To the Editor:
Stamford’s Board of Representatives, as members duly elected by the citizens of Stamford, are given power in our city charter to fill vacancies in elected office. On Feb. 6, the Board of Representatives will choose between Jennienne Burke, endorsed by the Democratic Party, and Jackie Pioli, endorsed by the teacher’s union, to fill the vacancy left by Benjamin Lee’s resignation. The Board of Representatives witnessed Pioli’s knowledge and dedication to students and education, and many were impressed by her. Representative Summerville said it was one of the best interviews she’d seen in her 40+ years on the Board. Following a three-hour interview process, she won the Appointment Committee’s approval in a vote of 8-1 in her favor.
Ms. Pioli served on the Board of Education from 2018 to 2021. Her commitment to accountability and transparency didn’t sit well with her fellow Democratic party members, which resulted in her not being re-endorsed by the Democratic Party in 2021. In spite of a corrupt system that oppresses people who don’t vote with fellow Democrats, Ms. Pioli stood up for us, the parents and students who needed her the most. In spite of being thrown off the Democratic Party ballot line, Pioli decided to run as an “unaffiliated candidate” instead. It is no surprise that the top three candidates received between 12,476 and 13,240 votes that year, as most voters vote down party lines, which is a practice well-known to the DCC. There is also no surprise that unaffiliated candidates almost never win elections, not a surprise at all. This wasn’t a public referendum, but a message to Ms. Pioli from the DCC. The refusal to follow the partisan line made Jackie Pioli a target, and she wasn’t endorsed.
As a result of the board members’ behavior, our schools’ administrators and staff reported a hostile work environment, but let’s be clear, who was in charge at that moment? Mrs. Burke. Quite simply, if leadership fails, then everything falls apart, and Mrs. Burke’s failure to lead, coupled with her lack of personal accountability, resulted in the dysfunction of the board that cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in legal fees.
Despite this, Ms. Pioli was relentless, joining the Democratic Party once again in an attempt to carry on the work she started, and is putting herself out there to be appointed to fill this vacancy (which must be filled by a Democrat by statute, as she is), Thankfully, the Board of Representatives has been receptive to hearing about the real Jackie Pioli, the person who created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy, a policy to support LGBTQ+ students, who advocated for bilingual social workers and school psychologists, and who successfully advocated for reading specialists for grades 6-12. Ms. Pioli also successfully advocated for raising academic requirements for athletes to participate in school supports, and for tutors to help struggling athletes. She is a person who firmly believes that we shouldn’t lower the bar, but we should provide supports so that students can reach the bar.
As elected representatives have repeatedly emphasized the need to listen to the people, engage the people, and represent their interests, appointing Ms. Pioli means finally being heard and ending an inner circle DCC system that has been doing our city harm.
Regardless of your party affiliation, please ask your local representatives to keep in mind that you, the taxpayer, you the parent, you the voters, want Ms. Pioli as the candidate to represent us. We need elected officials to represent our interests and honor our children’s education.
Our will should be respected.
Written by not a member of the DCC, but one of the people who vote to elect city representatives.