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Norwalk sees racial first in BoE leadership role

From left, Diana Carpio in 2019, Greg Burnett at the Memorial Day parade in May and Darlene Young last year on Election Night.

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.

5 comments

Lisa Brinton November 30, 2022 at 9:15 am

Great to see diversity. Congratulations to the new leadership team. Will Greg, Darlene and Diana allow a diverse and proportional representation of ideas? Or is “single party rule fine, so long as it’s us?” Will this team look out for Norwalk (unlike our mayor) or simply yield to the state’s agenda? Forty five percent of residents (those who are vested enough in our city to vote) are not happy with how the city is addressing the negative consequences of increased density. Will we see any thoughtful policy from this team or will things remain ‘status quo’?

Patrick Cooper November 30, 2022 at 11:54 am

Ah, with Mr. Burnett now at the helm of the CC – we have truly come full circle.

Recall the good old days – when Greg was briefly board chair of the soon to be bankrupt NEON. To say they ran a sloppy enterprise is putting it mildly, and the financial irregularities were just banana’s under the direction of Chiquita. The prior Mayor Moccia said enough – which paved the way for Harry to get elected by folks in this community that simply don’t want the honey pot of freebies to ever turn off.

Prior NoN Editor and contributor Mark Chapman wrote an interesting story – just before the 2013 elections:

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/departing-neon-directors-cite-mangement-factionalized-board/

So I wonder, while Harry is pushing the Hartford density plan down Norwalk’s throats – will Greg fight for the other45% of the city that’s not in favor? Or – will he capitulate, bow down to Harry and the radical DTC machine, and simply concern himself with how he can keep the free cheese flowing? Somehow I think – what’s past is prologue – so we know the future.

eduardo sanchez November 30, 2022 at 12:24 pm

What does the color of somebodies skin have to do with anything? Would it matter if someone was the first 7 foot tall BoE member? The first with clubbed fingers? The first with webbed toes?
This article goes out of the way to not explain to the readers why this matters and why it is a good thing.

Evan Spears November 30, 2022 at 1:52 pm

Lets hope the right people were elected for the jobs , and this wasnt just to have the appearance of more diversity and equity…

ALSO how come whenever its a White person elected Penn Williams has to cry racism? Are White people not a part of diversity too?

Penn Williams harassed Superintendent Adamowski and the “All White” Board of Ed under him. We did the “diverse” thing and elected Estrella as Superintendent. Where has that got us? All the “diversity” Estrella hired are actually NOT diverse, they are all NYC TRANSPLANTS. one hand washing the other thats how the government runs I guess. They could care less what Norwalk residents think as long as they get their salary?

Manny Langella November 30, 2022 at 4:44 pm

Congratulations to the newly elected Leadership!

I did not have the pleasure of working with Diana Carpio but did with Darlene Young. She is one of the most selfless, devoted, and humble leaders. She motivates others and lifts people up around her. She is fantastic at conflict resolution as well as has the best interests of Norwalk, and her Community in mind.

I do hope Greg Burnett uses this opportunity to unify the Council. In my short time on Council, I looked to those with tenure as an example. When it came time to vote for Council Leadership, there was an “unwritten rule” the Council had. If someone with tenure on the Council expressed a desire for Leadership and had not served in a Leadership capacity previously; they would be given the opportunity to serve without challenge from others. This was not a “rule” designed to hold anyone back from their aspirations or circumvent the Democratic process; it was viewed as producing a candidate that would have more experience working with more individuals over many terms and thus should translate to the job.

Greg challenged this when other members both expressed a desire to run as well as had longer tenure and we honored this rule and voted as such. Consequently, it was not taken well by Mr. Burnett.

Between the Leadership vote and the vote on the efficiency study, it divided the Council into two. I shifted focus back to my work career if we were not able to operate objectively without agenda.

It should be noted that Barbara Smyth, Nick Sacchinelli, and John Kydes were all fantastic in President Capacity helping lead Norwalk through COVID. It was an honor to serve with them.

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