Julia Perkins | June 28, 2021Updated: June 28, 2021 4:41 p.m.
Interim superintendent named in Danbury ahead of Pascarella's retirement
DANBURY — Assistant Superintendent Kevin Walston will temporarily lead the district until a permanent school chief is named.
Sal Pascarella, who has served as superintendent for 15 years, is set to retire after Wednesday, and the school board has narrowed down a list of candidates to replace him.
“It’s an honor to have been in this district,” Pascarella said after the board voted Wednesday to name Walston as interim superintendent. “It’s a labor of love. It’s a wonderful, wonderful community to be in and to retire from for me, wonderful memories. And I know you’ll continue to do good work. I’m really proud of the district.”
The school board plans to interview the top five candidates for permanent superintendent on Tuesday and Wednesday over Zoom, said Gladys Cooper, chair of the education board. Members will narrow down the list to two to three candidates, who will then be interviewed in-person, she said.
The board has eyed July 7 as the date to pick the new leader, but the decision could be pushed if board members aren’t satisfied with the candidates, Cooper said.
“We just don’t want to rush the process,” she said.
The new superintendent is expected to be announced sometime after the week of July 5, according to a timeline on the district’s website.
Walston is expected to serve until the new superintendent takes over or “until the board otherwise takes further action,” according to the motion the board members approved. His new role begins July 1.
“Obviously I’m honored to be filling for Dr. Sal and supporting the district in this role in the interim,” he said.
Other new positions
The district has a new interim finance director, Frank Connolly, with experience in schools and municipal governance. Connolly has served as town manager in North Branford, Newington and Coventry and as school business manager in Stonington.
He has been interim school finance director for various districts, including North Haven and Monroe, where he and the superintendent were put on leave in January 2020 due to budgetary shortfall problems that investigators later determined started before they were hired.
Connolly is the author of “Hidden Agendas: Inside Town Hall,” a book about small-town politics in a fictional Connecticut community.
He is taking over for Courtney LeBorious, who is leaving Danbury for another position. She became finance director in November 2019.
Three new principals were hired, too.
Michelle Tarsi will lead Mill Ridge Primary School, while Ellen Paolino will head Hayestown Elementary School beginning July 1. Janet Sayegh will be interim principal of the Danbury Primary Center, the new kindergarten school opening in Brookfield under the COVID-19 return-to-school plan.
Since 2009, Sayegh has been a fifth-grade teacher at Pembroke Elementary School, where she is seen as the “right-hand person,” said Kara Casimiro, director of teaching and learning. Sayegh is one of three summer school directors.
Tarsi has been Mill Ridge’s interim principal for the past year and previously served as assistant principal at Park Avenue Elementary School, where she taught for 15 years. She has worked as a district numeracy coach and summer school administrator.
“Michelle is committed to ensuring that all students learn to their maximum potential and to fostering innovation through collaboration with teachers, staff, students and families,” Walston said in a statement. “She is familiar with the traditions and successful practices at Mill Ridge Primary and will diligently continue in her official capacity as its principal.”
Paolino has been principal of Walsh School in Waterbury for seven years and served as interim principal for Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School in Waterbury.
“Ms. Paolino impressed all of our interview committees with her education, her experience, her knowledge and her passion, and we believe that she is poised to lead Hayestown forward in the strongest way,” Walston said.