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In Hartford, 13 Candidates Vying For 4 School Board Seats

STEVEN GOODE

October 23, 2009

HARTFORD - On the surface it would seem that 13 candidates vying for four seats on the Hartford Board of Education would make for a pretty competitive race with lots of possibilities. But in Hartford, where the Democratic Party rules, that is not likely to be the case.

With three Democratic school board candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot Lori L. Hudson, Luis Rodriguez-Davila and Albert Barrueco and probably assured of taking three seats, the remaining candidates are left competing for the last one.

That leaves: Republican candidates Nyesha McCauley, Richard Barton and Michael J. Fryar; Working Families candidates Elizabeth Brad Noel, Robert Cotto Jr. and Sharon Patterson-Stallings; Parents Choice candidates Lillian Milly Arciniegas, Mary R. Storey and Cherylann Perry; and petitioning candidate Ines Duke Pegeas.

Noel is an incumbent who was not endorsed for another term by the Democratic town committee and Patterson-Stallings and Rodriguez-Davila are also incumbents.

The nine-member board of education includes five appointed members Mayor Eddie A. Perez appoints himself and four others.

Democratic Town Chairman Sean Arena said his party's slate brings diverse experience to the table, including Barrueco's law profession and bilingual education, Hudson's work with churches and having children in city schools and Rodriguez-Davila's term in office.

Working Families communications director Joe Dinkin said his party's slate has the experience to understand what it takes to allow students to succeed and the courage and commitment to speak up for needed changes.

Arciniegas, chairwoman of the Parents Choice slate, said she and her candidates offer the voters truthfulness, transparency and parental involvement.

Michael McGarry, chairman of the Republican town committee, said his slate has three of the best candidates he has ever run for the school board, but said he didn't expect them to be able to overcome a large fundraising gap between the Republicans and the Working Families Party.

"We really can't compete against union money," he said.

Regardless of which four candidates win seats, they will be embarking on a four-year term in office that is crucial to the district as it continues its reform efforts amid projected multimillion-dollar budget deficits, increased Sheff v. O'Neill requirements and decreased staffing levels.

The district, still among the lowest-performing in the state, has made progress, scoring the largest gain of any city school district in the state on the Connecticut Mastery Test for the second consecutive year and increasing its high school graduation rate from 29 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2009.

But district officials and board members have expressed concern that continued budget issues and staff reductions 250 jobs were lost in the last school year could bring the progress that students have made to a halt.

The school board will also have to deal with recent revelations of increased gang activity and a rapidly deteriorating relationship between Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski and the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

The public will have an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates about those issues and more Tuesday at a forum at the Hartford Public Library, 500 Main St., beginning with refreshments at 5:30 p.m.

James Starr, executive director of Achieve Hartford!, a local education foundation that monitors student achievement and works to support lasting school reform in the district, said Thursday that voter turnout in the upcoming election is crucial.

"There is no greater opportunity for the Hartford community to influence how reform is sustained than to get out and vote in this board of education election," Starr said.

Biographical information about the candidates and their answer to a campaign question can be read on The Courant's City Line blog.

Candidate profiles and their views can also be read at AchieveHartford.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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