Holden, Minotti, Gaydos bid farewell to BOE

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — There were plenty of tears shed Wednesday as Mark Holden, Tom Minotti and Anne Gaydos bid adieu to the Board of Education.

While all nine Board of Education seats are on the ballot for Nov. 5, the board will be experiencing major change as four members will not be returning. Republicans Holden, the present chairman, Minotti, a board veteran of 14 years, and Gaydos did not earn their party’s endorsement, then chose to primary and lost. Democrat Jose Goncalves decided to run to represent the Third Ward on the Board of Aldermen.

The ouster of Holden, Minotti and Gaydos was a step supported by Mayor Mark Lauretti, as he hopes to reshape the board as one that “will lead and not be led” in the future. But not all those in attendance Wednesday were enthused to see the three make their exit.

“To all of you — Anne, Tom and Mark — it takes courage to swim against the current and integrity to vote your conscience rather than just sway with the political forces,” said board member Amanda Kilmartin, holding back tears. “I admire each of you for your courage and integrity. I’ll miss you all deeply.”

Minotti, a past chairman of the board’s policy committee, present chairman of the board’s finance committee and the Board of Education representative to CES, said the ability to serve on the board was “a privilege and an honor.”

Minotti could not hold back his tears as he called on incoming Board of Education members to have “a clear vision for the future of Shelton public education, focus on the educational issues, work together as a team, be able to share sound ideas, listen intently, be respectful, be honest, establish trust, and work with and support the superintendent.”

“Do not let politics influence your decisions or voting,” added Minotti. “Know what your roles and responsibilities are and execute them accordingly, keeping in mind your actions and decisions will reflect on the students of Shelton public schools as well as the citizens.”

Minotti said he was appalled at Lauretti for labeling him a dissenter who was attempting to hijack the city’s Republican Party with an eye toward raising taxes — all with the goal of ousting him from the Board of Education.

“He has defamed my name, my character and my reputation,” said Minotti, adding that he also had issues with Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr. for making similar comments about him during the primary campaign.

Minotti also voiced concerns about the process in which the RTC elected its Board of Education candidates. He said attempts to have questions answered by RTC President Anthony Simonetti have been unsuccessful, and RTC Secretary Virginia Harger has not yet provided minutes from the RTC caucus held in July.

Gaydos thanked the city’s residents for giving her the opportunity to serve the past two years and said it was “time to forget our differences and work together on our common goal to provide the best education possible for our children. We have made progress, but more needs to be done.”

Outgoing Fourth Ward Alderman Jim Capra praised the trio for their service, saying he hoped this was not the end of their participation in Shelton’s political arena.

“These three shouldn’t be leaving this board, but it is happening,” said Capra, who himself lost a primary challenge for his aldermanic seat by Lauretti-backed Bernie Simons. “I hope the citizens in the future encourage you to run again for office and support you to victory.”

Kilmartin, presently in her first term, recalled Holden inviting her to meetings and events, even before she was elected to the board. Kilmartin, a Democrat, recalled how Holden looked past party lines to make sure she had all the necessary answers and resources.

“I always felt welcomed by you,” said Kilmartin to Holden, also holding back tears.

Democrat Kate Kutash, running for reelection along with fellow Democrats David Gioiello and Kilmartin, called working with the departing trio a “truly positive experience.”

“No one can take away commitment and time you put in, and I thank you for that,” added Darlisa Ritter, who, along with fellow Republican board member Kathy Yolish, is seeking reelection Nov. 5. There are nine Republicans in all running for Board of Education seats.

Gioiello, while acknowledging his differences with Holden, said he never doubted the chairman’s positions always were taken with students’ best interests at heart.

“I have no doubt that the three of you put the kids first, and that is a message for all of us,” added Gioiello.

Holden, who himself was quite emotional as the meeting crept to a close, simply said “meeting adjourned” before rising to speak privately with his fellow board members.