Shelton Board of Education candidate: Patti Moonan

Patti Moonan

Patti Moonan

Contributed photo

Party: Democrat

Are you an incumbent? Yes, I am just completing my first two-year term on the BOE.

Current Job: I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist employed by the Town of North Haven’s Counseling Center.

Education: MA: Fairfield University BA: University at Albany

Volunteering: At Adam’s House, I serve on the Leadership Council and as a Friend in Grief (FIG) assisting in facilitating a middle school aged group in the Helping Hearts Heal Program; Shelton Democratic Town Committee: I am currently serving as the Secretary of the SDTC

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

If being on the Board of Education has taught me one thing, it has taught me that the Budget drives everything that has to do with education. Too many years of little to no increases in the Education budget has resulted in major cuts in staff, delays in building repair projects and technological advancements, as well as the establishment of pay to play for Shelton students who wish to participate in extracurricular activities. Until recently, and only because of the COVID grant money the Board of Education received, the purchase of new Curriculum was something that was always eliminated with hopes of being able to buy it another year. So I would say my primary focus will be on obtaining adequate funding for our schools.

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

Even prior to COVID, there have been serious issues with the way the City has run its’ bus company. In 2019, the start of school had to be delayed because the City failed to drug test its’ bus drivers. And although COVID has made it difficult to find enough qualified drivers, the City was struggling with this issue prior to COVID when they took over the transportation of Shelton students from Durham. The recent overcrowding on the buses, numerous canceled bus runs, buses arriving very late to school and the cancellation of sporting events on a given day due to the lack of drivers, speaks to the issue of a lack of safe and quality service that the City-run bus company has delivered over the past two plus years. The Board of Education has requested that the Central Office keep track of all bus complaints and service issues and these need to be reviewed and considered when looking at a bid from the City to obtain the contract for transportation for the next three years. Additionally, there are a few things I would need to consider if it comes down to the BOE being forced to negotiate with the City for Transportation. First, I would insist that the City put up a Performance Bond, as currently there is none. Secondly, I would also insist that the City pay the monies agreed upon for transportation to the BOE in full and not keep it to be able to transfer from one City account to another each month like it does now. Finally, I would have to consider whether the other bids include fuel and Bus Aids as part of the total cost, as under the current agreement with the City, the BOE is responsible for those costs.

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?

The Board of Education was extremely fortunate to receive COVID grant money and to have realized a large surplus due to Insurance claims being down due to COVID. These monies allowed the district to buy chrome books for students in K-12 and thus finally becoming a 1:1 district with technology. Our technology cabling, internet speed and networks were also upgraded with these monies. New Curriculum was purchased for the first time in many years. Buildings were upgraded, as the BOE no longer needed the City’s financial assistance in order to do the work on them. The BOE did request a $1.2 million increase to the Education budget in order that the contractual obligations to the employees could be covered, as the grant money could not be used for this. Unfortunately, either the BOA Chair was misinformed or he misunderstood, that the BOE did not provide an incentive for retirements and that the savings from the retirements for the BOE was already considered in the ask of $1.2 million (with the exception of $70,000 saved from two retirements that were announced after the budget was set) and the BOA only agreed to fund $700,000 plus of what was determined needed to fully fund the education budget for 2021-2022 school year. As salaries can not be funded from the surplus from the 2020-2021 school year, the Superintendent, Central Office Personnel and School Administrators purchased items that may have been bought under the new budget with the surplus monies. This resulted in no staff cuts for the first time in many years. The misunderstanding concerning the retirement monies will have repercussions on next years budget. Misunderstandings like these can be avoided by improving relations with the BOE/mayor/Aldermen. Joint meetings should be held at least quarterly with the entire BOA, BOE and the Mayor in order that the status of the school budget can be reviewed and all stake holders can be on the same page. Last budget season, the BOA and Mayor met with only a few Republican members of the BOE and there was only one joint meeting between the BOA and the BOE Finance Sub-Committee with other BOE members allowed to be in attendance.

Reasons for Running: One term on the Board of Education has afforded me an insight as to how this board runs, the issues it faces and what is possible to help improve education in Shelton. My diverse experience in law, finance and psychology all play a part in what I contribute to the Board. I believe I can use this experience to promote an appropriately and carefully funded school budget in order that the Students of Shelton can achieve and thrive both academically, socially and emotionally. I have lived in Shelton for seven years and I too enjoy the low taxes. I believe we can fund appropriately fund education and keep the taxes low. I am a mother of three adult children and a grandmother of two.