DARIEN, Conn. As a parent and a member of the Representative Town Meeting's Finance and Budget Committee, Michael Anton Harman has seen the Board of Education 's budget-approval process. He now is running uncontested for an open seat on the board and is hoping to help Darien schools get the most out of its funding.
"My reason to pursue this seat has been an interest in trying to help on the special education side," Harman said. Special education has faced problems in the past couple of years, with unfunded mandates and legal problems forcing the department to go back to the town for more money.
"We need to maintain costs and find ways to maximize efficiency," he said. "If we don't watch out, special education will end up drowning out the general education."
Harman has served on the Council of Darien School Parents as a budget representative from Tokeneke Elementary. He wants to help control the school board's spending so it has money for other projects, such as foreign languages .
"I'd like to help implement the foreign language program in our elementary schools," he said. Harman also said he understands the importance of standardized testing because it allows for comparisons among school systems, but he doesn't think it should be the sole focus of schools.
"Sometimes kids are looked at more as Excel spreadsheets than as students. Standardized testing doesn't always provide a full picture."
Harman supports technology in the classroom but says it can be difficult to navigate the rapid changes. He also believes that technology is not a stand-in for a good teacher.
The budget for Darien schools will not rapidly expand, Harman said. And he knows that reimbursements from the state are low and much of the Board of Education's budget is devoted to fixed costs. But he believes he has the experience and insight to help the school system keep spending down and get the most bang for its buck.