Greenwich Board of Ed Candidate Weighs in on Public Schools


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To the Editor:

Public education is the foundation of our nation and our town. Good public schools allow children to grow and learn, becoming productive citizens who contribute to society. I have four children and have spent 11 years as a Greenwich Public School parent, with another 9 years to go. I am running for the Board of Education this November because I am deeply grateful for the excellent education my children have enjoyed, and I want to ensure that future generations of students in Greenwich have the same opportunity.

While the quality of education our students receive is excellent, the condition of the buildings in which they learn is not. Our students, their families, teachers and administrators need an advocate who prioritizes intentional investment in our schools that will make them a safe and enriching environment today, and for generations to come.

The Republican-controlled Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) has refused to fund critically important projects over many years. It has thrown up bureaucratic hurdles and used arcane processes to thwart progress, all at the expense of our school children, who are now being educated in buildings that are falling apart in dramatic and dangerous ways. Central Middle School was condemned last year (and temporarily reopened after stop-gap repairs). Old Greenwich School is in violation of a Consent Decree from the Office of Civil Rights and has storm water drainage issues that create an unsafe educational environment which disrupts learning for students. While the majority party on the BET continues to obstruct efforts to make critical repairs and begin new construction in either building the schools become even more dilapidated and dangerous. Many of our schools are not ADA compliant; decades after the passage of the American with Disabilities Act children with disabilities in Greenwich are unable to attend their local elementary schools.  Morally, these decisions are indefensible, putting children at risk on a daily basis, and legally, these decisions create unnecessary liability for the Town with the potential for serious negative financial consequences. 

Maintaining our schools is intrinsic to maintaining the quality of life in our town. More than 75% of students in Greenwich attend public school; many families move here, as we did, for the schools. As the school facilities deteriorate, home values decline. If schools fail in dangerous ways, and children or faculty, or staff are injured, the Town will incur major financial losses. The lack of investment in our schools hurts the whole town and puts every homeowner’s investment in jeopardy.

Professionally, I am a lawyer and work as a mediator focusing on family and small business conflicts. Earlier in my career I worked in economic development, consulting municipalities around the country. As a mediator my job is to work with people to find resolutions when faced with difficult issues. I am committed to working with all members of the Board of Education and Town government to collaboratively develop solutions to the difficult problems our schools face. As a volunteer I have served as a room parent and team parent for my children’s classes and sports teams, and I am the treasurer of my lane association. I have been on the board of the Billion Oyster Project for 15 years. I also serve on the Chairman’s Council of the New York Restoration Project. My professional and volunteer activities have prepared me to work with all members of our community as an advocate for our schools. 

In order to continue Greenwich’s tradition of educational excellence, we must repair and improve our school buildings and continue to provide a positive work environment for our teachers and staff so that they, in turn, can provide the best educational experience for our students. That means focusing on local issues in Greenwich, not national politics. Our schools’ physical plants are in crisis, that should be our focus; becoming embroiled in national culture wars is a distraction we cannot afford when our children’s physical safety and education is at stake. 

The quality of our everyday lives is greatly impacted by the choices that are made by the local government. Post-pandemic Greenwich has enjoyed an influx of new families eager to enjoy all that Greenwich has to offer. Home values have soared and enrollment in the public schools is expected to increase, with 100 more kindergarteners than expected starting in public school this year.. The sidewalks are full of young families with toddlers in strollers. In many ways Greenwich is enjoying a renaissance. New businesses seem to open every day in Old Greenwich and along Greenwich Avenue. Our schools attract new families and are a critical reason Greenwich is a desirable place to live. 

Local elections are more important than ever. I hope I can count on your vote on November 7. 

Sophie Koven
Riverside, CT