Fresh-faced school board ready to work

The Naugatuck school board met for the first time May 12 at Western Elementary School since the election. With five new members on the nine-member board, there was excitement in the air. Pictured, from left, school board members Scott Slauson, Deby Brackett and James Jordan. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER

NAUGATUCK — The new Board of Education met for its first regular meeting Thursday night at Western Elementary School.

With five of the nine board members new to the position, several said they enjoyed their first meeting and were excited to get to work.

The board appointed senior incumbent David Heller as chair in a 6-3 vote. The board voted unanimously for newcomer Dorothy Neth-Kunin as vice chair and Deby Brackett as secretary.

“We’re looking forward to working on behalf of all the students and continuing to do the wonderful work that all of our administrators and teachers and parents are here tonight to do,” Heller said.

Neth-Kunin said she was ready to take on her duties as vice chair and get positive results for the school district.

Brackett said the first meeting went well. She said she was disappointed with where the budget is right now, but was ready to work with the finance board and make the best use of the school district’s allotment.

“It should be great to get off to a fresh start … hopefully we can make the news for the right reasons instead of the wrong reasons,” newcomer Scott Slauson said.

As a CFO, Glenn Connan said he was ready to dive into the budget.

“With all the complaining I’ve done over the years, it’s time to put up and shut up,” Connan said.

New board member Diana Malone said her first board meeting was interesting and informative.

“I’m looking forward to serving,” she said.

Several former BOE members were in the audience. They said they were interested to see the new board in action and who would be appointed to the officer positions.

“I just hope they keep the politics out of it,” said former school board member Michelle Kalogrides. She said serving on the board is about the kids, not politics.

Kalogrides also said she would like to see a charter revision so that board terms would be staggered. That way, the board would avoid the current situation where most of its members left at the same time. She also said elections should be held later so new board members would not have to take over the reigns just as the budget is passed.

During public comment, first grade teacher and parent Nancy Sasso Janis said she would like to see the new board use the district’s website more to notify the community about meetings and other important events.

Parent Philip Zembruski had his own list of expectations for the new board. In a prepared statement, Zembruski compared the flood of 1955 to the economic flood today. In the flood of 1955, the people of Naugatuck came down off the hill to rebuild the town, Zembruski said. Now, the town must rebuild again.

“In your term, you will search for a superintendent, a business manager, and make the necessary decisions to make the best education period for Naugatuck, not the best education possible. Settling for anything less would tarnish the legacy of those that came down from the hill nearly 60 years ago to rebuild this community,” Zembruski said.

He said he’d like to see the board improve communication with the public, improve use policy for social media in the schools, streamline business procedures to allow for more dollars to go directly to students, and work with the community and town to bring business in.

“Please look at our past and help shape the future of Naugatuck schools,” Zembruski said.

The school board will have a special meeting Wednesday, May 18 to discuss the budget and other items.