Updated, 12:53 p.m.: Barbara Meyer-Mitchell added.
NORWALK, Conn. – NancyOnNorwalk solicited information from Norwalk Board of Education candidates last week. Here is the information we compiled:
Marc D’Amelio, Republican
D’Amelio is an apparel industry entrepreneur and resident of Norwalk for over 40 years. He and his wife Heidi have two school-age daughters, Dixie and Charli.
He holds a BA in Political Science from UConn Storrs.
D’Amelio has volunteered for the NHS Parents Club and PTO, and served as the president of both organizations for 2016-17. He also serves on the Norwalk High School Governance Council and its budget committee.
Marc’s apparel career began with startup Madsoul Clothing Company in Norwalk. He has since founded Level 4 Collective, an innovative showroom and sales agency located in New York City. Through Level 4, Marc spearheaded the turnaround of Mitchell & Ness, a division of Adidas, increasing its annual sales fivefold. Marc earned the commendation of “Top 30 Most Memorable Marketing Campaigns of All Time” by Inc. Magazine.
Tom Donaher, Republican
Donaher is a technology professional working in the financial services industry at Jefferies LLC. He and wife Tina are 19-year residents of Norwalk and have two sons, Matt, 19, and Sean, 16, a junior at Norwalk High School.
He holds a BS from Saint Joseph’s University in Management Information Systems.
Donaher is running “because I see the need for better infrastructure and technology to facilitate the academic goals set by the district. Our schools have older infrastructures that should be upgraded to reﬂect the changing technology used by the teachers and students. I think that my experience and contacts within the business community can help advance this need,” he writes.
Other community involvement includes volunteering for Boy Scout Troop 222 at St. Thomas the Apostle, serving as lector at St. Thomas, and offering technology assistance to the parish staff. He has been a full-time member of the St. Thomas Parish Council Advisory committee for three years.
Bruce Kimmel, Democrat
Kimmel, 69, is an adjunct Professor in the Social and Behavioral Science Department at Norwalk Community College. Previously he was a New York City Public School teacher.
Kimmel and wife Kay Anderson have one adult son who graduated from Norwalk Public Schools.
He holds a BA in Sociology and Art History from Rutgers, a Master’s and PhD in Sociology from Columbia, and an MS in Education from City University in Reading and Language Development.
He served on the Common Council from 1997-2005, the Board of Education from 2005-09, and the Common Council from 2011-17. He was Council President 2015-16 and chair of the Finance Committee 2011-17. He has also been a PTO Council Representative at West Rocks Middle School 1996-98 and PTO President at Cranbury Middle School 1994-96.
If elected, his top three priorities will be:
- Efficiently and creatively fund the BOE’s strategic academic plans – while providing regular communication with parents;
- Ensure the completion, (with serious monitoring) of the BOE’s three-year transformation of Special Education – while providing regular communication with parents;
- Monitor the BOE’s five-year facilities program – while providing regular communication with parents.
Heidi Keyes, Democrat
Heidi Keyes is an incumbent seeking her third term.
Keyes has an education background, having graduated from a program offered by the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) and Parents Supporting Educational Excellence (PLTI) and going on to become an instructor certified by the State of Connecticut as a facilitator.
She owned and ran her own pre-school in Silvermine for many years and has hands-on classroom experience as a paraprofessional. In addition, she has a degree in Early Childhood Education and (CDA) Certificate in Early Childhood Studies and serves on the Norwalk Early Childhood council.
Keyes has been on the BoE executive committee since 2012, as Secretary and as Vice Chairperson. She is also on the Facilities Committee and served on the Finance Committee.
She has been the Policy Committee since 2014, recently leading the Committee to pass policies that established School Governance Councils and Wellness programs, and supported Middle School redesign.
Keyes transformed the Board’s Spotlight section of public meetings by highlighting the major accomplishments of students, teachers and staff.
“On a personal level, I’ve been married for 25 years to my husband Bob, a local attorney, and live in the Silvermine section of Norwalk,” she wrote. “We both went to Norwalk Public Schools and have three amazing children ages 14, 17 and 21 years old. My oldest son Jordan is a senior at UCONN; my middle daughter Hannah is a senior at Norwalk High School and my youngest daughter Rebecca is a freshman at Norwalk High School. I enjoy taking long hikes with our dogs Ras and Remi and an avid Spin enthusiast. I call Norwalk my home and have lived in East Norwalk, South Norwalk and currently reside in Silvermine since 2005.”
Sarah LeMieux, Democrat
“In her six years in Norwalk, Sarah LeMieux has been actively involved in the district: serving on Governance Council at Columbus and West Rocks, serving on the Middle School Redesign Committee, and campaigning and writing testimony to try and secure equitable education funding for Norwalk from the state of Connecticut,” her biography said.
She has a formal background in Educational Psychology (UConn) and Early Childhood Curriculum design (CCEI). Her teaching work has blended music education, special education and early childhood education.
“A firm believer in maximizing individuation and educating the whole child, Sarah has a unique and holistic perspective not only on education, but on what leads families to choose particular districts and schools,” he biography said. “Teaching in New Haven, a diverse and vibrant urban community, gave Sarah experience finding points of consensus and areas of improvement within a community of many stakeholders. Her conflict resolution skills are also regularly exercised with her three children.”
Her three top issues:
- “To continue improving curriculum and outcomes district-wide by intentionally focusing on opportunities for all students to do hands-on, project-based learning across all disciplines and domains. This is a low-cost way to add immeasurable value to our children’s education. In the past year alone, Norwalk has made strides in closing the achievement gap in ELA and math – now it’s time to dig deep and broaden our scope.
“Creative thinking, creative problem-solving skills and experience collaborating with others ensure we can give our kids the tools to be successful in a world where technology, economies and social structures are changing rapidly and unpredictably. We can’t know what technology or the job market will look like in 20 years, but we do know the skills conferred by project-based learning will never go out of demand. Some schools in our district are already doing this; we need to look at what’s working and expand the model.”
- “Feeling-tone. I want NPS to be a cohesive community with a coherent philosophy. Many candidates have spoken about our external ‘perception problem’ – i.e., how our schools are perceived compared to those of surrounding towns – but we also suffer from a perception problem internally. Norwalk is recovering from years of schools, parents and teachers feeling isolated and locked in adversarial competition for resources, as well as years of high-level administrative turnover in the district. SPED parents, AT parents, ELL parents, band parents and sports parents; teachers, staff and administrators from every school, the Board of Education and the Superintendent – we’re all in this together, and it makes a legitimate difference to the quality of a child’s education to feel that all the adults in a department, team, school and district are on the same side and support one another as we work toward the same goals.
- “A rising tide lifts all boats – what benefits one student demographic or school genuinely benefits the entire district, as well as outward perception (and by extension, property values). As a board member, I will seek out opportunities for the district to engage in community-building and active listening professional development at all levels with the goal of increasing equity, parity and agency for all students, teachers, administrators and schools. Our perception problem will improve as this process progresses. We’re our own best salespeople. “Student health and wellness. We’ve made great progress in academics under our current leadership. We need to make sure that our curricula, schedules and facilities are meeting the needs of the whole student, taking into consideration social-emotional education, physical wellness and movement, and nutrition provided by the schools.”
Barbara Meyer-Mitchell, Democrat
Meyer-Mitchell is also endorsed by the Working Families Party. She is a homemaker, having been married for 13 years and raising two children, who attend Norwalk Public Schools.
“We like to hike, swim, kayak, play board games, and do crazy science experiments. We are actively involved in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Our kids both play the cello, and participate in fencing and crew. We have two cats, Max and Dr. Abbe, who was named by my mother for a scientist,” she wrote.
“My parents, Bob and Nina Allen, were scientists and professors who invented video microscopy, which allowed scientists to see motility in cells. Watching my mother be a strong advocate for women in science, I am acutely aware of making all academics available and inviting to students regardless of gender,” she wrote.
As a child, Meyer-Mitchell attended the oldest girls school in the United States, North Carolina’s Salem Academy, on a scholarship. She was in the Golden Key Society at Northwestern University and later received a Master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
While at the Conservatory, “I was awarded the Music History Award, wrote program notes for the symphony, and performed leads in many productions,” she wrote. “Sponsored by Carnegie Hall, I attended the Arts Leadership Institute at Columbia, where I studied best management practices for non-profit organizations.”
Top issues to address, if elected:
- “Academics – I want to ensure we are challenging our students, and meeting them where they are in their educational journey. I want to ensure that we are giving all subjects investment, not just math and ELA. I want to ensure that our curriculum is the best it can be, and we are supporting our teachers with professional development to deliver it effectively.
- “Facilities – I want to ensure that we not only complete the five year facilities plan, but also change the culture to ensure proper maintenance of our buildings and planning for capital investments every year going forward. We should never again find ourselves so behind in terms of our facilities being run down and overcrowded.
- “Special Education and Academically Talented – Norwalk has not kept up with best practices in these areas. I am eager to serve to help turnaround both programs to better serve our students.
- “Wellness – parents are very concerned about wellness and safety issues, including healthy lunches with enough time to eat them, a start time after 8:30am, and time outside. Childhood obesity and anxiety rates are going up, and there are simple things we can do to make this aspect better for our kids. (I know you said three, but I have SO many!)”
Political or community activities:
- Attend DTC and District D Democrats meetings, hosted DTC Fundraiser around Al Gore’s new movie, facilitated DTC telethon.
- Testified before the Education Committee in Hartford regarding ECS funding.
- Organized letter campaigns regarding ECS and state budget issues.
- Member, NAACP
- PTOC Secretary, advocating for issued that affect all district schools and PTOs.
- Founder and Administrator of Norwalk Parents for Education Facebook Page
- Past leader, Girl Scouts troop 50-624, awarded volunteer award for coordinating election day cookie sales, organized toy drive and decoration at Norwalk Hospital and Clothing and Food Donation to Person-to-Person, annual caroling at senior center.
- Current Boy Scout Pack 97 Chartered Organization Representative
- Library volunteer at Cranbury School
- Past Board Member of Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center, VP of Development
- Past Board Member of Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, current committee member of NSO 80th Gala Committee
- Member, West Rocks Gala Committee
- Past Room Mom and PTO volunteer, Cranbury School
“I have been advocating consistently for several years for Norwalk Public Schools, for funding, alleviating overcrowding, transforming the way we deliver special education, wellness and safety issues, avoiding cutting critical academic programs and more,” she wrote. “My opponents on the Republican ticket, with the exception of one, have not been attending meetings and working on these issues districtwide. I have created positive working relationships with Dr. Adamowski and his staff, with Board of Education members of both parties, our legislative representatives of both parties, and with parents and teachers across the district. I believe I can build bridges within the community in a non-partisan, inclusive, and civil manner. I have time to have conversations with staff and stakeholders, do site visits, and read lengthy reports and research.”