I’ve got it: A way to block the verbal haymakers being launched back and forth between Town Hall and Tuttle House. Maybe even a way to help fund the Board of Education’s more-than-$2 million budget shortfall, which rang the bell of this fight in the first place.
Take it to court—the basketball court, that is.
In case you’ve been flipping straight to the sports section lately, Naugatuck’s school system overspent its budget by about $1 million last year and is on pace to double that figure this year. In a way, recent Board of Ed. meetings have resembled sporting events: Boisterous, sign-waving attendees; TV cameras everywhere. We even had a rain delay of sorts last Monday, when the board spent more than two hours behind closed doors. Many folks stayed in their seats, and though no ponchos were necessary, the mood was pretty darn stormy.
In the last two months, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Tindall-Gibson has heard more calls for his dismissal than Charlie Weis. Both the Naugatuck Teachers’ League and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses have voted no confidence in his leadership.
On the whole, the relationship between the borough and Board of Ed. is about as amicable as that between the Yankees and Red Sox.
That’s why we need an athletic intervention. Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the first—and so far only—borough employees vs. BOE employees basketball game. Remember that? It was a night of pick-and-rolling-with-laughter that raised money for the high school hoops teams and collected cans for the Ecumenical Food Bank. It was also a very close contest. Bailiff Josh Ruccio scored 18 points, including the game-winning layup with 7.2 seconds to play, for the borough in a 64-63 victory.
I propose we do it again.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Tindall-Gibson said, when I made the pitch. “We should do that. I think everyone’s been so distracted and wrapped up with the budget that we haven’t thought about it. I’d love to do something like that.
“I could ask Jimmy Goggin what he’s thinking about,” he added with a chuckle, referencing the borough tax collector who is among those advocating the superintendent’s resignation.
“I’d tell him I’m thinking he should learn how to do his job,” quipped Goggin.
Alright! A battle of the big men—this is a phenomenal start. I say we call up Nike and reshoot those Kobe vs. LeBron puppet commercials with Goggin and Tindall-Gibson.
“Will there be an ambulance standing by?” asked Board of Ed. member Rocky Vitale, considering the prospect of those verbal haymakers turning physical.
Sure, Rocky. Or better yet, we’ll pick a sport that’s a little rougher anyway.
“Maybe it should be a wrestling match instead,” suggested BOE Chairwoman Kathleen Donovan.
Brilliant! Heck, we could do a borough vs. BOE decathlon. Between gate money and our cut of the new Nike ad, we’d close that budget gap easily.
“What’s Bob [Mezzo] really bad at?” Tindall-Gibson wondered about the Naugatuck mayor, who’s also urging the school chief to step down. “We’ll play that.”
Not so fast, JTG (By the way, can we make him a replica of LeBron’s LBJ sweater and change the letters to JTG?). You’re assuming Mezzo will play for the borough team. But remember, Mezzo also sits on the Board of Education, so he could represent either side.
“I don’t know,” Mezzo said, mulling the decision. “The Board of Ed. came up on the losing end last year. I used to not be afraid to shoot the ball. Maybe I would have to suit up for the Board of Ed.”
Wow, this is like the time Wade Boggs said he wanted to wear a Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat, instead of a Sox cap, into the Hall of Fame. Didn’t see that one coming.
The truth is the education team might need Mezzo just to fill a complete roster.
“With the way the relationship is right now between the board and the teachers, I don’t know if we’d get enough support from the teachers [to field a team],” said Dave Heller, the Board of Ed. secretary who organized the original matchup.
Since when has not having enough numbers stopped the Board of Education from doing something?
Heller said before budget problems strained their rapport, the borough and BOE actually did give some thought to a multi-sport series and a traveling trophy. The two held a swim meet early this year, and other sports discussed include soccer, volleyball and flag football.
Vitale added one condition to that last one: “Only if we do it barefoot on gravel with spiked collars,” he said.
I’m not sure where to find spiked collars, but we could play on the high school soccer field—that might be more extreme than gravel.
“In all seriousness though, maybe [playing the basketball game again] would be a good release for everyone,” Donovan said.
“I don’t think it’d be that bad,” Goggin agreed. “I think we’d play basketball.”
Come on now, guys. Don’t lose your edge.
“There’s been a loss of trust, but I’ve never questioned anyone’s integrity,” Mezzo chimed in. “Maybe an evening of recreation is just what we need.”
So you wouldn’t vote no confidence in the superintendent’s jump shot, Mayor?
“No, nothing like that,” he said.