Six candidates are competing for three open seats on the Westerly School Committee | Daily news reports

WESTERN — School board members have faced at times turbulence during session discussions in recent years, and as the current term draws to a close, voters will be tasked with determining which of several new faces is best suited to fill a seat at the table.

Even if voters plant their support behind Democrat Michael Ober, the only incumbent seeking re-election this year, the congregation will still be tasked with selecting from five other candidates from across the political spectrum to serve on the seven-member panel for the upcoming term to join There are three seats up for election in 2022, all of which will serve four-year terms.

Candidates in the November 8 election include Democrats Leslie Dunn and Angela Goethals, who are running alongside Ober with the support of the Westerly Democratic Town Committee; Republican Lori Wycall; and unaffiliated candidates Timothy Killam, a former member of the board, and Seth Logan.

Leslie S Dunn

Dunn, a 30-year-old local activist and spa director, has been a vocal advocate for identifying and improving educational equality in Western schools in recent years. She credited her parents for her motivation to serve the community and said they inspired her to run for office.

If she had the opportunity to serve on the school committee, Dunn said her focus would be on investing efficiently in school infrastructure and better identifying and addressing the individual needs of Westerly’s students.

“Our school community is made up of students from different cultures and ethnic groups with different abilities and backgrounds,” Dunn said in an email. “By using tools like equity reviews, we can identify growth opportunities, empower resources, review policies, and implement best practices to ensure every student in our system has access to the appropriate tools and pathways to become successful individuals.”

A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in sports, entertainment and events management, Dunn said she was fortunate to receive a valuable education in Western schools. She said during candidate forums earlier this month that as a member of the minority community, she also knows firsthand that more can be done to address inequality in the city’s school district. Promoting diversity also requires that the district take steps to address enrollment and student retention issues.

“Investing in our schools through building projects, remodeling and upgrading is vital to show current students/families that their learning environment is a priority,” she said. “There is also a tremendous opportunity to support existing programs and expand offerings to meet the needs of more students and encourage them to stay in the district.”

Angela B Goethals

For the 45-year-old actress, audiobook narrator, creative director and mother of two with her husband Russell Soder, 17, Goethals said it was her children and her ability to volunteer her time that prompted her to get up and seek a role on the school board.

“What better way to honor them than to be part of a positive change and bring progress to Western schools?” she said Wednesday. “I want to show them that you can stand up, face challenges and be part of the solution.”

Goethals said that one of her top priorities, if elected, would be to improve mental health assessment, response and services within the school district, a need she says has grown in recent years due to the pandemic and economic Uncertainty has increased exponentially and a host of other factors. The district’s response would require numerous efforts, she said, including seeking to improve communications, strengthen community partnerships, and expand services and access to creative opportunities such as arts and music programs.

“The sockets are essential for mental health, emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning,” she said. “I truly believe that art can help identify those who are struggling with mental illness or trauma and it offers a great therapeutic healing option.”

She said that as a member she will continue to focus on ensuring all students feel safe and welcome and that all schools provide an inclusive learning environment.

Timothy C Killam

The father of two active Westerly students and a Westerly High graduate, Killam is a former school committee member who wants to return to the board. The 40-year-old Operations Manager of Dockside Electronics has lived in the area most of his life, having graduated from Stonington High School.

In response to the committee, Killam said in an email that he would work to improve the support services available for the district’s special education programs, including continuing to implement policies to improve mental health awareness and response, as well as work on it to work to make school safety improvements necessary.

“The bottom line is that we can always improve school safety. I believe we need safety officers in all of our school buildings, not just middle school and high school, we need to have that position in all of our schools in the district,” he said, campaigning for his support for approving elementary school safety apses during his previous tenure .

Regarding special education, Killam said that “special education encompasses so many different facets of a student’s school career, including mental, physical, and behavioral health,” and that this special education is essential in preparing students for life outside of Westerly High School.

Seth M Logan

A newcomer to politics and a first-time candidate, Logan had initially gotten involved in schools as a parent and began attending school board meetings after finding questionable materials in his daughter’s elementary school classroom. It was his experience of those meetings and working with administration – he said he felt unheard and unwanted – that convinced him it was time to seek change.

Logan is the owner of SLogan Industries, a successful local accident repair business, but also has training and experience in addiction treatment, developmental, adolescent, behavioral and clinical psychology. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

If elected, Logan said he will remain focused on addressing issues he said disrupt student learning, compromise student privacy and move away from the common sense and basic education that the students need.

“My main priority would be the overall mental health and well-being of our students and staff. I believe this topic should be at the top of every parent’s list now,” he said. “I would push to encourage proper nutrition, overall fitness, time and stress management, and I would work to encourage more social interaction and expand music, arts and commerce programs. The goal is to build a culture based on expectation of success and not based on fear of failure.”

Logan said he will also try to bring discipline and structure back into the classroom and he would support the establishment of a school resource officer in each school building, as well as the integration of officers to be more involved in extracurricular activities.

Michael W Ober

Ober is the sole incumbent in a crowded race and hopes his record and contributions over the past term will play a role in his re-election.

The 56-year-old, who works as a permissions services specialist for the Connecticut Department of Social Services, served on the school committee for nine years and said he would use that experience to guide the city through the elementary school construction project, if approved — or to come up with a maintenance plan , if it should fail.

“In the future, the construction project must have top priority. Either it passes, in which case we have to get down to business and focus on the details, or it doesn’t and we have to determine the best maintenance plan to at least meet the minimum requirements,” Ober said.

In the coming term, he said, council members must also review the outcome of the ongoing equity review and take action, work to further develop a sustainable school district budget, and continue to address the growing student mental health and educational needs driven by the affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The school district’s responsibility has only grown as it has dealt with COVID over the past two years and its impact on learning, physical and mental health,” he said. “We need people who have experience balancing the diverse needs of the county and the city’s ability to pay.”

Lori E Wycall

When her daughter was a second grade student at Dunn’s Corners School nearly seven years ago, Wycall still recalls how she felt as she worked with other parents to address concerns and unite the community. It was one of her first volunteer experiences at the school, and after remaining active as a member of various parent-teacher organizations in the district, she said she was ready to take the leap to serve the entire district.

Wycall’s children are older now and don’t need supervision anymore, she said, giving her the time to devote a lot of time to advocating for students. After observing meetings and reviewing documents and test scores over the past few years, she said the district needs a “back to basics and transparent curriculum.”

To do this, she said, school board members must commit to open communication with parents to constructively hear concerns and implement practical solutions to improve education and the school climate.

“Western students are only 34% proficient in ELA (English and Language Arts) and only 17% proficient in math. That’s unacceptable,” she said. “For our students’ education to produce more effective results, the curriculum must focus on reading, writing, math, science, languages ​​and the arts.”

If elected, Wycall said, she would also push back non-academic state and federal mandates, work to improve and support parental rights and participation, and increase public access to information.


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