NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s elected leadership has changed to reflect the City’s diversity.
Diana Carpio is the first female Hispanic Board of Education member to be elected Chair, a Norwalk Public Schools press release pointed out. And last week’s election of Common Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) as Council President marked the first time an African American has held the role since Carvin Hilliard retired in 2013. Council member Darlene Young (D-District B) was also elected Majority Leader.
“History made in Norwalk. It’s awesome,” said Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams, of Burnett and Young.
Carpio was unanimously elected BoE Chairwoman on Nov. 14. In a Tuesday statement, she said she was honored.
“As a first-generation immigrant and the first Latina to chair the Norwalk Board of Education, it is very humbling to know that my colleagues have faith in me to lead the charge for all the children of Norwalk,” she said.
Carpio had served as the Board’s vice chair under former Chairman Colin Hosten, himself an openly gay Black man. In the Nov. 14 vote, Godfrey Azima, a Haitian American, advanced from Board Secretary to Vice Chair and Sheri McCready Brown, a Black woman, became secretary.
All of them were elected in 2019, after Penn-Williams criticized the 2017-2019 BoE as “all-white.”
The NPS news release didn’t mention other BoE members by name.
“I welcome the approval of Diana Carpio as the Board of Education’s new chairperson,” Superintendent Dr. Alexandra Estrella said in the release. “We are fortunate to have such a diverse board that represents all our families and leaders within the board that can bring fresh ideas and different perspectives to the table.”
“Carpio is a proud graduate of Norwalk Public Schools. She also is the proud parent of a P-TECH Norwalk graduate and has served as a parent volunteer in the district for many years,” the news release said.
“I look forward to continuing to serve the students, families, staff, and the community of Norwalk,” Carpio said in the release.
Penn-Williams has been critical of Carpio. She declined to comment.
In addition to Hilliard, Otha Brown, a “multi-talented leader, teacher and elected official,” held both the Council President and Majority Leader positions in the 1970s and 80s, former Mayor Richard Moccia said Friday. “This at a time when there were many obstacles placed in there way of Blacks.”
Burnett took the Council helm from Tom Livingston (D-District E) and Young replaced Barbara Smyth (D-At Large). Livingston and Smyth served in their roles one year.
Burnett has been an At Large Council member since first winning election in November 2017, and Finance Committee Chairman all that time. He served on the Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation for four years before running for office.
Young was appointed to represent District B in December 2018 and has won election twice since then. She is Recreation and Parks Committee Chairwoman.
Penn-Williams said she’s “proud” that the Council voted to make them leaders.
“I think that it’s wonderful. Great day in Norwalk,” Penn-Williams said. “It’s really diversified and we need to continue down the same path.”
Correction, 10:37 p.m. Friday: Burnett and Young are not the first African Americans in their roles.