Though it was technically a debate, there did not seem to be much disagreement between Board of Education members James Plutte and Clara Sartori when they took to the stage Tuesday night at Candidates' Night hosted by the League of Women Voters of Darien. Though they are both running unopposed for re-election, they fielded questions submitted by audience members about such issues as cutting the school budget and teaching foreign languages in elementary school.
"It's important that any cutbacks we make not involve classroom instruction and individual learning," Sartori said. She explained some measures the board has taken to reduce spending, such as installing solar panels at Darien High School and Ox Ridge Elementary. "That's saved us money in electricity by using the sun. So that's something specific that we have done."
Plutte said, "It's important that we understand that the primary goal is academics. We did institute a $100 per student activity fee for students participating in any extracurricular activities."
Both board members agreed that teaching foreign languages at the elementary level would be a good idea but wondered whether young students could handle the additional academic load. "I think it's a wonderful idea. This is something the administration has been studying on and off for years," said Sartori. "It would work best if it could be embedded into the math, reading and social studies programs."
Plutte agreed. "I think it's 'when' rather than 'if,'" he said. "We want to be sure it will be implemented in such a way that it will not detract from teaching other subjects at an elementary level."
Sartori finished the debate by reminding the audience that it is important for the board to be united in its work. "The authority of the board exists in our action as a group. We are always mindful of the overarching philosophy that schools exist for the students," she said.
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