Shelton school board changes course, holds leadership vote

SHELTON — The Board of Education reversed its decision to scrap its annual leadership vote — but the final tally brought no change.

Kathy Yolish was unanimously nominated and reappointed as chairwoman during the board’s virtual meeting Wednesday. James Orazietti, a Republican, edged Kate Kutash, 5-4, in a vote along party lines, to retain his vice chairman seat, and Amy Romano was unanimously nominated and reappointed as secretary.

In a 5-4 vote along party lines last month, the board chose not to hold what had become annual leadership votes after hearing an opinion from city corporation counsel Fred Stanek that such an action was only needed after the municipal election.

The board held the vote after Yolish read a portion of a letter from Michelle Laubin, an attorney and member of the city’s Board of Apportionment and Taxation, questioning Stanek’s legal opinion.

In November, Stanek stated the city charter and Connecticut General Statute language superseded the board bylaws. Stanek said the board had “no authority to elect officers” at this point.

"I do not read the (city) charter this way, and I suspect that no court of law would, either,” Laubin stated.

In a letter to the board, Stanek stated he provided a legal opinion on the vote for members to consider/

“Attorney Stanek is trying to do the job of assisting us with properly worded motions and keep us informed and warned if he finds a possible problem that can be avoided,” Yolish said. “His only motive is to serve and protect us — and that is what he tries to do.”

After both letters were read into the record, Orazietti called for a leadership vote.

“It is time to move this forward … this is a non-issue,” Orazietti said after saying the board’s focus should be on important issues in the district, not a vote that would not change the present board leadership structure.

“It’s time to eliminate all the talk on this,” Orazietti added.

At the board’s November meeting, Stanek offered his legal opinion that selecting panel leaders was not necessary even though this type of reorganization is called for in the board’s bylaws and has been done for years.

Board members Amanda Kilmartin and Diana Meyer questioned Stanek’s opinion at that meeting. Both called for the board to delay any decision on whether to vote until further legal guidance could be obtained. The five Republican board members opted to not vote at that meeting.