Disagreements among the Board of Education are no strange occurrence, according to board member Kathlene Yolish, but with two new members joining them following the election, she says she is looking forward to settling those differences and the board’s progression.
“The most important thing is the children and them getting the best education as possible,” said Yolish. “Things were said and done, now I think it’s important that we sit down and mend the relationship of the board moving forward.”
The republicans ran a total of 8 candidates in this term’s election for the Board of Education, which ultimately resulted in some candidates expressing their dislikes of views of other members through their campaigns.
Both John Boyko and Francino Quinn ran for election this year, but were not selected to the Board of Education.
As a part of their campaign they passed out a flier with information regarding current board members’ actions. “Code Orange” is what the flier read that was being distributed with voting information for candidates Boyko, Quinn, Yolish, and Dr. Ritter.
The bright orange piece of paper was intended to make the public aware of Chairman Mark Holden’s stance on tax increases within the city, more high paid positions in the Central Office, and “foolish spending on unnecessary expenditures.”
Boyko, Quinn, and Dr. Ritter were unavailable for immediate comment on the Code Orange flier, but Yolish explained why even though she wasn’t directly responsible for it, she does support its message.
“I just can’t spend money on things that won’t better the kids’ education,” said Yolish. “When we meet we will see how we go about fixing things. Everything on that flier can be proven.”
Holden released a response to the “dirty politics” on his Facebook page.
“While I’ve kept to the high road and hadn’t attacked any of my opponents in the election, Jay Francino-Quinn and John Boyko have decided to attack me, Win Oppel and Tom Minotti, all fellow Republicans, with a “CODE ORANGE” flyer that’s being hand delivered in Shelton. Some are in a plastic bag with fliers for Kathy Yolish, Dr. Darlissa Ritter and John Boyko. Others have a “sample ballot” that only names Dr. Ritter, Kathy Yolish, John Boyko and Jay Francino Quinn,” Holden’s Facebook status reads. “Near as I can tell they’re mostly going to Republicans. It’s apparently a desperate act by desperate people. Their attack selectively presents information to make us look like people who want to raise your taxes and hire additional staff at high salaries in Central Office. I have NEVER said a tax increase would be beneficial.”
Holden added that since the ending of the election he too would like to move forward. He said the messages on the flyer are distorted and information taken out of context.
Yolish added she doesn’t expect all of the board’s disagreements or difference in opinion to change through one meeting, nor does she want them to.
“I believe that if the board just agrees on everything then we aren’t really taking the time to think,” said Yolish. “The main thing we need to agree on is making sure the education system and student’s futures are headed in a positive direction.”
Board members were expecting at least one change on the board because former member, Timothy Walsh didn’t run for reelection, but after the votes were tallied two new members earned their seats.
Republican Dr. Ritter and Democratic David Gioiello Jr. are the newest members on the board.
Democrats who won in this term may have received fewer votes than some of the unsuccessful Republicans, but they were elected by a provision that guaranteed them a minority party representation on the board.
Yolish said she believes both new members will offer a fresh perspective to the board that could be useful.
“Darlisa has over 40 years as a teacher so she understands what is best for the students,” said Yolish.
The city’s voter turnout improved from 36.4% in 2013 to 41.1% in this year’s election.
Speculation around what caused the increase is never ending. Mayor Mark Lauretti said he believes he knows what led more people to vote this year compared to the last election.
“The people didn’t want to lose what they have,” said Lauretti. “We haven’t raised taxes in 5 years, in fact we lowered them one year. Not many other places in the state can say that.”
Lauretti also said disagreements among Boards of Education are normal and often occur when people take politics personal.
“Disagreements like this always happen among the Board of Education, not only in Shelton, but across the state of Connecticut,” said Lauretti. “A lot of people who sit on these boards are not qualified and don’t understand education, but that doesn’t make them bad people. The moment someone doesn’t get what they want they take it personal and go tit-for-tat. That’s politics. It’s unfortunate how that can cloud the equation.”
According to outgoing Superintendent Freeman Burr, Holden, and Yolish the board plans to have a conversation following the swearing in ceremony for all new and reelected candidates later on this month.
“We elected a real strong team. Some great candidates won and some great candidates lost,” said Holden. “I have no desire to say anything bad about the members on the board.”
More updates on this story to come.