An Interview with Board of Education Candidates

Klara Hoherchak, News Editor

The Round Table recently reached out via email to all 13 Board of Education candidates regarding their campaign for the upcoming election.  Four candidates responded – Andy George (Republican), Polly Rauh (Independent), David Mannis (Democrat), and Nicola Tarzia (Republican).  Their (unedited) responses to our questions were as follows:

The Round Table: How do you feel you can best work with the board to increase efficiency and productivity?

Andy George: “I have a collaborative style and am open to considering various points of view on almost all areas of concern. I believe the board should set clearly-defined goals, develop policies to support those goals and monitor the execution of the policies to ensure that the goals are being met.”

Polly Rauh: “The most important thing a board must have to effectively work together is open communication, respect and team approach for every member and the superintendent.  There needs to be a total commitment to the school system and an agreed upon long term strategic plan.  This plan becomes the focus and the measuring rod for board decision making.  It would be extremely helpful if the entire board participated in the Lighthouse  Training program which is designed to  advance knowledge and skills in decision making and collaboration to fulfill the vision for our district while respecting the opinions of all.”

David Mannis: “I would use the traditional managerial tools of close scrutiny, hard questioning and a willingness to trade off inefficient procedures and spending in favor of more productive ones.”

Nicola Tarzia: “The BOE members need to have more Committee Meetings to discuss, hash out and settle any differences of opinion,so that when they have their Public Meeting ALL Issues have been resolved prior. There is no way they can resolve all these problems and issues by just having one or two committee meetings a month. Also on productivity, with more of these meetings and schedules in place, Productivity will skyrocket.”

TRT: What makes you stand out compared to the other candidates?

AG: “My family has lived in Stamford for almost thirty years.  Our three children attended public schools here from kindergarten through high school.  I have been actively involved with the schools and other youth activities for over 15 years.  I have a financial background (MBA, CPA, CMA), which will be useful for the Board’s fiduciary responsibilities.  I have developed relationships with many teachers and administrators.  I have been to every school building.  I have attended many Board meetings and spoken publicly.”

PR: “I have dedicated my life to the education of children and adults, support of teachers  and the overall educational process, as a teacher, principal, district administrator and superintendent. My experience as Housing Authority commissioner, Board of Representatives’ member and 6 years on the Board of Education has given me a deep understanding of how to balance the needs and opportunities of our schools, students and staff with the what the community wants and can afford.

Responsible, rational and reasonable decision making is critical to “righting“ the SPS system.  My record speaks to this. I have and will continue to question “the establishment” when necessary, based on my knowledge, ethics and principles.”

DM: “In the debates my responses to questions have tended to be more strategic and more analytic than those of many of other candidates.  This would also be my approach to the work of the Board.”

NT:I have the Experience.I was elected twice to the BOE in (2000 and 2003).

My previous programs are still in place,which were Banning All Junk Food,locating the AITE Site,Wright Techs biggest supporter to stop the shut down,now its reopen and in 2013 I also encouraged the expansion of the Magnet school programs to help with the overcrowding and a few other programs and initiatives.

I have the experience and knowledge to help resolve our current major issues which are an Interim Superintendent, a Permanent Superintendent.My major expertise is in Construction,Facilities Management and Green Energy Savings.Check out my website below. So with that great experience I can quickly resolve our entire facilities issues.

I also have many future plans for proven cost savings and new proven programs which will enhance the district.

And I am a great Team leader and Team builder so I can help the BOE work and collaborate better.”

TRT: How will you improve communication with the Stamford Public Schools administration, faculty and students?

AG: “I believe greater outreach is needed. I would seek input from PTO’s and Governance Councils, as well as student governing bodies. I would encourage meetings among Board members, administrators and educators on a rotating basis.”
PR: “While there are numerous vehicles for communication and information, at present there often are few ‘takers’.  The board seems to hear only when there is a perceived problem.  The board needs to reach out to all constituents through closer contact and give-and-take opportunities.  Each board member could be a direct liaison with particular schools, making frequent visits and participation in that school’s events as well as serving as the communication link for that school. Board meetings should be rotated among the schools and informal opportunities to link with people right in the trenches.

In addition, I would hope to increase contact and input with students through a Student/Board council and perhaps a non-voting member on the board.”
DM: “The Board provides a lot of information to the public and to the schools but there seems to be too little effort to make that information either relevant or interesting.  I would like to see a Board member assigned to each school and to make part of that relationship an improvement in mutual communication specifically related to each school.

If it hasn’t been done recently, students or some group of them should be surveyed to learn what they want to hear more about and the Board should regularly make some of that information available.

I should add that school newspapers should be encouraged in their coverage of the Board and the school district.”


NT:Communication with Administrators,Faculty and Students.First of all the BOE should have some SEO sites (Search Engine Optimization) Facebook,Twitter and maybe a BOE Custom Site Website where ALL parties (teachers,students,administrators,etc.) can go to and on,to report any issue they want (bullying,facilities issues,school events,student and teacher behaviors, etc.)Also with more meetings the BOE can have the meetings in the school and it would be like a community outreach program.”

TRT: Are there any prominent changes you think are needed at Stamford High? How will you make these changes?

AG: “Having been very close to SHS for several years, I know that the changes in administrative leadership have affected the morale. I would seek to ensure stability and continuity in the administrative team. At the same time, I would encourage new programs and courses in collaboration with the many business and civic organizations in Stamford.”
PR: “This is the time for the school, staff, students and parents to coalesce and build even greater sense of community.  The components for outstanding high school are already present but need to be supported both within and by the Board and community.  I would hope that there would be an honest ‘audit’ of student needs and interests so that each student is prepared for success in the years beyond schooling.  Stamford High is like the story of the Wizard of Oz; you have all the ingredients – you just need to believe in yourselves and act accordingly.  Good luck!”
DM: “I’m sorry to say this is an overbroad question that I really don’t know how to answer properly.  I can offer, however, that Stamford High School and particularly its students have lived too long with the burden of embarrassing and negative scrutiny attached to increasing not-so-recent events there.  It’s wrong to allow the continued stigmatizing of any school, especially when the problem is in no way the fault of the students (nor, I should add, the current administration of the school).

It is disappointing that the Board has moved so slowly to give Stamford High School back its good reputation.”


NT:Changes at SHS. Yes the BOE can make sure that the older part and the newer part of the building on the facilities issues are working properly. All repairs are being done properly, whether its heating,clean up,maintenance,carpentry,electrical, etc. They need to be punch listed and completed. Also to keep a strong and consistent Principal and Administrators on board.

I can help by having the experience on the BOE and my specialty is in Construction and Facilities management.I would visit the school very often and address any and all issues.I am also very communicative with all parties.”


TRT: What qualities do you think are important for our next superintendent?  Do you believe that Dr. Hamilton possessed any/all of these characteristics?

AG: “Leadership, integrity and passion.  I would want the new superintendent to have experience in a large, diverse school system akin to Stamford’s.  I would also like the superintendent to have demonstrated his or her managerial abilities.”
PR:“Excellent, sincere communicator; open to ideas, critique and change.

Valuer of listening, input and perspectives of all ‘players’.

A person who has a vision for our district: how, what, when for the long term which will build on our successes and directly  address issues.  An experienced educator who has had success in achieving support and endorsement throughout a community.

A leader who has respect for all abilities and values the richness of diversity.

I believe that Dr. Hamilton was the wrong person with the wrong approach for the challrnges of our district.  Her service as interim superintendent enabled us to maintain the status quo for the short term.  However, I believe her experience, style and judgment were insufficient for the long term position of leader.”
DM: “The next Superintendent should be a forceful decision-maker, hard worker and good communicator.  He or she will need determination and patience, and a strong working relationship with the Board.

Inasmuch as Dr. Hamilton’s retirement is imminent, it is probably no longer worthwhile rehashing her performance unless it is to say that she worked long and hard over many years on behalf of our schools and deserves our appreciation for her service and commitment.”


NT:Tremendous Vision, Stamford needs and has the ability to become one of the Best school districts in the country and it needs to be a leader with new ideas,programs and initiatives.I have many great and new ideas myself so I would like for a new superintendent to share some of these ideas.Also great and open communication skills with transparency.We all need to know whats going on across the school district and the superintendent should be a big part of communicating that.

Dr. Hamilton has a great amount of experience, but I don’t think she is the best or strongest leader.”