O’Connell and Joyner compete for a BOE seat
Yale Daily News
On Tuesday, New Haven citizens will vote for a representative on the New Haven Public School Education Council. Voters must select a candidate without seeing the two in conversation, as one refused to meet his opponent in debate.
The candidates on the ballots are Republican James O’Connell and incumbent Democrat Edward Joyner. In 2015, Joyner ran against O’Connell and won the District 1 seat. Currently, the Board of Education consists of Mayor Justin Elicker, four representatives appointed by Elicker, a student representative and two others chosen by the voters. This electoral cycle, according to the New Haven Republican Municipal Committee, O’Connell presents himself to put students first and to provide professionalism and accountability to the Board of Education. Joyner refused to engage with his opponent in person.
For the past 42 years, O’Connell has taught science at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, where he served as chair of the science department. O’Connell was also a paramedic for over 35 years, primarily in the New Haven and Meriden areas.
On Saturday, O’Connell spoke to the News about his experience and forward-looking policy.
âNew Haven was a city where there was only one party before I was born,â said O’Connell. âIf you don’t challenge someone, then they have no responsibility or incentive to run a campaign, and they automatically win. So this year, I decided to do a rematch with Dr Joyner, against whom I raced in 2015. â
O’Connell said his main advantage over Joyner is that he will provide an âoutside observerâ perspective, as he has never been administratively engaged with NHPS. He added that he will try to bring “some kind of cohesion” between the other board members, as he has noticed that some board decisions are decided by three to four votes.
O’Connell was frustrated that New Haven hasn’t tried to have a full face-to-face education over the past year at university, which he says can’t be replaced by online classes. Last fall, in-person learning was not available to most SNPS students. In spring 2021, more than half of students participated in blended learning, which included both distance and in-person learning. O’Connell said he would have tried to teach in person throughout the last school year, with the recommended immunizations, mandatory masks and a new ventilation system in school buildings to reduce the spread of the disease. COVID-19.
O’Connell said that if elected he will put in place an intensive remediation program in the core areas of language arts and math. He may consider extending the school day and organizing sessions on weekends or evenings. He noted that he is aware that this program can be expensive, but New Haven has received funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan, which he says can be used to cover expenses. .
âIn primary grades, if you can’t read, you’re doomed,â O’Connell said. “I would say get these kids as close to grade level as possible, ASAP.”
O’Connell also listed a perceived lack of supportive family members, a need to expand students’ access to technology, and problems with school meals as problems he would seek to resolve during his tenure. Asked about the district chronic absenteeism rate, he said he would try to make school “a desirable and happy place”.
O’Connell told The News he was offered the opportunity to participate in a New Haven Independent Forum public debate with Joyner this year, which they did six years ago. O’Connell said he agreed with the offer, but the offer was withdrawn.
O’Connell said he subsequently wrote a personal letter to Joyner asking him to reconsider his decision not to participate in the public forum debate, but he did not receive a response from the incumbent.
“I think it’s important that New Haven voters can hear the candidates discussing and that they can make up their own mind after that,” O’Connell said. He acknowledged that the Democratic Party has an overwhelming advantage in the city, Joyner is a “very qualified person” and that it would take “a miracle for anyone to [his] party to actually win on election day.
He added that he was disappointed that Joyner refused to participate in the debate. In a statement to the New Haven IndependentJoyner justified his decision by stating that O’Connell is a Republican who “appeared out of nowhere” and had no connection with the NHPS. Joyner clarified that if O’Connell had run as independent, he might have reconsidered his decision.
O’Connell responded to the statement in an interview with the News.
“No great party in the United States or Connecticut is perfect,” replied O’Connell. âWe all have problems with certain members of our party. And I’m not running against Donald Trump, I’m not running against the former Secretary of Education, I’m running against Dr. Joyner. I think voters deserve to hear from candidates.
O’Connell plans to drop off about 8,000 information brochures at various gates across town by tomorrow, weather permitting. On polling day, O’Connell will visit 15 polling stations throughout the day.
âI know I am facing an uphill battle,â said O’Connell. âBut I’ll be there. People tend to vote for a straight party. But I will hope for the best. And if it does well. I’d be happy. If it comes out badly, I’ll be happy to have participated.
Joyner is the titular representative on the Board of Education. He has been a teacher and assistant principal at James Hillhouse High School, principal of Jackie Robinson Middle School, assistant professor and administrator at Yale Child Study Center, and executive director of the School Development Program at Yale. He was first elected in 2015 and won another term in the district general elections in 2017.
The News made several attempts to contact Joyner and his colleagues for an interview. However, Joyner could not be reached for comment at the time of posting.
At the July 27 Democratic City convention at Betsy Ross Parish House on Kimberly Avenue, Joyner accepted the Democratic City’s unanimous approval for his re-election to the Education Council.
âI’ve had a long journey in life,â Joyner said at the convention. âI started out as a poor kid in a small town in North Carolinaâ¦ I certainly had the culture, love and encouragement that all children need to be successful.â
Joyner recalled that he had received mentorship from different communities along the way, including Jewish, Italian, Irish, queer and women’s communities. âIt means that it doesn’t matter your ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, whatever, that the Creator God created us all from the same source. All of God’s children conspired to create the person who stands before you today, âJoyner said.
During her tenure on the board, Joyner suggested to the board adopt a “healthy building certification” for all NHPS buildings, set up mentoring programs for college students, and improve school programs by âmixing skills and contentâ and taking a critical look at a variety of ethnic stories.
Connecticut law allows eligible residents to register to vote anytime on polling day, meaning those who aren’t already registered still have the option to do so on Tuesday. Same-day registration will take place at Town Hall, located at 165 Church Street.