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Fairfield Candidates Q&A: Jessica Gerber

FAIRFIELD, Conn. ? To help our readers prepare for Election Day, The Daily Fairfield sent five questions to each of the candidates on the November ballot. The following response is from Jessica Gerber, a Democrat running for the Board of Education.

Why should people vote for you?

I have made an enormous commitment to gain an understanding of the issues facing our town’s schools. It is a passion of mine, one which I believe I have proven myself to be very dedicated to. As a PTA representative to the Board of Ed since 2007, I have attended nearly every BoE meeting and been a member of subcommittees dealing with facilities and redistricting. I have spent extensive time on my own researching school issues – talking to past and present board members; people who grew up in Fairfield and attended Fairfield public schools; people who taught or teach in Fairfield. I have gained a wealth of information and understanding that will allow me to start right in as an effective Board member. I am an independent thinker who will not put personal interest in front of what I feel are the best choices and decisions for our schools. Any vote I would cast as a Board of Education member would be carefully thought out, using all the facts and information available to me.

What are the biggest issues facing Fairfield’s Schools?

The biggest issues relate to how to balance the economy and our town budget on the one hand, and our growing student population (that will be facing increasing global competition) on the other. We need to make sure that none of our residents are forced from Fairfield because they can no longer afford it, but we also need to keep our school system strong. As a parent, homeowner and taxpayer I understand both sides of this situation and will actively seek out the best, most fiscally responsible ways to keep our schools on the right track.

Is Fairfield’s education system going in the right direction?  What has your opponent done wrong while in office?

I believe that Fairfield has, for the most part, gone in the right direction educationally, but there’s room for progress. For example, Dr. David Title, our new Superintendent of Schools, has initiated a new elementary staffing model that will help with early intervention for our youngest students, thus better ensuring achievement for our middle and high school students.

The Board of Education can substantially improve the way it manages communication – within the Board, between the Board and other town bodies, and between the Board and the people of Fairfield. My background in Public Relations will be an asset in fostering a better, more open exchange of ideas. I am the type of person who thrives on sharing my knowledge about school issues with those who have been less involved with the schools, and also thrives on listening to those with knowledge that I don’t possess.

What would you do to involve your constituents in your decision making process?

It is important that everyone in Fairfield feels they have an opportunity to weigh in on the school budget – it is the largest part of our town’s budget and impacts us all, including those without children in school. I would try to foster better, two-way communication between the Board and the general public – to generate ideas, thoughts and suggestions that could help build more trust and a stronger, more positive relationship that would benefit our town. It is important to foster this involvement consistently; too often communication happens only as a reaction to a major event, such as a proposed redistricting or the budget. Constant communication and feedback will improve the system as a whole.

How do you plan to improve your Board’s relationship with other town bodies, especially when it comes to financial issues?

Improved communication plays an integral role in enhancing the relationship between the Board of Education and the other town bodies. Enhanced relationships with the other town bodies can dramatically improve the system. It is important to openly and consistently inform other town bodies about important issues well before they become urgent matters requiring a decision. It is also important to be informed about the issues facing the other town bodies. The Board of Education must provide as many supporting materials as possible to the other town bodies to facilitate a smooth decision-making process. Reaching out to Board of Selectman, Board of Finance and RTM members early in the budget process and asking them what specific information they need has the potential to build more trust and efficacy when the Board of Ed budget reaches their hands.

Find all of our candidates Q&As here.

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