Shelton Board of Education candidate: Diana Meyer

Diana Meyer

Diana Meyer

Contributed photo

Party: Democrat

Are you an incumbent? (if yes, how many years in office): yes, 2

Current job: Portfolio Manager, Commercial Lending, Wells Fargo

Volunteering background, if any: Board of Directors of The Animal Center of Newtown, Stratford, Cat Project, Operation Christmas Child, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce Women in Networking, Sunset Run for the Warriors, New Haven Symphony Orchestra Young People’s Concert.

Education: Bachelor of Science, Psychology, Keene State College

If elected, what will be your primary focus — budget, curriculum, another topic?

We will be hiring a new finance director and I am hoping to use my background in finance to make this a smooth transition that will allow the BoE to have a more efficient budget process. This would include pinpointing what areas have the biggest need and getting the budget completed in a timelier manner. In addition, I would like to ensure that the bus contract that is expiring in 6/2022 be put out to bid with a comprehensive cost analysis. The current provider claims it is $1 million cheaper than the previous provider, this is not the case as the city-run transportation contract does not include propane fuel and bus aide salaries. These were services that were included by the prior provider. When like expenses are compared, the savings from the city run transportation company —compared to the prior provider — is less than $200,000. With new bids there must be a comparison of like services to fully understand how much the bus contract will truly cost the BoE. In addition, the quality of service needs to be assessed. We must look over the log of bus issues being kept at Central Office and see what the shortfalls are of the current provider. Poor service can lead to loss of classroom time for our students and losses to parents who must provide transportation or childcare when there are failures in service. There is also a burden on school staff that has had to sacrifice time from their normal duties to field phone calls from parents and contact parents when there is no bus service. Due to the many issues, the school created a new paid position of a bus liaison. These are all items that must be assessed in a cost benefit analysis.

What is your stance on the city-run bus company? A positive or negative for the school district, and what would your stance be when time to go back to bid/negotiate with the city?

School transportation has been a challenge all over the state. However, the challenges in Shelton started pre-COVID when the first day of school in September 2019 was delayed. This was due to the fact that the city run bus company could not confirm it had enough drivers and also failed to confirm drivers were certified with drug tests and background checks by DMV officials. In the spring of 2020, a Shelton Aldermen stated that he was aware of nine school districts with transportation issues. With approximately 170 school districts in the state, I would like to see Shelton in the 160 who are not having issues.

Taxpayers need to also be made aware of what a city run bus company would cost them. The school district pays a flat fee for transportation services and the city has failed to provide a breakdown of how much it costs them to run the bus company. Any costs above the flat fee the BoE is paying gets covered by the Shelton taxpayers. However taxpayers have no idea what it is costing them as during the budget meeting on 4/27/2021 the city refused to provide any itemized expense breakdowns. My stance is we need to open up the bidding process to other providers.

Your thoughts on the school budget — how it stands now for what is needed in the schools? How would you help to continue better relations between the BOE/mayor/ Aldermen?

With the various COVID grants the BoE has been able to complete long term projects including much needed technology upgrades to our buildings, Chromebooks for all students, and laptops for all teachers. This has taken much of the capital project burdens off the city and taxpayers. However, it is important that the city fund our day-to-day operational needs. In this year’s budget process, we were able to decrease our budget request from $2 million to $1.2 million due to the American Rescue Plan grant. Despite that we were only funded less than $610,000 by the city, which resulted in qualifying grant money to meet daily operational needs. When these grants run out, we will still need the city to fund day-to-day operations or we will be faced with more cuts to staff and basic services.

I am delighted that the current President of the Aldermen and the Superintendent have engaged in regular meetings. It has helped the President have a better understanding of the needs of the school. However, I think there should be at least 2-3 annual meetings between the BoE members and the entire Board of Aldermen. All of the Aldermen vote on the BoE budget and should have a better understanding of the needs of the school. While we did have one joint meeting during the 2021 budget season, it was a lot of information for the Aldermen to understand in one meeting. Spreading out a few meetings throughout the year would make it much easier for all parties involved. The current mayor has only met with a select few BoE members of his political party. Better relations could be achieved with a new mayor.

Reasons for running time I have lived in the city:

I have been a Shelton resident since 1999. I am running for reelection to help our new superintendent achieve his vision for Shelton schools. In addition, I feel my interaction with students, staff, and parents allows me to hear their issues and advocate for what they need.