The Grade

Education in Stamford

Burgess: I’m not finished


Dolores Burgess, the Democratic newcomer who unsuccessfully vied for a seat on the Board of Education this year, says that Tuesday’s outcome will not dissuade her from throwing her hat in the ring again next year.

“When I start a project, I see it through,” Burgess said Thursday afternoon.

Burgess, who ran for elected office for her first time this year, suffered an Al Gore-esque defeat this week: While she earned more votes than other candidates who were named to office, state law kept her from gaining a seat on the board.

Burgess earned a total of 22,465 voted in the election, just 622 votes shy of top vote-getter and fellow Democrat Polly Rauh. But despite blowing all the Republicans out of the water (top Republican vote-getter Jerry Pia earned 18,814 votes while Lorraine Olson earned 17,118, and Jonathan Hoch earned 16,173), incumbents Pia and Olson will keep their seats on the board, due to a state law that mandates no more than two-thirds of an elected board be made of members from the same party. Had Burgess been elected, she would have been the seventh Democrat on the Board.

This isn’t the first time this law has kept a popular-vote winner from the board; three years ago, Democrat Bob King, who was defending his seat on the board, out-earned Republican John Leydon on the ballot, but Leydon was added to the school board.

“It happened to Bob King, and then it happened to me. And this ‘minority’ rule has kept both of us off the board, and kept the board all white,” said Burgess, who like King is black.

After King failed to earn a seat on the Board, he faded pretty quietly into the background. He still shows up at Board of Education meetings from time to time, and occasionally takes the podium during the time for public to be heard, but he has not attempted to earn a seat on the board again. Burgess has other plans.

“I’m going to infiltrate. I will do this process again,” she said Thursday. Until then, she promised to be a mainstay at the Board’s meetings.

Categories: General
Maggie Gordon

5 Responses

  1. Julia says:

    Thanks Ed reformer. Wanting to give K the benefit of the doubt, maybe s/he read minority and thought Maggie was writing about ethnic groups. If not, then let’s say K has “issues”. I also agree with SchoolMom about Bob King. He consults for CABE (CT. Assn of Brds of Ed) and the GE Foundation and in addition to his involvement in Stamford, he works with boards all over the northeast on board diversity and community engagement initiatives. As a current board member, I’d like to congratulate Dolores on a well run race. She was an excellent candidate. I’m sorry I won’t have the privilege of serving with her this year, but look forward to both supporting and serving with her in 2014.

  2. Ed reformer says:

    K, you’re the only one who “pulled the race card.” Ms. Burgess just stated the facts. She finished a relatively close second in a race for three open seats, yet she did not win election to the Board of Education because of the rule on minority party representation. The BOE remains all white. This is all true. Where’s the race card? She didn’t say she didn’t win because she was Black. Whether you are in support of the rule or not, it is a matter of record that if not for the minority party representation rule the current composition of the BOE would be different. I find the inference that Ms. Burgess pulled the race card more than just “off-putting.”

  3. SchoolMom says:

    Wait a minute — Bob King had already served three terms on the BOE — I would not describe him as “fading away” in the least. He’s one of the most involved community members education could ask for and deserves alot of respect for his continued work on behalf of public education. Holding a seat on the BOE is not the only way to work on behalf of students, Maggie.

  4. K says:

    Really – you’re going to pull the race card? She had the same opportunities as all other candidates to get the vote out – If the city is really 50%+ minority population than place the blame where it lays – perhaps not the fault of those who vote but those who don’t.

    No disrespect but race is not the only minority – gender is as well – so the fact that there are as many women on the board as there are is a positive thing.

    It’s not the fault of anyone elected as to their race – the public votes and makes their choice – I find the race card off-putting.

  5. g says:

    Good for you Delores! It’s a crime that the school board is all white in a city with a higher-than-50% minority population. If the school board can have Republican/Democrat rules, maybe it should have minority/majority rules as well (since it probably can’t have socio-economic rules) to more closely mirror the makeup of the city. Let’s add that to the next Charter revision!