Nine candidates vie for Norwalk’s school board
Updated 5:55 pm, Saturday, November 4, 2017
NORWALK — Nine candidates are vying for four at-large seats on a Board of Education that’s made more progress for Norwalk Public Schools than any in recent memory.
And though two candidates are running for re-election, at least two new faces will join the board after voters hit the ballot box Tuesday. Among the top issues candidates are focusing on this year are special education, continued support of the five-year facilities plan and three-year Strategic Operating Plan, and improved communication between the board and the community to improve the perception of the board and the school system as a whole.
Those elected will serve four-year terms, to be completed in 2021. An organizational meeting to select the new board chairman and form committees will be held Nov. 21, following the election and the appointment of a new board member to the seat left vacant by Yvel Crevecoeur, who resigned last week.
Current board chairman Mike Lyons, whose term expires in 2019, said turnover on the Board of Education is beneficial to productivity, while continuity of some members helps maintain institutional knowledge rather than require the board to start from scratch. He said all of the candidates running are people he could see serving effectively on the board.
“Both of the slates of candidates who are running this year are pretty good groups of people,” Lyons said. “Both Republicans and Democrats, and I don’t see anybody on either slate that I would have any difficulty working with. I’m confident that whoever the voters choose, we’re going to have some good people joining us.”
Marc D’Amelio, Republican
D’Amelio, a Norwalk native with two children who attend King School in Stamford, is the founder and president of Level 4 Collective Showroom in New York City. He is a 1986 graduate of Norwalk High School and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Connecticut. He said he has no elected office experience, but served as the president of the Norwalk High School Parents Club and PTO and was an elected parent member of the Norwalk High School Governance Council. He has also served on the Norwalk High School Governance Council Budget Committee.
D’Amelio’s top three issues to address if elected are budgetary and fiscal pressures, special education and a negative school perception.
“I am not fiscally conservative, but I do believe in being fiscally efficient,” D’Amelio said. “We need to scrutinize our budget and make sure we spend our money wisely. Many of my opponents have grandiose ideas on transforming our schools but come up empty with ideas on how to pay for it. We need to strike a balance of investing in creating top-notch schools while protecting our seniors and residents on fixed incomes from financial hardship.”
Tom Cullen, Republican
Cullen did not return a request for comment on his platform or top issues as a Board of Education candidate.
Tom Donaher, Republican
Donaher, associate vice president of telecommunications at Jefferies LLC, is the parent of a 2016 Norwalk High School Graduate and a current NHS student. He has no elected office experience, but lists community participation as the secretary of Boy Scout Troop 222 for more than a decade, and has ben on the Saint Thomas Parish Council for three years.
Donaher listed his top three issues as infrastructure improvement and support of the plans set forth by the superintendent and current Board of Education, curriculum improvement in math, and curriculum improvements to address the needs of the middle percentage of the student population.
“We need to continue to find common ground on the BOE under very strict budgets, and I can accomplish this need,” Donaher said.
Heidi Keyes, Democrat, incumbent
Keyes is an educational assistant at Westport Public Schools who has served on the Board of Education since 2009. Keyes served as the board’s secretary from 2012-15, as vice chairperson in 2016, and is currently the secretary. She has also been chairperson of the policy committee since 2014, and currently serves on the facilities committee and is the board’s representative for the Norwalk Early Childhood Council.
Her top three issues are continued support of early childhood initiatives, improved communication between the district’s central office, board members and the community, and continued support of the three-year Strategic Operating Plan.
“I believe in a public school education and take pride that during the last eight years I have always worked in the best interest of our students and the taxpayers in a bipartisan manner,” Keyes said.
Bruce Kimmel, Democrat
Kimmel, an adjunct professor at Norwalk Community College, previously served on the Board of Education from 2005-09 and was a member of the finance and curriculum committees. In 2011, he was elected to the Common Council, where he served as president from 2015-16.
Kimmel’s top three issues include efficiently and creatively funding the board’s existing strategic academic plans, ensuring completion of the board’s three-year special education plan, and monitoring the board’s facilities plan, while providing regular communication with parents.
“I am able to address educational issues from a variety of perspectives: as an educator ... as an academic ... as an active parent ... as an elected official,” Kimmel said.
Sarah LeMieux, Democrat
LeMieux is a parent of three children in the Norwalk Public School system. She earned her bachelor’s degree at New York University, studied educational psychology at the University of Connecticut, earned a certificate in Early Childhood Curriculum Design from the ChildCare Education Institute and is currently studying for her master’s degree in Music Composition at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
LeMieux has never run for municipal office, but was elected to serve on the West Rocks School Governance Council in 2016, and was appointed the Columbus Magnet School Governance Council in 2013.
Her top three issues include further integrating technology into the district curriculum, developing a cohesive community and coherent philosophy within the Norwalk Public School system, and a focus on student health and wellness.
“What sets me apart is broad-based experience working with a wide variety of populations in many different educational environments,” LeMieux said.
Barbara Meyer-Mitchell, Democrat
Meyer-Mitchell is a parent of two children in the Norwalk Public School system, and is a founder and administrator of the Norwalk Parents for Education Facebook Page. She has never held an elected office, but lists substantial community involvement including advocacy for ECS funding at the state level, parent participation in Girl and Boy Scouts, Cranbury School PTO, West Rocks Gala Committee and the local NAACP chapter.
Meyer-Mitchell’s top three issues include a focus on academics beyond ELA and math, completion of the five-year facilities plan, and continuation of progress in the special education and academically talented programs.
“I have created positive working relationships with (Superintendent of Schools) Dr. (Steven) 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,” Meyer-Mitchell said. “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.”
Shirley Mosby, Working Families Party, Democrat, Incumbent
Mosby is a Norwalk native and the parent of a Norwalk High School graduate. She was elected to the Board of Education in 2013, and serves on the curriculum and policy committees, as well as an adult education liaison. She also previously served on the board from 2007-09.
Mosby’s stop three issues include special education, overall student achievement, and increasing parental and community involvement.
“I believe if one child fails it is one child too many,” Mosby said. “I serve as a voice for those who don’t have a voice and I can be counted on to keep the community informed about the Board’s decisions. I have served on the board for six years with one purpose — to ensure our school system offers a strong, quality education to every single student.”
Steve Tessier, Republican
Tessier did not return a request for comment on his platform or top issues as a Board of Education candidate.
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