SHELTON — Parents, in support of protesting students, gathered with them Wednesday evening to demand the Board of Education prioritize education over politics — and start by rescinding Beth Smith’s interim superintendent appointment.

“You need to listen to these passionate, engaged kids,” said Scott Smith of Ridge Lane. “You cannot ignore their concerns anymore. They are passionate on issues. You should be applauding that, not shutting them down.”

Scott Smith said the Board of Education cannot be a partisan board, it must be “kids first always, and that seems to me that is being lost.”

The Board of Education, with five Republicans and four Democrats, voted along party lines in appointing Smith. This action led many in attendance in say the board acted for political not educational reasons, with Mayor Mark Lauretti the driving force behind the appointment.

Many parents spoke, calling the students courageous in speaking their minds about the problems they feel the lack of funding has created in the school system, as well as the opposition to placing Smith as interim superintendent. The parents asked that the board listen to the students.

“Tonight, we, the students, are standing up to say loudly and clearly that we deserve better,” said Matt McGee, Shelton High School senior and former Democratic Board of Aldermen candidate, as he stood before more than a dozen students and parents outside of the school.

McGee started an online petition asking that the board rescind Smith’s appointment last week, and more than 1,800 people have signed through Wednesday.

Ken Hajducky of Golden Hill Lane, with two daughters in the school system, said the city has not prioritized education and has become a “laughingstock” among neighboring communities. He said so many students and parents are voicing disapproval of Smith, yet the board does not appear to “value our opinion.”

The protest, organized by the newly formed Shelton High Students Fight for Change, began with a gathering outside the school, which then moved inside to speak during the public portion of the board’s meeting. More than 50 people were in attendance at the regular meeting.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com