Updated, 12:16 p.m., Tuesday with quote from Steve Colarossi
NORWALK, Conn. – Elio Longo, Norwalk’s chief operating officer for Norwalk Public Schools, has resigned, Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said Monday night. Longo is going to the Westport school system. His last day with Norwalk will be June 30.
Longo, who spent about 1½ years in the job, called interim Superintendent Tony Daddona and gave him the news after Monday’s Westport Board of Education meeting, sources said. BOE members were notified by email at about 10:18 p.m. Monday.
“Elio was a transformational person for us,” Lyons said. “He came into a financial operation that can be charitably called chaotic and really started straightening things out.”
Longo is credited with finding numerous bookkeeping errors in the Board of Education budget, most notably the $4 million deficit in the insurance accounts that led to massive cuts in the school budget last year.
“Nobody else even knew it was there,” Lyons said. But, he said, that was just the beginning of Longo’s impact.
“He has done a tremendous job in guiding us back to having a really quality financial system,” he said. “There are problems now, but they’re not self-imposed. He ended the self-created budget problems.”
Longo began his service with Norwalk schools in November 2011 after working for 10 years in Danbury as finance director of its public schools.
Longo will replace retiring Westport School Business Administrator Nancy Harris, according to WestportNow.com, with a salary of $185,000. Longo made $180,281 in 2012, Norwalk documents show.
“Westport has a fine school system,” Lyons said. “I’m sure there are several positive reasons for him to want to go there.”
BOE member Sue Haynie said she saw the email at about 10:30 p.m.
“I’m crushed,” she said. “He was the most honest guy. In the year he was here, he was a miracle worker.”
She said that was due to Longo’s demeanor is the midst of crisis.
“The calm deliberate way he did business, he is such a straight shooter, he is just a pleasure,” she said. “It’s big loss for Norwalk, just gigantic.”
Steven Colarrosi sent out a tweet. “Elio Longo has been an innovative COO who has made a lasting contribution to our students – plus, he’s a great guy,” he said.
Lisa Brinton Thomson said something similar. ” A man with integrity, who brought fiscal law order to Norwalk,” she said in an email. “A huge loss.”
Lyons said there is a silver lining, the presence of new Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl.
“Rich is the person who has developed the new budget system and budget document, he knows it inside out,” Lyons said. “We’re not facing a return to chaos. The problem in the past has been one guy doing the finances. That one guy leaves and chaos returns.”
Still, Longo is not going to be easy to replace,” Lyons said.
“He’s professional, easy to work with, with a good sense of humor,” Lyons said. “He’s very, very smart. This is a loss, no question about it.”