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It was a bittersweet Board of Education meeting on Nov. 18, as three longtime board members said goodbye: Chairman Deb Grass, Secretary Ethelene DiBona, and Lois Ruggerio. The last meeting for the three was attended by friends, family, and former colleagues.
There were flowers, gifts, cake, hugs, smiles, and maybe a secret tear or two. With a cumulative 48 years on the board, these three women have seen a lot of changes over the years and in many cases helped those changes shape the education system in Clinton to become what it is now.
"I want to say 'Thank you' to these three women," explained Dolly Mezzetti. "They have given their time and talent to the Clinton School System and I just want thank them for all that they have put into this town."
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Cross spoke in tribute to the women, praising them all for their hard work and time spent on the board.
"For the past six years I have marveled at the Board of Education and how it has recognized the accomplishment of the students, teachers, and administrators in town. Being on the Board of Education requires many volunteer hours, and the students, faculty, and the entire community of Clinton thanks you for everything you have done," he said.
Robert Radar, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, Inc., was on hand and thanked all three women for their years of service.
"In a democracy we rely on people to make the best decisions, and that is done by those closest to the community. There are very few other opportunities to make such a direct service to the community as being a part of the Board of Education," Radar stated.
"I was very touched by the number of people who came to the meeting," said DiBona, who will remain active in the community on The Morgan School Building Committee. "I will definitely miss being part of the Board of Education. It has been a pleasure to be involved with the Clinton education system for so long and I am proud of all that we were able to accomplish over the years."
Ruggerio said she was pleasantly surprised and a little overwhelmed by the evening's events.
"I am happy and sad at the same time," she said. "The thoughtfulness of everyone who put that celebration together was very much appreciated."
Ruggerio added, "My 10 years on the board have been very rewarding. I have always put the children of Clinton as a high priority and hopefully I have helped make a difference. Even though I am no longer a part of the board, I will continue to make the children of Clinton a very high priority."
Grass, who was referred to by Cross as a leader, a friend, and a boss, said that over the years she has "honestly been impressed by the Clinton school system and the Board of Education. We have an interesting demographic here in Clinton and as a board; I think we have done a good job of addressing the whole gamut of students who have come through our doors. This board has been a collaboration of many different people over the years and at times we have disagreed, but we have always agreed to disagree and put the children's best interest first."
She added, "I was very touched by the send-off. It was nice to see former superintendents that I have worked with in the past, and all the friends and family in attendance. It was very special evening and I am grateful."
Grass added that no longer being on the board will be a huge adjustment for her, but she won't be idle for long.
New board members will officially begin their terms at the December Board of Education meeting, at which time a new chairman will be elected.