LONGMEADOW — Residents and parents have raised concerns over the campaign messaging of School Committee candidate Kency Gilet, whose public-facing social media presence appears to have been altered or “scrubbed” of far-right content since announcing his candidacy.
The candidate field for three open seats consists of Gilet, incumbent Nicole Choiniere and Michaela Fitzgerald, a Massachusetts educator of 14 years. District parent Adam Rosenblum told The Shoestring that concerns over the candidate field inspired his run as a write-in candidate.
“I am concerned about some of the extreme political views expressed by one of the candidates,” Rosenblum said. “Given my educational experience as a former high school and college teacher, and my continuing desire to volunteer in the community, I announced I would run as a write-in candidate to give Longmeadow a choice on June 13.”
In May, Longmeadow residents began circulating screenshots of deleted social media posts on Twitter and Facebook — collected by a Longmeadow resident on Dec. 19, 2022 and March 5, 2023 — and news articles featuring Gilet to highlight the discrepancy between his current campaign messaging and his past public statements.
Gilet did not respond to The Shoestring’s request for comment for this article.
Gilet’s previous appearances in local media include MassLive coverage of a “Back the Blue” rally he allegedly helped organize and an identification as a board member of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts (GOAL). His current campaign messaging focuses on “mental wellness,” “life readiness” and “parental engagement,” and does not mention anything about firearms, police or his history as a board member or “director at large” with GOAL. Gilet is listed as an unpaid director in the organization’s 990 tax forms for the years 2018 through 2021, the most recent years for which data was readily available.
In January 2020, GOAL tweeted a link to an article featuring statements by Gilet. The organization’s web page features a section about their members political activity, stating that the organization provides its members “with information on candidates for office and their views on firearms related policies”
Concerned residents also circulated a letter to the editor from The Reminder that Gilet wrote and submitted in response to the May 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas. In the letter, Gilet says he “strongly encourages” school committees to draft policy to allow for gun owners to “conceal carry while on school grounds.”
The article also makes reference to Gilet’s previous unsuccessful campaign attempts for City Council seats in Springfield in 2017 and 2019. Campaign statements at the time focused heavily on “family.”
Additionally, archived posts from Gilet’s social media accounts show the use of conservative hashtags #LetsGoBrandon and #LiberalismIsAMentalDisease, as well as a post suggesting that Democrats would use the 2022 shooting massacre of 10 people in Buffalo, New York, to boost their “election prospects” that year and that the media will “lay blame at the foot of all those they don’t like.” The Buffalo shooter, who is white, said at his sentencing, “I shot and killed people because they were black.” Gilet himself is also black.
Residents shared other screenshots of supposedly deleted social media posts, including posts on former President Donald Trump’s social media platform Truth Social, though The Shoestring was unable to independently verify their authenticity.
Julianna Giordana, an alumna of Longmeadow Public Schools who spearheaded the writing of an open letter by a group calling itself the Longmeadow Alumni Alliance in 2021, saw the screenshots circulating and tweeted that Gilet’s run was “truly the last thing the few Black and non-white students in Longmeadow need.”
Reached by The Shoestring, Giordana said that “the policies suggested by Gilet and others have been proven to be not only ineffective but costly and actively harmful.”
“While his platform for mental health is respectable,” Giordana continued via email, “his previous advocacy for more guns and policing in schools is deeply concerning, as research suggests policing in schools does not create a healthy learning environment for developing minds.”
Longmeadow resident and mother of school-age children Skye Condardo also reached The Shoestring via email, saying that for many in Longmeadow, the election is “incredibly significant” for them and their children.
“Longmeadow residents have tried to comment on his Facebook ads or candidate Facebook page links to express their concerns,” Condardo said. “Unfortunately, these are quickly deleted, instead of engaging in an open discussion with voters. Phone screenshots of his social media that were captured prior to their removal, along with some of the more recent deleted comments, have been circulating among town residents. I am left wondering why this presence has been hidden, and I am concerned by the possibility of voters being misled.”
In a letter submitted to Longmeadow Buzz, Gilet mentions his position as vice president of a “non-profit mental health organization treating children and families with mental illness in Easthampton.” The Northeast Center for Youth and Families lists Gilet as vice president on its website.
NCYF previously ran Tri-County Schools, which closed down in 2018 after an investigation conducted by the Disability Law Center found repeated allegations of abuse against students.
Gilet does not name the organization in the letter to the Longmeadow Buzz or mention how long he has held a position with NCYF. The one paragraph bio of Gilet hosted on the organization’s web page does not disclose how long he has been with the organization. The Shoestring did not receive a response from the organization or Gilet in regards to his position.
In his current campaign messaging Gilet also mentions his “private clinical practice” in East Longmeadow and having “over a decade” of experience in the mental health field. Google reviews of the practice show a single star rating from last year and a five star rating from Gilet himself. The Shoestring could not find a rating score for Gilet on “Healthgrades” — the well known U.S. company that ranks and provides information about health providers and facilities since the late ‘90s.
While Gilet’s run has brought attention to the race, Giordana hopes the longer term issues in the school system will not be overlooked.
“Our unprecedented collaboration of alum classes spanning 50 years attempted to share our findings in an open letter with the school committee in 2021 and was ignored,” Giordana said. “We urge the community, the school board, and whoever wins this next election to read our letter and consider the experiences of all students they represent.”
Shelby Lee is a short story writer and investigative reporter. They can be reached at email@example.com
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