Dias says, “We need to pay attention to municipal elections, because they are the closest and most impactful when it comes to your school and budget. Pay close attention to who’s running for your board of education. That’s where a lot of the decisions about what and how our students are taught get settled. Everyone looks at the major races, but it’s often local elections that determine what you’ll be teaching and what your school year will look like.” She adds, “This November 2, I hope you will join educators like me in …AND AT THE POLLS voting for candidates who support honesty and inclusion. We have to affirm our commitment to the values of academic integrity and honesty that have been the hallmarks of American education for decades. Working together, we can, and must, make a brighter tomorrow for us all.” Under the current wave of anti-education legislation around the United States, critical stories of racial injustice are being pushed out of

classrooms. Teachers are being intimidated or censored, and public education is under attack. Although statewide legislation and policies in Connecticut support culturally relevant, honest curriculum, battles at the local level can still pose a threat. Candidates

Educators are running in every corner of the state, including Branford, Cromwell, Hamden, Milford, Naugatuck,

New London, Norwich, Southington, Stratford, Vernon, West Hartford,

for local school boards wield great power over what is taught in their schools—and what is not. CEA spoke to several

Windsor, and Windsor Locks. Meet some of those teacher candidates below. To learn more about who’s running in your town, email CEA Political Engagement Coordinator Gus Melita at gusm@cea.org .

active and retired teachers running for seats on their local boards of education or town councils to hear why they are running and what they hope to accomplish.


thought possible,” she explains. “Teachers juggled parenting while teaching and engaged students remotely with creativity that awed parents. This school year, students love being in person, and I am so thankful we are all back together. There is a lot of work ahead, and together we will address the social emotional needs of everyone in our schools. We will follow science, wear masks, stay safe as possible, and do our part to get through this challenging time and meet the needs of all students.” Not everyone agrees on how schools should operate, however. And, Neseralla points out, not everyone who has the right to vote exercises that right. “Remember, you have a say about who will represent you. We are in a critical time, where our voices can be drowned out by a few loud voices. Candidates who represent your views or perspectives need your support so that future decisions fit with how you think children should be educated.” Bob Brown, Retired Teacher Southington Board of Education Candidate Retired social studies teacher Bob Brown, chair of the curriculum committee for Southington’s Board of Education, is running for his fourth term on the board. His 41 years as a classroom teacher, he says,

have played in U.S. history, in our institutions, laws, government, and social structures. We are teaching the facts. Sadly, the subject has become highly politicized, as have several education issues. We face anti-maskers and people who oppose teaching about racism at every board of education meeting. My belief is that every decision the board makes should be based on one guiding principle: what is best for our students and their education.” Brown adds, “If teachers don’t vote, they face the very real possibility that extremists who seek to politicize education decisions may become the elected majority, because their base will vote. These people very likely will then make decisions based on their political agenda that hinder teachers not only in how they teach but also in their working conditions, benefits, pay, safety, and education funding in general.” Brett Joly, North Haven Teacher Branford Board of Education Candidate “I have the greatest job in the world—I’m a teacher!” says Branford resident Brett Joly, who teaches foreign language and literature at North Haven Middle School. “I’m running for a six-year term on my town’s board of education because I was disappointed with our school system’s response to the COVID pandemic and felt ignored when I tried to express my ideas about how it could be improved. At one point, I realized that the only way that many people in town and I were going to be heard is if I threw my hat in the ring. “I know firsthand the importance

support for Branford teachers as they engage students in analyzing sources of information and thinking for themselves. He adds, “The front lines of the national debates are our boards of education. Any issue at the national level that you see on a major news network is playing out just down the street at the local board of education meeting. Please, don’t sit out the elections; make your voice heard. Democracy only works if people vote, and this election will be felt by everyone in town. Being a teacher, I plan to listen to the needs of all parties, and especially teachers, when important decisions have to be made.” Gary Peluchette, Retired Teacher Milford Board of Education Candidate “During my 35-year teaching career,” says former Bridgeport Education Association President Gary Peluchette, “I served as a building delegate, grievance chair, BEA leader, and NEA director. I retired in June of 2020 and wanted to do something in retirement that supported teachers and students. When I was approached to run for the Milford Board of Education, I felt that it was a chance to continue as an advocate for public education. Having been in the classroom gave me the skill set to truly understand what works in a school district and what doesn’t.” He adds, “Milford Public Schools have been very supportive about teaching historical facts, but the opposition in Milford is trying to derail the teaching of verified history. To all those in public education, I would stress that all elections are important—especially local elections, because they can impact your community the most.” Also spotlighted in this issue and running for office is retired teacher Lisa Thomas (page 16.)

Clare Taylor Neseralla, CREC STEM Curriculum Coach West Hartford Board of Education Candidate A CREC Discovery Academy teacher since 2015, Clare Neseralla previously taught in West Hartford, where she lives and where she’s running for a seat on the town’s board of education. “I want to bring my dedication to education back home and become more civically involved,” she says. “I know my experience in education, culturally relevant pedagogy, diversity and equity training, and LGBTQ initiatives will bring a valuable voice.” Neseralla is particularly interested in improving conditions for people of color, immigrants, and those with disabilities. “As a parent of a daughter with special needs,” she says, “I understand special education services as both a classroom teacher and as a parent. I believe in the importance of early learning and will advocate for increasing preK opportunities in our schools. By serving on the board of education I can work toward assuring West Hartford Public Schools continue to be a leader in quality education for all students, no matter their background, socioeconomic status, or ability.” Having recently completed facilitator training for conversations on race, she adds, “I am fortunate to work for and live in districts that don’t shy away from teaching about equity and diversity. Each district has developed equity and anti-racism statements that share where they stand, and all staff are asked to make a commitment to stand up to injustices. By listening, discussing, and looking critically at our nation’s history, we can understand the perspectives of others and avoid policies and practices that exclude and marginalize our students and colleagues.” A silver lining of the COVID pandemic, says Neseralla, is that the public really sees the importance of teachers. “We worked harder and accomplished more than we ever

provide a clear understanding of what teachers and students need, and serving as a union leader has helped him negotiate board contracts.

of recognizing and supporting every single person connected to the school system for it to be successful,” he says. “We need to take

“All students deserve a quality education, and I believe social and emotional learning is vital to the education process,” he says. “Students’ education must be prioritized over political considerations.” Having taught (and, in some cases, written curriculum for) several social studies classes, including world history, civics, Russian and Middle Eastern history, and American culture, Brown explains that there is a great deal of misinformation about what is taught in schools. “We absolutely should teach about the roles that race and racism

care of each other and have everyone at the table for our schools to thrive.” On the subject of teaching about issues of equity and racial justice, Joly says Branford residents generally recognize the need for students to become critical thinkers and lifelong learners, and he pledges continued

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