Shelton BOE could see major makeover

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Shelton BOE

Shelton BOE

Linda Conner Lambeck

The face of the Shelton Board of Education will be receiving a makeover if the both Republican and Democrat town committees have their way.

Overall, five present Board of Education members — three Republicans, two Democrats — were left off the ballots for both parties after votes held by their respective caucuses Monday.

On the Republican side, incumbents Dr. Darlisa Ritter and Kathy Yolish each earned nominations during the RTC caucus in the City Hall auditorium, along with Carl Rizzo, Jim Orazietti, Ben Perry, Don Stanziale, Ruth Parkins, John Fitzgerald and Amy Romano.

Left off were present board Chair Mark Holden, Anne Gaydos and board Vice Chair Tom Minotti, each of whom received nominations from the floor but were not able to garner enough votes to place in the top nine. All three stated Monday that they would be petitioning for a primary.

On the Democrat side, Kate Katush and Jose Goncalves (he is instead running for Board of Aldermen, third ward) were left off, with the nods going to incumbents David Gioiello and Amanda Kilmartin and newcomers Wayne Bragg, Diana Meyer and Patti Moonan. Katush was nominated from the floor but did not receive a second, meaning she was not included in the final vote. Katush also plans to seek signatures to force a primary.

“Frankly, (Mayor Mark Lauretti) has never gotten along with the Board of Education,” said Holden on why the three were absent from the RTC Steering Committee’s recommended nominees.

“It is interesting, we are very close to being in the top 25 percent for student achievement, and we are in the bottom 10 percent for funding, so we are certainly doing the traditional Shelton value thing,” added Holden. “We’ll soldier on and get on the ballot.”

Lauretti said he was satisfied with the RTC vote on the Board of Education slate, stating that the individuals chosen “will lead, not be led.”

In a Facebook post, Holden stated that Lauretti told many people he would refuse to run as a Republican if any of the three Republicans were renominated, and RTC chair and Board of Aldermen member Anthony Simonetti called the RTC members to tell them to support the mayor’s candidates “because we need to clean up and get our act together with the BOE.”

“What motivation could they possibly have for using strong-arm tactics to change the (Board of Education)?” asked Holden. “My best guess is it’s because all of us were active in promoting the start of full-day kindergarten, and we’ve favored reasonable increases in the Board of Education budget so our students have the proper equipment, textbooks, and access to the technology required for a sound education.”

Lauretti said that he would have considered running as an independent if the RTC “did not respect his opinion” and voted “status quo.”

Gaydos said she was disappointed that those who so strongly advocate education have been excluded — putting blame for being left off the RTC Steering Committee’s list of nominations squarely on the mayor.

“We’re not the rubber stampers for the mayor, and that has become so clear to me that’s what this is about,” added Gaydos. “I do what is right for the schools and the kids and that’s apparently a bad thing in (Lauretti’s) eyes and the RTC’s eyes. I do this for the kids, which is why I will push on and primary.”

Katush, who hopes to seek a fifth term on the Board of Education, placed blame on Gioiello, the DTC chair, for being excluded.

“It’s no secret that Dave Gioiello and I have opposing viewpoints on many issues and do not always vote the same way,” said Katush, the longest serving Democrat and currently chair of the Policy Committee and the Ad Hoc committee to revise the format for the evaluation of the superintendent of schools.

“For some reason, he has long had a personal lack of tolerance for me that I do not understand,” added Katush. “I feel it is a conflict of interest for him to have any influence on or be a member of a committee nominating for a position he currently holds.”

Katush said this is not about a commitment to politics but “a commitment to a quality education for the students of Shelton, about maintaining noteworthy programs and maintaining our buildings for future generations of Shelton students. It is about doing the best we can do with the meager dollars we are afforded each year.

“Sadly, I feel some people nominated tonight did not know ahead of time who was not being nominated for Board of Education,” said Katush. “I, myself, only knew of one who was beforehand. Yes, I was nominated from the floor by former Board of Education member Faith Hack, but I do not understand why not one person could second the nomination when certain individuals have expressed to me dissatisfaction with the whole process. Is the DTC the same puppet show as the RTC?”

In response to Katush, Gioiello stated “we selected candidates that are committed to working for the entire slate. All are well qualified and committed to working to improve the educational system. All are committed to campaign, knock on doors, make phone calls and help raise the money needed to run a successful campaign.”

In a statement, Katush said “I have enjoyed serving the city of Shelton as a member of the Board of Education and intend to do everything in my power to continue to do so.”