NAUGATUCK — Is there an echo in the borough?
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses took a page from the Naugatuck Teachers League strategy book when it voted, 8-1, to cast a symbolic vote of no confidence in Superintendant of Schools John Tindall-Gibson’s leadership Tuesday night.
The NTL voted two weeks ago on the same measure and enjoyed near-unanimous support from its constituency.
And as the chief board of governance in the borough, the mayor and burgesses proved that it’s not just the educators who are upset about the Board of Education’s budgetary problems.
Deputy Mayor Tamath K. Rossi motioned for the vote, saying that despite her belief that the situation should be handled in a “positive manner,” the burgesses “are the leaders of the community, and [they] need to lead.”
She indicated that, as negotiations for the 2010-11 fiscal year’s budget are right around the corner and the BOE is yet to adopt one for this year, it’s in a “very dire situation,” citing rumblings in Hartford that ECS (Education Commissions of the States) funding may be cut.
While Rossi acknowledged that Tindall-Gibson could not be blamed for “100 percent” of the problem, “executive decisions have not been made, executive direction has not been taken, and leadership has not been presented.”
Second Deputy Mayor Mike Ciacciarella compared the Superintendant to Charlie Weis, the Notre Dame football coach who was fired this week after a 6-6 season, saying that, like Weis, Tindall-Gibson’s “time is up.”
Burgess Robert Burns termed Tindall-Gibson’s performance “malfeasance of office,” noting that the blame for the budget shortfall should be placed at his feet.
Burgesses Mindy Fragoso and Bob Neth voted for the measure but expressed some reservation.
Fragoso said while she felt the BOE, as an autonomous body, should be left mostly to its own devices, the situation has reached a point where the borough must act in whatever capacity they legally can to dislodge Tindall-Gibson.
“I can’t tell you how many people are looking into Southbury schools, who are thinking of moving out,” she said, because of the budget deficit and possible across-the-board cuts, “I don’t want an exodus in Naugatuck. No one wants an exodus in Naugatuck. … There’s a tremendous apathy about not having a voice [among residents].”
Neth’s hesitation sprang from his belief that a vote of no confidence wouldn’t sway Tindall-Gibson, who’s stood stalwart against Mayor Bob Mezzo’s and the NTL’s demands that he voluntarily resign.
“There’s no way in hell this guy is going to leave $400,000 [roughly his salary through his contract expiration in 2011] on the table,” Neth said. “The reality is Tindall-Gibson will not resign, so we need to step back and analyze what’s best for the borough of Naugatuck.”
Burgess Bob Woodward questioned the various proposals on the table for bridging the deficit.
“It seems every group has its own solution,” he said. “But does anyone listen to those solutions?”
The mayor and burgesses voted 8-1, with an abstention from Hank Kuczenski.
Burgess Pat Scully was the only voice in opposition to the measure. He felt that a vote of no confidence in the superintendant was the BOE’s business, and that the municipal board “shouldn’t take a stand” against them.
So the Board of Mayor and Burgesses has upped the ante and thrown its weight behind the teacher’s union, applied their political leverage, and increased the pressure on Tindall-Gibson to resign.
But Fragoso said the symbolic measure didn’t go far enough.
“For me, it’s not a done deal,” she said. “We have to leave no stone unturned” in looking for alternative ways to remove Tindall-Gibson from his post.