Stamford school board members clash over fair services

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STAMFORD — The biggest debate at a recent Stamford School Board meeting was over one word: fair.

This word appears three times in a new one-page policy titled “comparability of services” that was before the board. It was adopted by a vote of 5 to 3, member Dan Dauplaise not having voted because he was absent.

All three Republican lawmakers voted against the measure.

Ahead of the Sept. 28 meeting, Joshua Esses, board member and chairman of the Republican Town of Stamford committee, asked for a definition of “equitable.” A council legal adviser sent a description, which Esses read aloud.

“Equality means that each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities,” the definition reads. “Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to achieve an equal outcome. For example, equal distribution of resources means that each student receives $1. Equitable distribution of resources can mean that the most disadvantaged students receive allocations on a larger per capita basis than others to ensure equal results.

The definition also stated that “the concept of providing resources so that the equity described above is achieved requires an equitable allocation of resources to ensure equal results”.

Esses said he was opposed to using “equal results”.

“‘Equal results’ tell us nothing about whether a student today is better than he was yesterday or whether he will be better the next day,” he said.

He argued that prioritizing equity could have a negative effect on high achievers.

“If you have students at the top of the class, if you make them even stronger, it makes Stamford public schools more inequitable,” he said, adding that such an outcome would be “bad” according to the policy. .

Fellow Republican members Nicola Tarzia and Becky Hamman agreed.

Democratic member Ben Lee argued that fairness was needed at Stamford.

“The fundamental question we need to ask ourselves is: do we live in an inequitable society, and do we particularly live in a city that has an unequal distribution of resources and opportunities?” He asked. “And I would say we clearly do.”

He added: “There is a big difference between the opportunities children in North Stamford have compared to other parts of the city.”

Providing equitable opportunities, he argued, is not about putting students down, but about helping remove barriers to achievement for disadvantaged children.

Board Chairman Jackie Heftman, a Democrat, pointed out that the three Republicans serve on the board because of a Connecticut minority representation law that says no more than two-thirds of a board can be composed of members of the same party. Typically, Democratic candidates received more votes than their Republican counterparts in school board elections.

“If you really don’t believe in fairness, then there are three members of this board who shouldn’t be on this board because they sit on this board because of a fairness policy adopted by the state of Connecticut that requires representation to be given to both parties, not just those whom voters choose to elect,” she said.

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