Perugini honored for leading board through difficult times

CHESHIRE — Board of Education Chair Tony Perugini knows that other school districts in Connecticut face greater challenges than Cheshire. That doesn’t mean things are always easy in the community.

Since he was first elected to the board in 2009, disputes about how and how much schools are funded, what children are taught, and how to respond to the outbreak of a deadly illness like COVID have led to heated disagreements during public meetings nationwide. Part of Perugini’s job, especially in the last three years, has been “trying not to get caught up in the chaos,” he said.

“Some of the issues that are happening, or drawing attention at the national level, are not necessarily happening in Cheshire,” he explained.

Still, navigating controversies is part of Perugini’s responsibilities and, to recognize his efforts in that area, State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-103rd District, recently presented him with a special commendation on behalf of the State Assembly at the meeting of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), held on Nov. 18 and 19 in Mystic.

The commendation highlighted such areas as “steadfast support to the children of Cheshire, fostering hope in tumultuous times, and calming the waters.” The presentation was a “heartwarming” surprise to Perugini.

While pointing out that he doesn’t do the work expecting any accolades, Perugini admitted, “It made my year, quite frankly.”

School Superintendent Jeff Solan said: “It takes incredible dedication from the entire board to have the success that we’ve had.”

Solan says one of the main factors in that success is the willingness of the board to educate themselves and engage in professional development.

“The entire board has been really great about listening and informing themselves on the issues,” Solan stated. “Across America, I think you see a bit of a crisis of political hijacking. Our Board of Ed has been really respectful of the community and has been able to be apolitical, putting people above party.”

Perugini serves not only as the Board of Education’s Chair, but also as a member of the Personnel and Curriculum Committees. He participated in the School Modernization Committee’s selection process as well.

As an associate director of CABE, Perugini has worked in ways that are not necessarily visible to most people in Cheshire. He speaks to local representatives such as Linehan and Lezlye Zupkus, R-89th District, about how Hartford can be more helpful to the Board’s mission. Mandates that come with no funding and new curriculum requirements that don’t fit something that already works are two examples of frustrations all districts must contend with.

“Getting Hartford to recognize the issues and see what’s working” is an important part of his work with CABE, Perugini insists.

“What drives me is fairness,” says Perugini, pointing out that the Board of Education is ultimately responsible to the people who vote for it. “We always want to do a better job of trying to educate the public. Especially for those without kids, we want to let them know what’s going on with the schools and, if they have kids in the system, where they can look if they need help.”

Perugini takes some pride in his leadership style, but knows it takes teamwork. “If you’re not going to foster dialogue, you’re not going to make any progress. Anyone can have a point of view, but then we can form a consensus and move forward. The whole board working together makes my job a lot easier.”

Humbled by the recognition, Perugini says, “I’m not trying to brag or gloat,” noting that, “for every positive, there’s something we could improve upon. But people are seeing what Cheshire is doing.”

“I was and am still very moved by this recognition. I’m doing my best to be fair, reasonable and treat people with respect. It’s great to experience this act of kindness especially in (the current) tumultuous times,” Perugini said.

“I’m grateful and can’t thank Rep. Linehan, and the General Assembly, enough for this recognition. I’m lucky to work with a great team on the BOE and within a very supportive community. As far as I’m concerned, this recognition speaks for all of Cheshire,” he continued.


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