Republicans take leadership roles on Norwich Board of Education

Norwich — With the one Democrat on the now GOP-controlled Board of Education objecting to a Republican sweep of the officer positions, the board voted by paper ballot Tuesday to elect Republicans as chairman, vice chairman and secretary.

Aaron “Al” Daniels was elected chairman, Dennis Slopak vice chairman and Angelo Yeitz as board treasurer. All three are incumbents returning to the board.

The Nov. 3 Republican sweep in the municipal election gave a 5-4 Republican majority to the Board of Education, with newcomers Susan Thomas and Margaret Becotte joining the three incumbents.

Incumbent Democrats Yvette Jacaruso, Joyce Werden and Robert Aldi and newcomer Kevin Saythany also were elected Nov. 3.

Daniels was elected chairman over former four-year chairwoman Jacaruso in a 5-4 party line vote.

Slopak and Yeitz were unopposed for their posts.

During the nominations, Aldi protested that all three officers would be Republicans, questioning whether the board would “let the Republicans run the whole thing?”

For decades, the board was dominated by Democrats and, most recently, three Democrats held the officer positions. 

Board members arrived at their first board meeting and initially seemed to take seats by party, with all four Democrats on one side and the five Republicans on the opposite side of Superintendent Abby Dolliver.

Once the officer elections were completed, Werden called for board bipartisanship, suggesting it start by a shuffling of seats.

“Once the elections are done, we're here for the kids,” Werden said, “so, for me, the politics are over.”

The board's first agenda item was a presentation by Ledyard High School officials proposing to become one of Norwich's high school choice options.

Ledyard High Principal Amanda Fagan said the school would be open to a cap of admitting 10 to 12 Norwich students per grade to the school that has a current enrollment of 850 students, with 240 students in the school's agri-science program, including 17 Norwich students.

The current out-of-district regular education tuition at Ledyard High School is $10,100 per year, and the state-subsidized agri-science tuition is $6,823 per student.

Norwich currently is paying $11,772 per student in tuition at Norwich Free Academy, the main designated high school for the city.

Without specifically naming NFA, Fagan said Ledyard could offer Norwich students some advantages over other high schools due to its smaller size, with more personal attention.

But she said the school is large enough to offer many advanced placement courses, 24 varsity sports and partnerships with the University of Connecticut, University of New Haven, Connecticut College and Three Rivers Community College for upper-class students to earn college credit for some courses.

Phil Genova, director of special services at Ledyard, said Norwich special education students also could attend Ledyard High School, with tuition rates and payment for support services to be arranged with Norwich officials.

Genova said Ledyard works closely with Glastonbury autism specialist Dr. James Loomis, who visits Ledyard schools once a month to review educational programs for autism spectrum students.

Fagan told the Norwich school board that adding Ledyard High School to Norwich's school choice list should be attractive to Norwich, because a bus already transports agri-science students from Norwich to Ledyard.

The board took no action on the proposal Tuesday.

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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