When you grow up somewhere, that place becomes a part of you. You can move halfway across the world, but you will still make comparisons to your childhood home. I was blessed to have grown up in Ridgefield, where I attended both Veterans Park Elementary and East Ridge Middle School. I remember Ridgefield as a wonderful place to be as a child. That is the reason my wife and I chose to move back 14 years ago to start our own family. Now that we have three kids in the school system, it is time to give back to the community that has given me so much. Times have changed, but I wouldn’t want my family anywhere else. I have worked in medical device sales for almost twenty years, and I have had to consider relocation more than a few times. I declined in every case. My place is in Ridgefield; as a husband, as a father, as a church member, as a coach, as a member of the Ridgefield Prevention Council, and as a citizen.
It is often easier to focus on all that is wrong with a community, rather than all that is right. I think there are a lot of great things going on in our town. This does not mean we shouldn’t always strive to do better, however. That is why I am throwing my hat into the ring for the Board of Education this election season. I want to make sure that our kids continue to come first, and that we are vigilant enough in our planning to ensure the next generation of Ridgefielders is handed an even better set of circumstances. It is my firm belief that the key to that type of success lies in accountability, civility, and action.
As most would probably agree, we are an incredibly generous town. The size of our budget continues to validate that fact. Generosity without accountability, however, is a recipe for disaster. We need to account for every expenditure in a clear and concise manner. Not because we want to take the opportunity away, but because we want to allocate our resources in the most sensible way possible. When done correctly, that type of approach can lead to more opportunity and less inefficiency. This means looking at current expenditure levels and taking the time to look at how these spending levels will affect the future. It is nice to take care of the short-term, but it is irresponsible not to take long-term expenditures and forecasting into account. A budget is not an idea that should be viewed as a once a year battle. It should be looked at in terms of effectiveness now and in the future. This includes the effect on our teachers, administration, buildings, technology, and everything else that makes up our phenomenal schools. We owe that much to all who worry about the ever-increasing costs in our district. Costs that are seemingly outpacing the needs of many of our kids.
Our teaching professionals and infrastructure play a key role in making sure our students reach their highest potential. The Board of Education and the citizens of Ridgefield also must accept that mantel of responsibility themselves. We will not get anything done if we continue the current pattern of discourse. I accept we have differing opinions, and passionate ones, across all topics in our community. Refusing to listen to each other, or worse yet yelling at each other, is going to get us nowhere. If we allow ourselves to continue down that lonely road, we will only be showing our kids that example to take forward in their own lives. I do not think that is acceptable. With that said, I will do all that I can to ensure those who do not feel heard have an outlet. That means beginning the process of setting up smaller, stakeholder specific, group meetings where listening and open discussion can take place. I cannot make decisions without trying to hear all sides. I truly believe when people feel heard, the ability to find viable solutions only increases.
One of my earliest mentors told me that words without action are meaningless. I pledge to do all that I can to move your ideas for a better district forward. If an idea has merit, a plan, and a cost projection that makes sense, we need to look at it. That may not be a popular thing to say, but it is a truth we need to accept. I have spent a career in business working with all different types of people, from all over the globe. I have not always agreed with all of the opinions I have been given, but in each case, I was able to find either a middle ground we could both stand on or I did the honorable thing by simply explaining why we could not move forward. I respect solutions, even if they are not mine. The Board of Education and our children are much bigger than I am. Not the other way around.
I respectfully ask for your vote on September 10th in the Republican primary.
- Darrin McGuire, Ridgefield BOE Candidate