BRISTOL - Board of Education member Jeff Caggiano has announced his intention to seek a leadership position when the board holds its midterm election of officers in November.
Board members serve four-year terms and will not face re-election until 2019, however they elect their chair, vice chair and secretary every two years. Caggiano is in the middle of his first term.
Caggiano, who chairs the Republican Town Committee, told his fellow board members of his plan recently, saying “I didn’t want to throw any surprises out there so I figured I’d give a little advance notice.”
“Personally over the past two years I’ve felt that the board has gotten involved in political back and forth, and this has been going on for a long, long time in the city of Bristol,” he said.
With Republicans holding just three seats on the nine-member board, Caggiano acknowledged the odds were against him being elected to a leadership position. “I also realize fully that after two years I have a lot to learn,” he said.
“But I do believe that moving in a different direction may help us as a board work very cohesively and make sure that all nine members of this board are part of the process. I think it could tone down some of the political rhetoric that happens in this town,” he added.
The board’s last leadership election took place in November 2015, after the current board slate was elected. The members chose Chris Wilson as chairman, with eight of the nine paper ballots cast for him, with one submitted with “yes” checked and no name written.
Karen Vibert was voted vice chairman and Karen Hintz was voted secretary. Both votes were unanimous. Wilson, Vibert and Hintz are all Democrats.
The vote restored Wilson to the leadership position he held from 2011 to 2013. In 2011, a Republican majority had split over whether Wilson or Larry Amara would lead the board, selecting Wilson to win with the support of the Democrats. At that time, both Wilson and Amara were Republicans, but Wilson switched parties early in 2013 to prepare for what would prove an unsuccessful bid to become mayor that year.
When Amara eventually became the leader of the board’s then 5-4 Republican majority in 2013, he championed an unsuccessful bid to outsource the district’s school cafeteria services.
The 2015 election brought in the current 6-3 Democratic majority, with Caggiano in the Republican minority, along with David Scott and incumbent Jennifer Dube.
Wilson and Vibert have faced criticism from Republicans over how a $2.4 million deficit was overlooked in the 2016-17 school budget. The board had also ended 2015-16 with an unexpected $2.04 million deficit, related to special education costs. The city is planning a forensic audit to examine the situation.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.