“Stymying change”: Current student BOE member reflects on tenure as next year’s candidate prepares for the future.￼
Cassidy Arrington, Contributing Photographer
As the school year comes to an end, New Haven Public Schools is preparing for a turnover in its student BOE members.
On Monday night, Anthony Fiore, incumbent student Board of Education member for NHPS, told the board that elections for next year’s student members will be held between May 4 and May 6. Each school year, there are two student BOE seats up for election, both of which are nonvoting. This year, however, the district has been forced to postpone the election due to issues with sending out logistical information to students.
“Everything’s kind of in the air right now,” said Fiore. “And you know, I’ll tell you the truth that this happens every year. It happened to me. This happened with people before me. This deadline gets pushed up a lot because I’ve struggled to find students that are willing to do this and it’s also a struggle to communicate effectively with students.”
According to Fiore, the elections were originally scheduled for May 4 through May 6; however, the district was required to push the election. It is not yet clear when the election will be pushed to. He attributed this push to the fact that some district schools did not communicate election filing materials to students.
For Fiore, this problem is more of the same within New Haven Public Schools.
“Every system in place is meant to slow down any type of change,” Fiore said. “For example, a lot of students including myself want green or electric buses. It’s kind of being delayed by a bunch of different policies in place, a bunch of different outsourcing data companies and also, you know, research problems during this year.”
Fiore also pointed to problems in the district with access to clean water. According to Fiore, his high school, Wilbur Cross, has had numerous issues with the installation of water fountains and the district took almost the entire school year to remedy the issue.
Nonetheless, Fiore is still proud of the work he has done on the BOE, which has included launching initiatives where students could meet with school administrators and elected officials like Mayor Justin Elicker.
For students to run for the BOE’s student position, they must file their candidacy with the superintendent’s office. Their application must include 50 signatures from students at their high school and 50 signatures from students at other schools in the district.
Dave Cruz-Bustamente is one of the two current declared candidates for the position. Michelle Kelly-Baker, the district school climate coordinator who is in charge of the elections, did not respond to a question about who the other candidate is.
Cruz-Bustamante is a sophomore at Wilbur Cross High School, and they are currently involved with the Citywide Youth Coalition as well as Cross’s student council.
“I really appreciate building relationships with people and creating a space where we can co-create solutions and take care of each other,” said Cruz-Bustamante. “And I think people have gotten — especially politicians have gotten — very comfortable as moderates as centrists and like, have gotten really comfortable with just like, settling what the bare minimum for schools to function.”
Cruz-Bustamante told the News that their two main focuses for their campaign will be increasing accessibility and access to mental education and support for students.
Cruz-Bustamante hopes to dedicate their time as a student BOE member toward disability justice as well as increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms in the district. They also hope to better highlight social justice issues like the New Haven climate movement, which is pushing for the electrification of public school buses as well as more sustainable energy consumption.
Another issue important to Cruz-Bustamante is access to mental health and counseling services in the district. According to them, many students in the district are struggling with mental health, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Cruz-Bustamante pointed out that large portions of district funds are being used for School Resource Officers and security while schools don’t have adequate mental health support systems or nurses. They hope to address the issue during their year-long term.
New Haven Public Schools has about 18,000 students.