So, my expectation was that hundreds of parents, teachers, students, residents and taxpayers would show up last night at Middletown High School to hear candidates for the Board of Education talk about the ways in which they would serve the public and the schools.
Unfortunately, there were so few attendees that I was able to do a head count. Sixty-six. That's right, sixty-six residents (out of 46,000) interested enough in the future of our schools to attend a forum with potential members of the BOE. Those attending included the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, three Republican candidates for the Common Council, a school principal, two current members of the BOE, and several students.
What's worse, is that out of the eight candidates running, only four attended. The other four were absent due to illness (Republican Brian Kaskel is diagnosed with pneumonia) and a "family obligation."
What voters missed was an engaging discussion by candidates Sheila Daniels (R), Franca Biales (D), Richard Kagan (D), and Vinnie Loffredo (D), on topics as diverse as class size, school funding, state mandates, breakfast in the classroom, education reform and the relationship between the BOE, residents, parents and teachers.
Fortunately the meeting was videotaped for broadcast on public access. Still, it leaves me puzzled about the true concern in our community for education at a time when our public schools are stressed by stringent budgets and mandated reforms.
I hope the turnout at this forum is not an indication of the eventual turnout for the election on November 5.
Ed McKeon is a current member of the Board of Education.