NORWALK, Conn. – Artie Kassimis is a Republican running for re-election to the Norwalk Board of Education. Kassimis, minister of Norwalk’s Word Alive Bible Church, was appointed to his position when Erin Halsey (now Herring) resigned her post to become city clerk.
Kassimis agreed to answer a set of questions posed by NancyOnNorwalk to all BOE candidates to help the voters get to know the candidates and their positions.
NancyOnNorwalk: Why are you running for the Board of Ed?
AK: There are many reasons why I am running for the Board of Ed. The primary reason is to help create a school system that is far above any other in the state; a school system that will provide an equitable education to all students regardless of their backgrounds.
NoN: What are your qualifications?
AK: First and foremost, I am a proud parent of four children; two sons that have already been educated by our schools and two daughters that are currently enrolled in our schools.
I have a unique background of corporate experience and community service that has brought a sense of calm professionalism to the Board of Ed.
Since joining the Board of Ed 2½ years ago, there are many things that I have accomplished. I worked closely with our athletics department to create unique funding opportunities that preserved sports programs. I also introduced a driver’s education program in our high schools that many of our students have participated in.
As a member of the Policy Committee, I have worked well with the other members to write and pass strong bullying policies, safe social media policies and other important policies to help ensure the success of our students and staff.
As the Board of Ed Liaison on the school safety committee, my role has been to ensure all safety recommendations are fully implemented by our schools.
I have had the privilege of leading several missionary groups overseas and have seen first hand the importance of education. This past July, I went to Guatemala and built a house for a needy family. While there, I met the principal of Corallis public schools and was disturbed to see the lack of educational resources that he had available to him. We gave one of the students a pencil and a piece of paper and it was like hitting the Lotto!
The kid jumped for joy and was showing everyone what he could do with it. Now this may not be a qualification for the Norwalk Board of Ed, but the experience has given me a fresh perspective on the quality of education we provide and the importance of educating every single student in Norwalk.
NoN: What are your plans if you get elected?
AK: My plans are to continue to work with our new superintendent; I believe he has a great vision for our schools and look forward to seeing it come to pass.
We put together a great financial management team that has brought us out of a deficit.
• I will continue to pursue sound financial systems and accountability so that we get the best value for our taxpayers’ dollars.
• I will strengthen our community relationships and communication with the public.
• I will continue our enhancements of school security measures in cooperation with the city police and fire departments.
• I will raise the bar for everyone in the Norwalk Public Schools.
• I will work with our new IT director and adopt 21st century technologies.
AK: My priorities will be to work with our superintendent to raise the bar for our schools and ensure that every student receives an equitable education. Make sure we stay fiscally sound so that we can properly align our budget with the goals of our School system. Work closely with our city’s police and fire departments and ensure the all security measures are being followed.
NoN: A lot of people think the professional staff salaries are too high. Do you concur? If so, what can be done about that?
AK: As we all know, this has been a hot topic here in Norwalk with very contentious debates on both sides. I believe this situation requires common sense and zero political rancor.
There are a few questions that need to be answered first, like what’s best for our students, what can the taxpayers afford and what will it take to get the best teachers and staff in Norwalk? As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for” – sometimes you have to pay more to get more, but it must all be in the context of what you can afford.
NoN: Jack Chiaramonte said recently that he would be in favor of armed guards in the schools. What is your opinion on this topic?
AK: When I first heard of the horrific incident that took place in Sandy Hook I experienced a wide range of emotions, like many other parents did. Over the following weeks, many thoughts ran through my head as to how we could prevent a situation like this from happening. One of those thoughts was to have armed guards in our schools. Since that time, I have had the privilege of being the board’s liaison to the School Safety Committee and, after sitting down with the city’s Emergency Management Team (ie. Denis McCarthy and Michele DeLuca) and the city’s police department, I realized that there were other options available to us.
Our city has a great team of professionals that have put together a plan that will keep our schools (students, teachers and staff) safe without the use of armed guards. I am very confident in our police department’s and fire department’s ability to keep our schools safe and secure and support them wholeheartedly.
NoN: Do you support the transition to Common Core State Standards?
NoN: Are you in favor of education reform?
AK: I agree with the concept of educational reform. We have many great things going on in our schools, but, at the same time, there are aspects of it that need to be changed. Since my background is in Information Technology, I will give you an example related to it.
My children are learning in a very different environment than the one I learned in. We now live in a world of first-rate technology, and yet we are still issuing hardcover textbooks. I would like to see us move to iPads or Kindles replacing the heavy books, saving money and going green at the same time. It’s a way of reforming (improving) education using 21st century technology.
NoN: Is anyone in your family a teacher?
NoN: Work for the schools?