Seven candidates running for four open seats on the Berlin Board of Education discussed their views on the high school renovation, pressure on student performance, all-day kindergarten and the importance of standardized testing during a forum at Berlin High School on Wednesday.
These were just a few of the issues that came in the form of reader submitted questions to Berlin Patch, the sponsor of the forum. But despite the variety of topics that were discussed — including curriculum geared toward testing and how the candidates hope to address challenges — many of the candidates gave answers that were most often in agreement.
One of the questions that Berlin Patch Editor Robert Mayer, the debate moderator, asked the candidates revolved around whether full-day kindergarten is simply a way for taxpayers to fund a free day care for some parents.
To this, nearly all of the candidates refuted, saying that while some parents may benefit from sending their children to school to be cared for, the main reason focused on making sure they are educated earlier.
“All research indicates the importance of early learning,” said candidate George Synnott, a former school principal.
One candidate, Thomas Niemiec, said there was a point to be made about the cost of all-day kindergarten. Niemiec did, however, say he appreciates all-day kindergarten as one of his children is enrolled right now.
Other question varied into areas such as curriculum, and the candidates' opinions on how much student development should play into that.
Gary Brochu, the current board president, replied that part of the curriculum is on the success of the whole child's experience while in school.
"We should be reinforcing good values and social skills," Brochu said.
Jeff Cugno, another board member, agreed that while schools are places of learning there is still a degree of student development that educators should take into consideration.
"Do I believe that they should also to the best they can during that period in all possible facets, including socially? Without a doubt," Cugno said. "Kids learn on an hourly basis."
One reader question centered on whether curriculum was geared more toward test taking. This was another issue the candidates varied on.
“Performance gets measured in some form or fashion, so there has to be a way to evaluate," Cugno said. "Students performance, teachers performance, administrators performance and by the way Board of Ed members’ performance, are all evaluated."
Cynthia Kobus said she understand there were some changes being made to accomodate testing, although she she didn't feel schools were teaching just to the test.
Check back with Berlin Patch starting next week for full candidate profiles beginning on Monday.