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Letter to the Editor: BOE Candidate Urges Strong Support for Public Education

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. We welcome supporting or opposing views on any published item. Received August 28, 2023.

“I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” Whitney Houston

As I plan to run for Board of Education in Haddam I am yet again reminded of Whitney’s lyric that has always summarized how I feel as a teacher, as a school psychologist, as a parent, and as a proponent of public schools as the cornerstones of our communities.

Throughout the history of public education in the U.S., our public schools have filled multiple roles within our communities. This stems from why public schools came into being and how they have evolved.

Our Founding Fathers felt that the success of our American democracy would depend on the “competency of its citizens.” They felt that in order to keep our democracy going we must have an educated population that would understand political and social issues and would participate in civic life. Character and virtue were also considered essential to good citizenship, and education was seen as the way to accomplish this.

In the 1830’s, Horace Mann, a Massachusetts legislator, and secretary of that state’s Board of Education, began his push to make education universally available through public schools. These schools would be open to all children, free of charge, and funded by the state. Mann, and others who supported these so-called “common schools,” felt that if we invested in this type of “public” education, the whole nation would benefit from our children developing into literate, moral, and productive citizens.

Advocates for public, universal education have seen this system as a way to eliminate poverty, crime, and other social problems. Many early leaders argued that the investment in public education and public schools would be a far lesser expense than dealing with the costs that would arise from not having a well-educated population.

In many areas of our country, communities continue to struggle with ensuring that a high-quality education is accessible for ALL students. However, the reasons why public schools were created remain the same, and just as urgent as ever: preparing people for jobs and citizenship, unifying a diverse population, and promoting equity, among others. Public schools set the tone for what our future will be!

Many years ago, when I started working in Regional School District 17, the Superintendent at the time would pick a theme, or a catchphrase, for the school year and create banners for each building. One of my first years, the signs read: “From Good to Great.” Shouldn’t this always be the goal? Constant improvement and growth with the ultimate goal of always “teaching them well and letting them lead the way.”

If we are good, we can be better, but there should always be self-reflection and areas targeted to improve. It is important to have the input of all individuals, including our young adults and recent graduates, in order to reach these goals and move the system forward. Isn’t that what the Founding Fathers initially wanted, to create well-educated individuals who could continue to move us forward and sustain our democracy?

As we move forward this campaign season I am looking forward to hearing from all corners of our community about what is important to you, what your experiences with public education have been, and what you see our goals to be as we move forward.

I also look forward to sharing with you my beliefs regarding the mental health crisis we face in this country, and how that impacts our schools, as well as my thoughts regarding substance abuse among our middle and high school students. I am looking forward to getting to work on the Board of Education to represent the town of Haddam and, most important, the students of Haddam. With our teamwork these students will graduate from this great district and be ready to “lead the way.”

Heather Pach, Haddam

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