Town thanks departing school board members

Outgoing Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty gets a handshake and a proclomation from First Selectman Peter Tesei, declaring Nov. 22 in her honor as she and two other colleagues left the board.                                                                                                                       — Ken Borsuk photo

It’s not out of line to suggest that being a member of the Greenwich Board of Education can often be a thankless job, but not last Thursday, when colleagues, school leaders, town and state officials, and most importantly, parents came out to thank three departing board members for their service.

The Nov. 14 work session was the last board meeting for eight-year members Leslie Moriarty, the board’s current chairman, and Steven Anderson, a former chairman, as well as for four-year member Nancy Kail. None of the three ran for new terms, and in between reminders about how good it will feel to finally have Thursday nights free again after years of meetings, work sessions, budget discussions, and piles of paperwork, they were all thanked for what they brought to the board.

“It’s been said that the only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change,” state Rep. Stephen Walko (R-150th District) said as he presented a proclamation from Greenwich’s delegation in Hartford for the departing board members. “The three people we are honoring tonight are the embodiment of such an educated person. Boy, have they learned how to learn and change over their respective 10 years on the Board of Education. In a community that prides itself on the selfless acts of its citizens in giving back to the community, Leslie, Steve and Nancy rise above the others in giving of their time as well as of their heart and soul.”

Mr. Walko said all three had faced the problems in the district, from school security to racial balance to student achievement, with grace, honor and thoughtfulness.

First Selectman Peter Tesei brought along individual proclamations for all three along with a little extra bonus. He declared Nov. 22, 2013, to be Leslie Moriarty Day in Greenwich. Nov. 23 will be Steven Anderson Day and Nov. 24 will be Nancy Kail Day. He noted that these days were placed in the future so that their terms would have officially ended first, joking that if they put all their days together they could have “one wild party” over a long weekend.

“I figured you could all have your days when you’re footloose and fancy-free,” Mr. Tesei said to a laugh from the crowd. “That means that any actions that occur when you’re out celebrating your day won’t bring any shame on the Board of Education.”

More seriously, Mr. Tesei told the three that their contributions to the board had been “immeasurable.”

“The impact you’ve had over the course of your tenures will long be remembered, given the thousands of young people you’ve had under your tutelage during that time,” Mr. Tesei said. “You made decisions that influenced their future and those in the district today. In all candor there’s very little we can give you. You’ve given us more than we could give to you other than our thanks.”

Superintendent of Schools William McKersie said he and the district’s cabinet had crunched the numbers and that over the course of their time on the board, Ms. Moriarty, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Kail had been through 960 hours of public meetings over 20 years of combined experience, working with 19 cabinet members and five superintendents. He noted the current seniors in high school were fourth graders when Ms. Moriarty and Mr. Anderson started on the board and that through those years they had read close to 2,600 budget pages and that, when you added in all the board questions and administration answers, that number increased to close to 10,000 pages. Most importantly, Dr. McKersie said, more than 5,100 students had graduated during that time.

“Whether those 5,100 realize it or not, their lives are stronger for your hard and dedicated work,” Dr. McKersie said.

PTA Council President Lisa Harkness led a contingent of past and future PTAC presidents up to pay tribute to the three and offered her own well wishes to them.

“Each of you have brought incredible skills to the board,” Ms. Harkness said. “But more importantly you have brought a dedication and an energy that has fueled our district and benefited all of us. The gift of your time is priceless. The impact you have made on this district is felt now and will be for years to come. As fellow volunteers we are inspired by your service. As fellow parents, we are grateful for the time you spent away from your families working on efforts to help our families.”

All three departing board members spoke briefly at the end of the hourlong tribute before the board returned to its agenda for the night. Mr. Anderson called it a “fun ride” and jokingly noted that his time on the board included rebuilding Hamilton Avenue and Glenville schools, racial balance and dispersion discussions, the RISE Committee, mold in modular classrooms, Superstorm Sandy, a nor’easter, contaminated soil, and volcanic ash impacting a Greenwich High School band trip to Greece.

“In the end it’s all about what the Greenwich Alliance for Education puts on its pamphlets, and when I was looking for something to say to draw it all together that really hit me,” Mr. Anderson said. “It simply says, ‘Educating all kids is a shared responsibility.’ This town values education tremendously. We’re very focused on it. Thank you for letting me ride along.”

Ms. Kail said she was confident that things would proceed very well for the district.

“Greenwich’s school system is so good,” Ms. Kail said. “We have a home run superintendent, a terrific team of administrators and teachers, there’s a new board raring to go, and we have a heavy-hitting group of parents. Most of all we have the best students ever. It’s been a pleasure to work with everyone and I’ll really miss the board.”

Ms. Moriarty closed out the tribute by thanking everyone for all their hard work during her eight years on the Board of Education and remarked that it was hard to remember a time when she wasn’t involved with the board, as a member, a PTAC representative or a parent.

“It’s been a privilege to work with so many smart, hardworking people,” Ms. Moriarty said. “I will miss the camaraderie that comes from being part of this group. I’ve learned over the past eight years that everyone involved in the business of education chose to be here to make a difference in the lives of children and their dedication is exhibited every day. They know the work will never be done but they take pride in the incremental steps and in the growth of each child each day. At the board level we don’t get to see the evidence of that as often as teachers and principals do, but it’s that same goal that’s inspired me for the eight years.”

The new board members, Democrats Laura Erickson and Debbie Appelbaum and Republican Peter Bernstein, will officially begin their four-year terms at the board’s meeting tonight, Nov. 21, at Old Greenwich School. Board member Peter Sherr will begin his new term then, too. He was the lone board member to seek re-election this year and was elected with the highest vote total of the four winning candidates on election night.

New board officers will also be elected that night (see related story on page 1A).

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