Board of Education Process a ‘Travesty of Democracy’


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To the Editor:

The process that the Board of Representatives followed to fill the empty Board of Education seat was an absolute travesty of democracy.  At no point did citizens have any opportunity to comment publicly, They did not adhere to the will of the voter, they were unduly influenced/hoodwinked by a vocal minority and a teachers union who made no effort to evaluate all candidates or actually poll their members before an endorsement was made. 

It is obvious that the Board of Representative’s process is broken. It has been proven to be biased, skewed and absolutely not transparent to the public.  The fact that there was never a public hearing is unbelievable and quite a sad statement about those claiming to represent us. There weren’t any formal nominees at the time of the January meeting so there was no opportunity for the public to support any candidate.  Last night, the public was prevented from speaking until after the  vote, but what is the point of a public statement if we the public cannot speak about an issue prior to being voted upon?  Heaven forbid someone from the public might actually say something that made someone on the board reconsider their position. Or maybe the vote should have happened in March giving the representatives time to digest and think about each of the candidates instead of rushing through the nomination process. 

There is a process and a precedent that should be followed which again the Board of Representatives chose to ignore in order to fulfill this vacancy.  As the replacement candidate has to be a Democrat, the Democratic City Committee met with multiple candidates and overwhelmingly nominated one candidate.  The DCC is made up of people who were elected to represent the citizens of Stamford. The historical precedent is that the Board of Representatives would accept this nominated candidate and then appoint them to the vacant seat without controversy.  However, the members of the appointments committee chose to nominate another individual then spent 3 hours interviewing her for which she was clearly coached to answer ahead of time. 

The candidate nominated by the education committee also has a very vocal minority who support her. This group has a Facebook page that is notorious for bullying and kicking out anyone who shares an opposing viewpoint. They do not speak for the majority of parents and citizens of Stamford, repeatedly struggling to get 500 signatures when they create online petitions.  

Let me illustrate how small of a group this really is:  

  • in a city of ~130k, 500 people represent 00.3% of the entire population. 
  • In a school district with ~17k students and if we assume 1.5 parents per student (25k) than that same 500 represents approximately 2% of the parent population

This group, in conjunction with the teachers union have been spamming the Board of Representatives with emails and phone calls in support of the alternative candidate, giving the impression they are being flooded by concerned citizens, when in fact it was simply a successful marketing campaign which a majority of representatives bought hook, line and sinker

Speaking of the teachers union, the Stamford Educators Associate (SEA) has been pulling plenty of shenanigans during this vacancy process.  The SEA executive committee unilaterally decided to endorse a single candidate, before any other candidates had even decided to come forward, and then refused to even interview any other candidates including the one ultimately nominated by the DCC.  The SEA executive committee also failed to poll their own members. There are plenty of teachers who were appalled by this action, regardless of who they supported. The union is supposed to represent their members and it begs the question of how they can endorse a candidate without the input of their members.  Once again this is a small minority claiming to represent what is best for the majority.  This process smells like month old fish.

Members of the Board of Representatives also said they were overwhelmed by an outpouring of support by teachers, which is not surprising considering the SEA executive committee spammed members of their union and other local unions with a prefilled form that would automatically submit a letter to the board of representatives in support of the alternative candidate.  In my world, that is good marketing with a good response. 

This begs the question of what percentage of teachers actually reached out via this method?  I am guessing this has skewed the perception of what teachers really want and led many members of the Board of Representatives to believe the alternative candidate had more teacher support than it actually did.  Some teachers wrote to support the mainstream candidate or oppose the alternative candidate, but any student of marketing will tell you it is much easier to participate when someone makes it easy for you, and that is exactly what the SEA did for a subset of its members who agreed with the executive committee.  The rest of the members had to fend for themselves, and had no formal way to wager a complaint with the union or have an alternative mechanism to express any different opinion other than that of the SEA executive committee. 

In the end, none of this matters since a rebel group of representatives did as they saw fit based upon their own preconceived perceptions and opinions, disregarding the actual 2021 vote totals, the vote of the DCC, and ultimately the will of the people.  After witnessing this meeting and the incoherent comments of many of our representatives, I believe their decision stinks to high heaven and I’m hoping their decision doesn’t wind up costing the taxpayers more money in lawsuits revolving around hostile work environments.  Time will tell. 

Jeff Herz
Stamford, CT