Democrat-dominated Norwalk BoE retains Republican leadership

NORWALK, Conn. – Leadership of the Norwalk Board of Education was soundly endorsed as all three key players were re-elected to their posts Tuesday, as a would-be top dog asserted that there was exclusion in the process.

Mike Lyons, Artie Kassimis and Heidi Keyes are all keeping the posts they have had for the last year – chairman, vice chair and secretary, respectively. Lyons and Kassimis, who are both Republicans, were unopposed for leadership of the board, which is comprised of six Democrats and three Republicans. Shirley Mosby nominated Migdalia Rivas to be secretary, but Rivas lost her third bid for the executive board to Keyes in a 6 to 3 vote.

Rosa Murray, in explaining why she hadn’t been nominated to oppose Lyons as she had been last year, protested that no one had contacted her. 

The meeting was literally 12 minutes long. The election of the board leadership was the only item on the agenda.

Jack Chiaramonte, a Republican, nominated Lyons to be chairman. “It’s rare when a government official runs on a campaign platform and actually keeps his campaign promises. Mr. Lyons has done that,” Chiaramonte said, citing a “tremendous record of achievement” for Lyons, which included leading the search to get a nationally recognized superintendent, Manny Rivera.

Murray spoke up. “I know that at this time I would not be interested in being chair, only because the process has not been followed. We continue to, I would say, exclude … and not follow the process when it comes to all board members being involved,” she said.

Lyons nominated Kassimis, saying he has done a good job and “filled in very competently on a number of occasions” when Lyons had gone out of town for business. Murray agreed.

“He has been in contact, has shown that he includes all board members in decision making, concern that there is leadership among us. Even in diverse opinions he is always willing to listen, give his input and balance in decision making,” Murray said.

Mosby said Rivas is “considered a very delightful person who has worked hard for everyone.”

“If we are going to sit here and embrace everyone we might as well start at the top,” Mosby said.

Mike Barbis nominated Keyes, saying that as secretary for the past year she introduced the spotlight series, which brings recognition to students and others at the beginning of most board meetings. Keyes has been “part of setting the tone and agenda for all the progress we have achieved under Dr. Rivera,” Barbis said.

Rivas agreed that Keyes has done an excellent job.

“Everybody has noticed the spotlight and how she has delivered it,” Rivas said. “… I feel this is a democracy and you also need to have a diverse look as well. I believe that I could bring new ideas into the spotlight area. There have been areas that have not been touched. There should be a focus also in English Language Learners. There should also be a focus on special education as well. I just want to be given the opportunity because I’ve been on the board and I do have the children’s welfare as my best interest and I just believe I could bring something else to the table.”

She said no one had reached out to her, either.

“I know it was stated that the executive board works well together but I believe that everyone can work together because in a leadership role you have to give everyone the opportunity to demonstrate these skills that they have because everyone does possess leadership skills,” Rivas said. “I just feel strongly that there should be a reconsideration…. Everyone needs to feel appreciated and everyone deserves an opportunity.”


9 responses to “Democrat-dominated Norwalk BoE retains Republican leadership”

  1. Piberman

    Norwalk is especially fortunate to have continued superb leadership at the BOE that is widely recognized as both superior and one providing a fine example of true public service that adds luster to our City. That the BOE functions admirably despite several dissidents aboard is quite remarkable. One has to look back many decades to find such similar exemplary public service on the BOE. It is splendid.

  2. Bruce Kimmel

    I fully agree with Mr. Berman.

    Regarding the process Ms. Murray referred to last night: I served on the BOE with her from 2005-09, and was never called by candidates, including her, asking for support when they ran for Board chair.

  3. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Let’s just hope that the BOE follows the Mayor’s lead and targets to keep their budget increase at under 2% for 2015/16. With the BOE budget being larger than all other city departments combined, our punitive taxes are largely driven by the BOE and the years of unrestrained spending under former Superintendent Corda. Unfortunately, our stagnant real estate values reflect the poor test scores that our schools achieve, even though we continue to invest tremendous amounts of money in them at a cost that is well over 50% of the total city budget. The BOE’s current projection of $174M budget for 2015/16 is an increase of $7.6M or 4.6%, is simply not sustainable. Even a 2% increase over the 2014/15 budget of $166.4M is still a whopping $3.3M increase! If the BOE can’t show fiscal constraint, let’s hope the City Council sets the budget cap at 2%.

  4. Oldtimer

    If wages went up a little, 2% would not so bad. Unfortunately, although the economy has recovered, wages for a lot of people have not kept pace and too many people are working two jobs, just to stay afloat.

  5. EveT

    The headline implies that the BOE is oriented to partisan politics. Which, apparently to some, it is, but it shouldn’t be. The BOE’s job is to make our schools the best they can be, and it seems since Dr. Rivera arrived it has been making good progress in that direction.

  6. LWitherspoon

    Kudos the the re-elected executive board. Keep up the good work!

  7. Thanks for the statements of support. EveT, you’re right, and the good thing here is that while there are disagreements on the Board, they are not ‘party politics driven’. A bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans has existed on the Board for almost three years now, and has strongly supported Dr. Rivera’s reforms.

    On “process”, this oft-repeated argument simply has no substance. The “process” for electing Board officers is spelled out precisely in our Bylaws and in Roberts Rules. An annual meeting is held two weeks after each election day, and the three officers are elected by majority vote of the Board. The Mayor runs the meeting, takes nominations from the floor, manages discussion, and calls for and announces the vote results. This is the “process” that has been followed for decades on the Board, and it was followed exactly as required last night. No Board members were “excluded”; all 9 were present, and all had the right to nominate candidates, debate, and vote. The statement that “the process has not been followed” is simply false; the process was followed in exact accordance with our rules.

    Taxpayer, I hear you. We are doing the best we can to control costs in the context of a tremendously restrictive set of state labor negotiation laws. Every time we implement cost controls (e.g., limited outsourcing of custodial services) we are criticized for it. Then when our efforts generate savings but perhaps not as much as some commenters would like, we’re criticized again. But we will keep trying our best.

  8. John Hamlin

    Mike Lyons — you and the BOE have been doing a great job given a very difficult task. The City owes you its gratitude.

  9. David

    The best leaders were selected for the job, regardless of political affiliation, in my opinion. Keep up the good work – I firmly believe the economic viability of our city depends upon it.

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