Shelton Intermediate School Principal Ken Saranich was been named the new assistant superintendent of schools on Wednesday, although the school board vote was not unanimous.
Board of Education members Kathy Yolish and Dr. Darlisa Ritter both voted against the hire — not because the choice was Saranich, who both admit they support, but because of uncertainty surrounding next year’s school budget.
Mayor Mark Lauretti's budget plan keeps the school budget at $72.7 million, the same as the current year year. But municipal leaders state that the Board of Education is receiving an extra $1.5 million, thanks to the city taking over the school bus transportation. The Board of Education had sought $74.8 million. Either amount will, according to school officials, lead to eliminating personnel.
“Although I am aware that the assistant superintendent of schools position was included in our budget and is an important position, so are many of the other positions that might have to be eliminated if we do not get the budget that was submitted,” Yolish said.
“With this in mind,” Yolish added, “I will be voting no for the position being voted on. I strongly feel that this expenditure is not the right time to approve the appointment. I want to be assured of the exact amount of monies our board will be allocated before I vote.”
Yolish said that if the vote on Saranich took place after the final budget appropriation, “then I would definitely support my fellow board members.
“I have every confidence in the leadership abilities and excellent credentials of the candidate proposed but we, as board members, must be fiscally responsible and can be held personally liable,” said Yolish. “It is our duty to be certain we have the appropriate funding without having to ‘cut the meat and bone from our structure’ as stated by our Board of Education chairman. We cannot afford to have larger class sizes and reductions in personnel and services and if there must be cuts, everyone must take a share in doing more with less.”
“It’s not against the person or the position,” said Ritter of her decision to oppose the hire at this time. “I cannot condone the second largest individual expenditure for our school system at this time. It does not make sense. We do not have to know what money we will have. "
Saranich is taking over for district staple Lorraine Rossner, who is retiring after 42 years, the last 14 as assistant superintendent, in Shelton schools. Rossner’s salary for the 2018 fiscal year was $180,477, behind only school Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, at $203,994. Clouet said that Saranich's salary would approximately $175,000.
“I am very honored to accept this appointment,” said Saranich. “I am excited to work with Dr. Clouet in moving the school district forward into the future. As I have said time and time again, Shelton is my community. I live here. We’ve raised all our children here. I want to continue to build on her work to make Shelton a great community for all of us.”
Saranich — who has lived in Shelton with his wife, Tara, and his children, for the past 16 years — left the Milford school district 10 years ago to become principal at Shelton Intermediate School. His responsibilities expanded in recent weeks, as he also assumed the role of interim principal at Shelton High School after Principal Beth Smith and Assistant Principal John Skerritt were placed on paid administrative leave resulting from a recently completed police investigation into that school’s handling of a potentially criminal matter involving juveniles.
“This has been a very emotional process for me,:” said Saranich, who watched Wednesday, which also happened to be his birthday, as the board voted him into his new post. “This allows me to continue to work with the community that I love. Shelton is my home.”
Saranich said he may not longer be involved in the day-to-day operations at SIS, "I am not leaving (SIS) behind. They are just part of the whole.”
"I believe leadership is done through teamwork,” added Saranich. “I believe by having the right people in the right roles, you can make great things happen.”
Saranich credited Rossner for her work in the district and said he also plans to be “hands-on” in his new post, being present in the school buildings on a daily basis, getting to know the teachers and students by “being in the trenches.”
Saranich graduated with a bachelor of science from Central Connecticut State University in 1995 and a masters of arts in teaching from Sacred Heart University in 1997. He received an advanced graduate degree in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University in 2002.
He worked in the Trumbull school system from 1996 to 2001, when he joined the Milford school system as assistant principal at Harborside Middle School. He became principal at Harborside in 2007, remaining there until his move to Shelton Intermediate School in 2009.