BY ANDREAS YILMA
BEACON FALLS — The Region 16 Board of Education suspended Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin for two weeks without pay with some conditions after he was charged with reckless driving last September in Florida.
Those conditions include that Yamin will provide proof of completion of an alcohol counseling program or another similar training and the mutual agreement between Yamin and the school board was codified where any reoccurrence of this or similar conduct will result in Yamin’s termination.
The board will announce March 8 when the suspension and who will serve as acting superintendent for the two weeks.
Yamin said he doesn’t agree or disagree with the discipline but is thankful the school board is going to continue support his work and will move forward by continuing to be visible, approachable and available to the whole community.
“I’m grateful that the board is giving me an opportunity to continue this work toward a common vision for the district and regain the trust and confidence of all stakeholders,” Yamin said. “I will do it with humility and honesty.”
Yamin, who has led the Region 16, which serves Prospect and Beacon Falls, for eight years, initially was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Volusia County, Fla., on Sept. 3, 2022, and released on a $500 bond.
Volusia County Clerk of Circuit Court later reduced the charge to a second-degree reckless driving misdemeanor and he pleaded guilty. He apologized in a Feb. 9 letter to families for being charged with reckless driving last year in Florida.
Board of Education Chairman Robert A. Hiscox said at a special meeting on Feb. 15 to a crowd of over 50 residents that school board members didn’t have any prior knowledge of Yamin’s arrest. School officials became aware on Feb. 8 Hiscox after “someone dug it up on Facebook.”
The next morning board Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella, Hiscox and the board’s legal counsel, heard Yamin’s explanation which was followed with a special meeting on Feb. 10.
“There was no cover up,” Hiscox said.
The school board deliberated for about three hours at the Feb. 10 special meeting and another hour in executive session at a special meeting on Feb. 15 after 19 members of the public, including some Region 16 educators, spoke in favor or against Yamin.
Michele LoRusso, who has been a Region 16 employee for 23 years, said Yamin has always been visible with students and makes decisions with best interest for them.
“I have confidence that Mr. Yamin will develop a steadfast and resolute demeanor in moving past this mistake in a constructive and successful manner,” LoRusso said.
Joann Overby of Beacon Falls said superintendents are held to a higher standard by the Connecticut code of professional responsibility.
“Mr. Yamin failed us all, most importantly our children,” Overby said.
Vincent Balsamo, who has two sons at in the district and worked as teacher under Yamin for eight years, said Yamin has always been a strong leader who puts students first.
“I still believe that Mr. Yamin can effectively lead our district and will remain as a strong leader and advocate for our children,” Balsamo said.
Beacon Falls Parks and Recreation Commission member and Region 16 parent Maureen Carroll asked several questions including why Yamin didn’t communicate to the community right away and if Yamin has to follow to the board of education rules laid out by the region and the rules for teachers in the Region 16 handbook.
“He is not a good role model for our kids,” Carroll said. “Our kids deserve a lot better.”
Hiscox said Yamin didn’t receive a raise but instead was a clarification in his contract where it should’ve been listed as a contribution to his pension plan rather than a fringe benefit.
Hiscox said school officials were concerned with the impact on the school district and Yamin moving forward although he’s done an amazing job in his position.
“It’s a tough decision to make but a consequence needed to occur and I think it’s a fair and equitable consequence that will allow the district to move forward in a positive way,” Hiscox said.
Yamin said he will attempt to respond to each person who had questions at the meeting and plans to meet with high school students to have some conversations.
“I’m going to work toward this making me a better administrator and something we can collectively learn from with empathy and how we perform from this point moving on,” Yamin said. “I accept full responsibility for my actions. I’m thankful and supportive for the board of Ed. I will continue to work tirelessly the regain the trust and support of students, the staff and the community.”