Quinnipiac student and professor run for local Boards of Education

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Contributing Writer

Quinnipiac University’s Melissa Kaplan and Rajan Doering are running for Hamden and Wallingford Boards of Education (BOE), respectively.

Kaplan, an English and women’s and gender studies adjunct professor, is seeking reelection to the Hamden BOE as the Democratic Party-endorsed candidate. She chairs the board’s curriculum committee and is a member of the equity committee. Kaplan is also the only incumbent seeking reelection. 

Melissa Kaplan (left) and Rajan Doering (right) are running for local Boards of Education. (Photos contributed by Melissa Kaplan and Rajan Doering)

“I tirelessly work to support neuro-diverse and special education services, a culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum, anti-racist pedagogy, LGBTQ affirmation and safe spaces in our schools,” Kaplan said.

During her previous term, Kaplan revised the dress code, ensured health classes included explicit discussions about consent and created the LGBTQ equity initiative.

“I endeavor to consistently advocate for greater economic parity and to close opportunity gap in elementary schools, and have successfully fought to maintain the Family Resource Center at a Title I school, which serves and supports under-resourced families,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan has never taught in K-12 schools. However, she said her experience in higher education allowed her to gain an understanding of the strengths students need to prepare for undergraduate, vocational and technical programs, as well as to join the workforce after graduation.

Kaplan’s main goals are to gain support for students and teachers during the pandemic and to ensure equal opportunity for every student.

“Whenever there is a call to action about supporting vulnerable students, inclusivity, equity and diversity, I believe we must be intentionally intersectional,” Kaplan said.

To consider herself a successful board member, Kaplan said she needs to meet the needs of the entire Hamden community through her academic qualifications and experience. 

She wants to make sure that all students and schools receive the support that they need, address constant inequities, hold the administration accountable for seeing the BOE’s vision through and create strong partnerships with stakeholders in the community.

“Education is not a line item on the BOE’s agenda — it is the only item,” Kaplan said.

When it comes to diversity, Kaplan said a racially diverse faculty allows underrepresented students to feel recognized. It’s also important for teachers to discuss diversity and inclusion in class with students, she said.

“I believe that the BOE needs to work with the Hamden administration to further develop a faculty recruitment, retention, and professional development plan, created with input from across Hamden, which emphasizes diversity, inclusion and support of faculty professional development,” Kaplan said.

Another member of the Quinnipiac community has been a part of multiple on-campus organizations, and now, he is looking to do more.

Doering, a senior economics and public relations double major, is a Republican candidate running for Wallingford BOE. He is an active member of the Wallingford community and has served on several committees within the school district. He oversees weekly food giveaways at The Rock Church and is a board member at the YMCA and United Way.

As a 2018 graduate, Doering is not far removed from high school. He said he wants to “bring a student perspective to the board.”

If elected, Doering said he will always listen to people’s concerns and advocate in the student’s best interest while following state requirements.

“I will work with teachers, parents, community members and students to keep us united in a vision that ensures an equitable and inclusive environment for all, prepares all students starting with our youngest learners for the future and ensures we make the best use of school facilities and taxpayer dollars for our students,” Doering said.

Doering has had leadership experience in many clubs and organizations at Quinnipiac. He is the Honors Program co-president, Economics Club president, School of Communications Ambassadors Program president, and Public Relations Student Society of America treasurer. He said these clubs and organizations have given him the experience of listening to “at times divergent” viewpoints to help find the best outcome for everyone.

This is not the first time Doering ran for the BOE. He campaigned against 11 other candidates in 2019 and lost. With nine board members elected, Doering came in 11th with 5,197 votes. This year, he is encouraging people to come out and vote. 

“I know many Quinnipiac students live in Wallingford,” Doering said.  “I encourage these students to research their candidates and make an informed vote on November 2nd. I am most happy to speak with anyone who has questions, comments or concerns.”