Parents submit petition to try to save Central Avenue

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Central Avenue Elementary School in Naugatuck will be repurposed to house the borough’s preschool programs next school year. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Even though the decision has already been made and the budget has already been passed, Central Avenue Elementary School’s impending close is still a contentious issue for some people.

Donna Cariello presented a petition with 288 signatures to keep Central Avenue open to Mayor Robert Mezzo at the Board of Education’s meeting June 14.

Cariello also tried to ask questions of the board during the public comment portion of the meeting.

School board Chair David Heller, however, informed Cariello that the public comment section was for the board to hear comments from the public, not to field questions. Heller offered to have Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson call Cariello the day after the meeting to go over all of the concerns she has about the closing of the school.

Cariello was not pleased with the offer and left the meeting immediately.

Later that evening, after all of the board members had a chance to read over the petition, a discussion about the petition was added to the agenda.

Heller explained since Cariello and her husband Charles Amrich spent so much time gathering signatures and took the time to present the petition to the board, it was the board’s responsibility to discuss the issue.

Board member James Scully felt it was not the correct time to discuss this matter since the people who had handed the petition in had already walked out.

Heller disagreed and thought that, since they were handed the petition at this meeting, that it was prudent to discuss it now.

“I wish they had stayed, but they chose not to,” Heller said. “I feel that, based on the efforts of the people who collected the signatures, we should have a discussion and that’s what we’re doing, whether they’re here or not. I have no control of when people walk in or out of the meeting.”

Heller believed that getting the 288 signatures must have been a lot of work for Cariello and Amrich. However, he questioned the timing of the petition.

“I’m frustrated the petition did not come forward when we announced that we were considering the closure and at the actual vote,” Heller said. “My own personal opinion is that I wish those 288 people had come to City Hill [Middle School] that night and spoken with us.”

Board member Jim Jordan was sympathetic towards the amount of work that Cariello and Amrich went through to present this petition to the board.

“I think they did go through a lot of effort to do what they thought was the proper way to get our attention to have a discussion on this matter,” Jordan said.

However, he felt that, having sat through multiple meetings on the finances of the Board of Education, that the school could not turn back the decision on closing the school. He told the board members that he thought that it was important that the board reach out to these people why the decision was made.

“There’s no silver bullet, slam dunk, or right or wrong,” Jordan said of the decision to close Central Avenue.

He said the board had to choose the lesser of two evils and went with what it felt was the right decision.

Heller said the reassignments for both students and teachers have already been made and, while he appreciates the effort it took to collect the signatures on the petition, he does not believe there is any way that Central Avenue will not be closing.