Updated, 4:11 p.m.: Statements from Barbara Smyth and Heidi Keyes.
NORWALK, Conn. – The list of Norwalk Democrats publicly seeking elected office this fall has grown, and includes an attempt by Bruce Kimmel to move from the Common Council back to the Board of Education.
Council at Large hopefuls and potential BoE candidates spoke Monday at the Democratic Town Committee meeting, where DTC member Brenda Penn-Williams put BoE hopefuls on the spot by challenging them to promise that they’d vote for a Democratic BoE chairman.
NancyOnNorwalk did not attend but obtained a list of candidates, confirming it with DTC Chairman Ed Camacho:
Board of Education
- BoE member Heidi Keyes (seeking re-election)
- Common Council member Bruce Kimmel
- BoE member Shirley Mosby (seeking re-election)
- Sarah LeMieux
- Barbara Meyer Mitchell, founder of the Facebook page Norwalk Parents for Education
Common Council (at large seats)
- Common Council member Michael Corsello (seeking re-election)
- Common Council member Nick Sacchinelli (seeking re-election)
- Board of Estimate and Taxation member Greg Burnett
- Zoning Commissioner Doug Stern
- Barbara Smyth
- Diane Lauricella
That makes more potential Democratic candidates than available seats, with four BoE seats available and five candidates, and six people vying for five Common Council candidacies.
Not running for re-election is BoE member Sherelle Harris. Harris did not respond to a Thursday inquiry asking about that.
Board of Education
Kimmel announced his intention to run for the Board of Education in a May 23 Facebook post:
“After discussion with the leadership of the Norwalk Democratic Party, I have agreed to run for an at large seat on the Board of Education this November. As many of you know, I have an extensive background in education — as a teacher and professor, as president of two PTOs (one in Manhattan, one in Norwalk), and as an elected official. I look forward to working with Mayor Rilling and Superintendent Adamowski; lots of great initiatives are taking place in our schools and I would love to be part of the transformation. I sincerely hope to receive the party nomination this July.”
Kimmel was a reading specialist at the New York City Department of Education from 1987 to 2011 and is currently a sociology professor at Norwalk Community College. He served on the Norwalk Board of Education from August 2005 to February 2009.
Keyes has served as Policy Committee chairperson and BoE vice chairman, and is currently BoE secretary. This would be her third four-year term on the BoE.
Keyes, in a letter to the DTC, said:
“After much thought and consideration and some soul searching I have decided to run for a third term. I was first elected back in 2009 and won narrowly by only six votes. The second go round I was the top vote getter of both Democrats and Republicans for the Board in 2013. I was humbled by all the support. I have certainly learned that every vote counts and how important it is to vote your conscious and earn respect. I have served on many committees during the last eight years. I am currently the Policy Chair since 2014 and have passed many policies including our School Governance Council, Wellness, Middle School Redesign, School Signage and more. I’m on the Executive committee since 2012 and became Vice Chairperson in 2016. I am currently Secretary. In addition, I have served on our Finance Committee and currently on Facilities as well as being appointed by both the Mayor and Superintendent to serve my second term on the Norwalk Early Childhood Committee. My passion has always been Early Childhood Education and realize we need to reach our youngest learners.
“I realize the time and committment [sic] that is needed to be an effective board member. It not only involves governing but also being able to support each other and work together to make our school system great. Our diversity sets us apart from our neighboring towns. I believe in our schools and both myself and my husband Bob are products of Norwalk Public Schools and have three children that have gone through or are currently in the Norwalk school system. I am a true believer in our schools and know that Norwalk can and will be a stellar school system.
“I hope I can have your support at the convention in July.”
Mosby served on the Board of Education from 2007 to 2009 as a appointed member, and first won election four years ago. Her term on the Board has been stormy, initially marked by her accusing the Board of racial discrimination. Her public interactions with other BoE members have been more cordial over the past year.
LeMieux has been active in District A. She provided NancyOnNorwalk with the letter she sent to DTC members:
“In the six years my family has been in Norwalk, I’ve been actively involved in the district, serving on Governance Council at Columbus and West Rocks, and on the Middle School Redesign Committee. As a career music educator, early childhood and special educator with a background in Educational Psychology and Early Childhood Curriculum design, as well as a parent of three, I have a unique and holistic perspective not only on education, but on what leads families to choose particular districts and schools. From my time teaching in New Haven, I understand the challenges of working within a system of many stakeholders, with an eye toward finding points of consensus and areas of improvement.
“Dr. Adamowski, the current board, and the teachers, administrators and families in the district have made strong progress toward bringing Norwalk the world-class education system our kids deserve. This is a special moment for education in Norwalk, and I’d like to be part of it.”
Meyer Mitchell is well known as the founder of the growing Facebook Page, Norwalk Parents for Education.
“I’m running because I am passionate about education, and I want to see Norwalk Public Schools become the model of excellence,” Meyer Mitchell said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “ I support the current strategic plan and facilities plan, and want to ensure that they are executed faithfully. I want to help find the best delivery model for ELL education, with appropriate wraparound social services. Special Education has been a problem for this district for years, and I am committed to early identification of children who need special education services and strong in-district programs that functions on a caseload model. I am a strong proponent of gifted education, hands on learning and science education. ‘Quality of life’ issues are important to the community, so policy that affects safety and well being are important for me as well. I am also very concerned that all 19 schools are developing with parity. I don’t think we should have uneven quality between the schools in our district. If elected I would ask to serve on the Policy and Curriculum committees, and focus on how we deliver education here in Norwalk.”
Council at large
Corsello is a criminal attorney serving his first term as a Council member. Sacchinelli is Channel Sales Executive at Datto, Inc., also serving his first term as a Council member.
Stern is a criminal defense attorney who graduated from Tulane Law School in 2011, according to his Facebook page. He has been on the Zoning Commission since August 2015.
Burnett is Senior Human Resources Professional at IBM Corporation, according to his LinkedIn page, which shows that he has worked for the company since 1996.
Burnett is Senior Human Resources Professional at IBM Corporation, according to his LinkedIn page., which shows that he has worked for the company since 1996.
He is known as former Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board chairman. Burnett served on the Board of Estimate and Taxation from 2001 to 2005 under former Mayor Alex Knopp and was appointed to the Board again by Rilling in December 2013. He is BET chairman.
In 2012, Smyth, a teacher, organized Norwalk parents to fight Norwalk Public Schools budget cuts, resulting in protests outside City Hall.
On Friday, Smyth explained in an email her reasons for running:
“Like many women, I became more involved in politics after the 2016 election. I marched in the NYC women’s march, then joined the organizing committee to bring Emerge America to Connecticut (Emerge trains and mentors women to run for office.) I believe we need more women in office at every level of government. I wanted to become more involved locally and nationally, and perhaps learn to run a campaign. Whatever the case, through my Emerge activities, I met Donna King, who subsequently asked me to consider a run for Common Council. I heeded the words and encouragement of my Emerge cohorts and made the decision to run.“As a public servant who currently teaches in Norwalk Public Schools, and as a citizen, mother, and grandmother, I care about the many issues facing Norwalk: education, economic development, fair taxes, and a good quality of life for all of Norwalk’s people.”
Lauricella is known as an activist who speaks at many City Hall meetings. She worked for the Department of Environmental Protection as a field inspector looking for hazardous wastes from 1983 to 1990. She has said she found the contamination at the Elinco site, 272-280 Main Ave., otherwise known as the Kellogg-Deering Well Field Superfund site.
Lauricella describes herself as an environmental consultant. She has recently been working with the South Norwalk Citizens for Justice and the Village Creek Homeowners Association.
“Why am I going out to vote for Democrats and they are not in the minority, and then they choose the other party for a chair? That does not make sense to me. It does not,” Penn-Williams said Tuesday, confirming accounts that she had asked BoE hopefuls to pledge to vote for a Democratic chairperson.
The BoE has had a Democratic majority since the 2013 election, with six Democrats to three Republicans, but has twice voted to make Republican Mike Lyons chairman. Last year. BoE member Yvel Crevecoeur, a Democrat, sought the post but lost on a 6-3 vote.
Penn-Williams said no one promised not to vote for a Republican chairman, quoting Keyes as saying she wanted to be bipartisan.
“Define bipartisan,” Penn-Williams said. “Bipartisan means working with the other party, not voting for them to be the chair.”
“ You should be supporting your party, we are a family,” DTC member Samuel Pride said, standing next to Penn-Williams.
“Then you follow the Republican agenda,” Penn-Williams said. “So why are you running for a Democrat?
These people are not true Dems… they are not working for Democratic principles. For me, I am not going to support them.”
Penn-Williams said Mosby was the only person who mentioned children as the reason she wants to be on the Board of Education. She quoted Meyer-Mitchell as saying she wants to work with Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski.
“Are you kidding me? I am waiting for him to G-O,” Penn-Williams said. “…He doesn’t have an agenda for this town. This town is not what he wants it to be. He needs to go somewhere else.”
Meyer-Mitchell provided a copy of the speech she made to the DTC:
“My name is Barbara Meyer-Mitchell and I would like your support to run for the Board of Education. I believe that the Norwalk Public Schools are poised to achieve excellence, and I am eager to help make that happen.
“My children have been attending the Norwalk Public Schools for six years. I have been a room mom, library volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTO fundraiser, and PTO Council Representative and Secretary. I also founded a Facebook community page, Norwalk Parents for Education, which has 2,800 members. Using the tool of social media, we have helped engage and empower the community to tackle issues large and small, from over-crowding and special education failures to recess policy and facilities issues. Through this work, I have gained a broad knowledge of how the Norwalk Public Schools function and where improvements can be made. I have built good working relationships with Dr. Adamowski, Board of Education members, Council members and the mayor’s staff. I believe I can be a team player to help Norwalk achieve excellence in our schools. I want to stem the tide of families moving away from Norwalk, and retain these wonderful members of our community. I want to see the Norwalk Public Schools become the envy of Fairfield County.
“As a strong supporter of the Strategic Plan and the five year facilities plan, I want to be sure they are executed faithfully. I am eager to help set the strategic priorities for Norwalk Public Schools’ future. I want our district to be the model of how to deliver ELL education, Special Education, Gifted Education, and wraparound services, so we can meet every child’s needs wherever they happen to be on their journey.
“I have the time and the passion to serve. I want to have the important conversations with the community about our shared future. I love reading studies, research, and plans, and promise to work hard to make good decisions based on sound research. The status of the Norwalk Public Schools is often my first thought in the morning and the last phone conversation of my evening. I am ready and eager to serve, and I hope you will choose to vote to put me on the ballot this fall.”
Kimmel said Tuesday that Penn-Williams had raised an interesting issue by demanding that Democrats vote for a Democratic BoE chairperson, an issue “that has a long history in this country.”
“Elected officials are often in positions where they want to appoint the most competent people, on the one hand, yet they feel the pull of their party on the other hand,” Kimmel said. “Oftentimes the most competent person to lead an elected body is from the opposite party. So the question is what do you do? You have to look at it carefully and make a choice. I understand what the Board of Ed member did when they elected Mike Lyons as chairman. It was a tough decision to make but they felt at the time that the would probably be the best person to lead the board of ed through this very complex period, with all the school construction going on, with the Special Education issue transformation going on, with all the curriculum decision, they opted for continuity, feeling that was the best decision for Norwalk.”
He continued, “To make promises going forward, right before an election, without knowing the composition of the Board, to make those promises is not a good idea and could reflect the kind of partisanship that most of the country is moving away from. We are being asked to make promises without knowing who our Board colleagues are going to be.”