Shelton Board of Education candidate profiles

There are 15 candidates running for nine spots on the ballot for the Board of Education in the November election. Below are small biographies submitted by the candidates. The incumbents are noted. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Wayne Bragg (D)

Current job: Instructor (Graduate Accounting) - University of Connecticut.

Education: Windsor, CT; B.S. - Central Conn. State University; M.B.A. - University of Connecticut.

The most important issue in this election: To meet the superintendent’s goal of 85 percent on the Next Generation Accountability Assessment. That goal requires a new collaborative budget process where the BOA and the BOE strategically evaluate the needs of the school system, set high student expectations, and allocate the resources required. Otherwise, Shelton will continue to have lower rated schools than surrounding communities.

Other issues: Curriculum and technology must be kept current to give students the skills needed for 21st century jobs. STEM programs must be delivered across the entire system to every student to promote problem-solving and critical thinking. Personal finance courses are also necessary to give students the opportunity to succeed in a global economy.

Family: Wayne Bragg and his wife Kate have lived in Shelton for 30 years and have five adult children, two of whom attended Shelton schools.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Shelton Board of Apportionment & Taxation, corporator - Griffin Hospital

David Gioiello (D), incumbent

Current job: IHSC, LLC

Education: St. John; University of Detroit, B.S., physics; Wayne State University, environmental amd occupational health.

The most important issue in this election: I want to work to improve the test scores of Shelton students. I want to continue to work to use our funds more effectively.

Other issues: The BOE and the BOA must learn to work together, be honest with each other and put the needs of the students first.

Family: Married for 40 years and I have two grown children. My daughter lives in Milford and my son lives in D.C. Both of my children have advanced degrees. My daughter is part owner of our family consulting firm and my son works for DOD. My wife and I have been active locally since we moved to Shelton in 1981. We are both active in the local Democratic party. We have been active in scouts when our children were young as well as the church we attended.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: No other elected offices. I was treasurer of Highland Golf Club as well as an officer in several national professional organizations.

John Fitzgerald (R)

Fitzgerald is a lifelong resident of Shelton. He attended grammar schools in Shelton, he graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in Trumbull before attending and graduating from WPI in Worchster, Mass., in 1975 and then going forward to receive his B.S .in civil construction management in 1979. Like his grandfather before him, he has always had a passion for building. He has worked for P J Stella Construction in Massachusetts, as the co-owner of Erin Associates in Shelton and now heads JK Fitzgerald Construction Co. in Shelton. He has provided residents in Shelton and surrounding towns with some of the best built homes in the area that have incredible curb appeal, he says. He is also a property manager, provides excavations services, general contracting and construction maintenance consulting services.

Fitzgerald has utilized his building expertise and construction management services to give back to Shelton as a community service volunteer especially to the Shelton Public Schools. He is currently vice chairman of the Shelton Housing Authority and recently over saw the rehabilitation of senior apartments on River Road. He was an intractable part of the $25 million Shelton High School Building and Renovation Commission and has worked on the renovations committees of Mohegan, Elizabeth Shelton, Long Hill, the Perry Hill schools, along with the Shelton High sprinkler system renovation project and the building of the Shelton Intermediate School in the early 90s.

Amanda “Mandy” Kilmartin (D), incumbent

Current job: Associate director of engagment strategies, Planetree International.

Education: Alta High, Sandy, Utah; Quinnipiac University.

The most important issue in this election: Improved relationships and more effective communication between the Board of Ed and the Board of Aldermen are imperative to the success of our schools. If elected, I am committed to working toward a more collaborative partnership that is focused on a shared vision of success for our schools and community.

Other issues: The social and emotional growth of our children is as important as their standardized test scores. I want to work to ensure we have the resources necessary (counselors, nurses, SROs, mindfulness/ SEL programs, etc.) to support our kids in becoming well-educated, kind, socially competent adults.

Family: As the daughter of a naval aviator, I didn’t grow up here in Conn. In 1995, I moved out to N.Y. for what was supposed to be a temporary, one-year gig. One day, in the summer of 1996, I was working as a volunteer EMT-Intermediate for Greenwich Emergency Medical Services, when Doug walked into the hospital ED. He was home from college and had turned up to work as a paramedic for the summer. Long story short: 20-something years, two kids and a mortgage later, I’m still here. We arrived in Shelton in 2006 with our then 1-year old, looking for a place we could afford to raise our growing family. We saw a lot of potential here for growth and development and were drawn in by the low property taxes. Over the last 13 years, we have grown into a family of four, with two fabulous boys who are both active in the town and school sports programs. Our oldest son is a rising SHS freshman and the other started at Perry Hill School in September. We also have two crazy dogs who love the open spaces here in town and are happy to spend their days chasing birds and squirrels and making friends with the family of deer behind our house. My husband is on the executive board for the Shelton Youth Lacrosse league and currently serves as league treasurer. For us, Shelton provides more than just an affordable place to live. Our friends, our fellow team moms and dads, our neighbors, our incredible teachers; they are our home, our community, and the foundation for this life we continue to build together.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Current BOE member.

Kate Kutash (D), incumbent

Current job: I have been a teacher in Stratford at the elementary level for 43 years.

Education: Stratford High School; B.S. in elementary education from Western Connecticut State College; M.S. in reading and sixth-year degree as elementary classroom specialist from Southern Connecticut State College.

The most important issue in this election: I will continue to work to insure that the students in the city of Shelton have the funding and therefore the supplies, technology and staffing they need to receive a quality education. I have a particular interest in funding for the arts, especially seeing our music programs grow.

Other issues: Much has been said about relationships in our city. There are too many political issues. The mudslinging, dishonesty, and personal agendas have to stop so we support each other positively and can move forward together for a better city.

Family: My husband, Steve, is a Shelton native. We have lived in Shelton as a family for 23 years. We have two adult daughters, Kelly and Sarah, who are products of the Shelton public schools.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: I am past president of ESS PTA and Shelton PTA Council. I was also an officer of the PTA/PTOs at SIS and SHS. I was an active band parent for the Shelton High Marching Gaels, running the “Home Show” band competition for several years. I am active in Stratford, where I teach in organizations supporting education and my own school community.

Diana Meyer (D)

Current job: Commercial credit analyst - commercial banking - Wells Fargo.

Education: Pinkerton Academy, Derry N.H.; Keene State College, Keene, N.H.

The most important issue in this election: There is an adversarial relationship between the city and the Board of Education. We cannot succeed in achieving the goal of educating our children until we learn to work together. It is vital that the joint quarterly meetings between the Board of Aldermen and the Board of Education continue.

Other issues: The Republican group of nine candidates for Board of Education have stated in their primary questionnaire for the Shelton Herald, that one of their initiatives is alignment with Mayor Mark Lauretti. This directly goes against the role of a Board of Education member. The role is to make all decisions independent of special interests or partisan politics.

Family: Next year my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We have lived in Shelton for 20 years and have a daughter who went through the Shelton public school system and is currently enrolled in college.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Valley Chamber of Commerce Women in Networking; board member of the Animal Center of Newtown.

Patti Moonan (D)

Current job: Moonan is employed by the town of North Haven Counseling Services as a counselor. In this capacity, she continues to be involved with the educational concerns of her school age clients. Moonan is a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than 10 years of experience of coordinating efforts between school age children, their families and school personnel for the betterment of that child’s educational experience. These efforts include attending and providing recommendations at 504 and Planning and Placement Team meetings. From December 2012 to July 2017, Moonan worked as a mental health provider at a nonprofit organization in Sandy Hook as that community was healing from the horrific aftermath of a mass school shooting.

Education: Moonan earned her M.A. in marriage and family therapy from Fairfield University and her B.A. in English from the University at Albany.

Family: Moonan is the mother of three adult children and a grandmother of a 2-year-old boy.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Moonan is a member of the Shelton Democratic Town Committee. She serves on the Issues Committee, is the volunteer coordinator and a member of the Executive Board Committee.

James Orazietti (R)

Work experience: Retired from Sikorsky Aircraft.

Education: Shelton; CCSU.

The most important issue in this election: Accountability.

Other issues: The return of effective cooperating communication between City Hall and the BOE is paramount to the end goal of quality education for our students.

Family: Married. Wife, Sharon, daughter, Kelly.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Youth coach; former assistant registrar of voters; conservation commissioner; Perry Hill school building committee vice chair; four terms on the Board of Education; current Public Improvement Building Committee and Zoning Board of Appeals member.

Ruth Parkins (R)

Parkins has resided in Shelton for more than 40 years and has two daughters who have both attended Shelton public schools. She is employed by the Iroquois Pipeline Operating Co. where she is the public and government relations specialist. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Sacred Heart University with a B.S. in business administration and earned her M.S. in business and public administration from the University of New Haven.

As an active member and community leader, Parkins served as a member of the Shelton Planning & Zoning Commission for 10 years and as its chairperson from 2009-2017. She is currently a member of the executive board of the Valley United Way’s board of directors, and an executive board of member for the Shelton Economic Development Corporation, and president of the Meadow Lake Condo Association.

Parkins has been the recipient of several prestigious community awards, most notably the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce Gold Seal Award, the Shelton Economic Development Raymond P. Lavietes Award for Outstanding Leadership and Vision and the Valley United Way Charles H. Flynn Humanitarian Award.

Parkin’s business and leadership experience will bring valuable insight to the Board of Education day-to-day operations and promote better public relations and understanding with the citizens of Shelton.

Ben Perry (R)

I am a lifetime resident of Shelton. I have been married to my wife, Christen (also a lifetime resident) for 20 years, with two daughters both currently in the Shelton public school system.

I am a private business owner dedicated to the continued development of the city of Shelton and doing the best for our city, its schools and families. I went through the Shelton school system and am dedicated to doing what’s best for Shelton’s children. My father-in-law was the superintendent of Shelton public schools for 18 years and was an inspiration to me in seeking a seat on the BOE and serving our schools and residents.

As an advocate of helping educate children, I served for three years a board of director of the Boys & Girls Club of Lower Naugatuck Valley and am a member of the Boys & Girls Hall of Fame. The Boys & Girls Club provides a safe environment for children with programs that inspire, educate, guide, and enable all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.

I am a 10-year member and currently a board of director in the Friends of Jimmy Miller, Inc. charity. The Friends of Jimmy Miller, Inc. is dedicated to raising funds to support programs that benefit children in crisis.

Many of these programs and services deal with positive reinforcement, teaching life skills and adolescent development.

As a member of these organizations and their boards who currently provide services to children in Shelton, I would welcome the opportunity to serve the residents of our city on the Shelton Board of Education and help make our schools and their programs the best they can be to provide a quality education for all our children.

Darlisa Ritter (R), incumbent

Work experience: I taught for 40 years in the Shelton public school system. I am retired.

Education: Graduated from Shelton High School in 1969; Western CT State University, B.S. in elementary education with concentrations in science and math; University of Bridgeport, M.S., sixth year, doctorates in education management/leadership and human resources.

The most important issue in this election: My top issue is addressing students needs and directing funds to support student progress through effective practices. I will be using 40 years of knowledge, skills and leadership from local and state level experiences to reorganize and manage resources to accomplish this goal.

Other issues: Of equal importance to me is to enact Board of Education policies and procedures that support transparency and accountability for decisions and the school budget for now and the future.

Family: I am a member of a fifth generation Shelton family. My daughter and I still reside on the family property. I was married to the late Daniel C. Ritter.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Current Board of Education member, member of Shelton Senior Center, National Educator and Milken Family Foundation member. Also served as board member, of which three years were chair, of the CT State Department of Education, Celebration of Excellence Program, five years as chair and member for the CT State Department Bureau of Certification and Professional Development and Accreditation Review Team.

Carl Rizzo (R)

Rizzo is a graduate of some of the same Shelton schools his two children graduated from. A 49-year resident of Shelton, he has been actively involved in Shelton civic associations, including St. Margaret Mary’s Church Men’s League and Shelton National Little League, where he has served as vice president for the past 20 years. He has also served as president of Shelton Travel Baseball for the past three years. These non-profits have required creative use of limited funding to succeed, a discipline he would like to bring to the Board of Education.

Rizzo holds degrees in electrical engineering technology and information technology, serving as an ultrasound technical support instructor and technical liaison to Japan for Hitachi Healthcare Americas. Working at the intersection of two vital and growing industries - technology and healthcare, Rizzo knows the skills we must equip our children with today in order for them to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce.

Amy Romano (R)

A Connecticut native, Romano has been a Shelton resident for more than 15 years where she and her husband, Mark, have raised three sons. Two of their sons are currently in the Shelton public schools and their eldest son will enter college this fall. Romano has been an active Shelton school system volunteer for the past 10 years.

Upon moving to Shelton in 2004, Romano realized the potential Shelton had to offer to families from a total community standpoint including affordable homes, lower tax base, and a great public school system. Romano’s focus and passion, personally and professionally, is building a better Shelton community. She and her husband have worked together to build and develop Romano Brothers Builders, their privately-owned business in Shelton, primarily on developing single-family residential properties.

With a degree in interior design from Paier College of Art, Romano has spent the last two decades in real estate, business development and construction industries. Her early career includes over a decade of work managing large-scale retail interior design projects across Fairfield and Westchester counties. She is also a licensed real estate agent since 2007 and currently works with Real Estate Two located in Shelton. She has also managed multi-million dollar project budgets, including the oversight of public financing with the state of Connecticut.

Romano is running for her first term as a member of the Board of Education. She said she would like to further her community involvement by serving the Shelton public schools. Her business acumen and skills will help manage budgets, priorities, and investments in our schools as an active member of the board, said Romano. As a mother of three, Romano said she relates to families in Shelton and realizes the importance of developing our public-school system; and through which providing the opportunity needed to support our future economy. She said she believes strategic investments in the school system is key with being fiscally responsible.

Don Stanziale, Jr. (R)

Work history: Owner and operator, Midland Development Co.; owner of Stanziale’s Restaurant, which we had for 10 years. We contributed to the town of Stratford through the restaurant with several fundraisers. We also helped with the Vicki Soto race every year.

School history: Graduated from Shelton High School in 1983.

Family: Met my wife, Kim, who was born and raised in Shelton, in 1985. Moved back to Shelton in 1995. We have two children who went through the Shelton school system. His son, Don III, works for Turner Construction and lives in Shelton. His daughter, Dominique, is in nursing school at University of Bridgeport.

Why you want to be a elected official: We decided to move back to Shelton so our children could attend the school system that my wife and I attended. It is important to me that I am involved in the Shelton Board of Education to ensure that the money allocated to the board will be used to directly benefit the students and teacjhers that support their learning. Now that my children have all graduated, I see that the foundation created during their early years of education is so important. I want to make decisions toward continued improvements that will benefit my future grandchildren and the children of our future classes.

Any city or municipal committee or experience: I was on the building committee for the fifth and sixth grade school in Shelton.

Athletic or club affiliations: I was a member of the Fathers’ Club at Mohegan School for 15 years. During that time, he participated in numerous activities with the students and was part of the club when it built the playground.

Kathleen Yolish (R), incumbent

Work experience: Retired Shelton educator.

Education: St Joseph High School; Sacred Heart University - B.A.; Southern Connecticut State University - M.A.

The most important issue in this election: My goals include the following: to bring the Board of Education, the mayor and Board of Aldermen together as a working team, discussing budgetary needs with a strong focus on more transparency in finance, school safety issues, reinstituting a joint technology committee and forming a strong coalition for the children, staff, parents and taxpayers in Shelton.

Other issues: To find monies for more guidance counselors, social workers, paraprofessionals, academic support tutors and needed staff; to work to find ways to fund the cost of the unfunded mandates that the State of CT imposes on the school system; to meet the challenges of the “Smarter Balance” (SBAC) assessments and resolve to help students achieve their greatest potential by analyzing scores and using data to continue to drive instruction while focusing on individualized pupil needs.

Family: I have lived in Shelton for more than 55 years. My family owned and operated businesses in the community for many years. My husband of 44 years is Norman and I have a 14-year-old Morkie named Kinzy Bean.

Previous elected offices, community group affiliations: Former chair and vice chair of BOE Policy Committee, Teaching & Learning Committee, former Finance Committee, liaison BOE and SEA, chairman of Full Day Kindergarten Committee, Shelton Dog Park Committee, JA in a Day volunteer, Shelton elementary school volunteer, author of educational articles for quarterly issues of Shelton Life Magazine, contributor to local news media, supporter of Shelton Animal Shelter and parishioner of St. Margaret Mary Church in Shelton.