Meriden Republicans pick nominee to fill Board of Education vacancy

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MERIDEN — Local Republicans have selected Elmer A. Gonzalez, a lifelong city resident and local business owner, to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education. 

Gonzalez will fill the seat vacated by fellow Republican Ray Ouellet, who leaves the board to join the City Council. Ouellet notified city officials he is stepping down from the board, effective on Sunday, according to City Clerk Denise Grandy. 

Gonzalez, in an email to the Record-Journal, said he is excited and grateful to serve on the board. Gonzalez said his appointment is his first opportunity in public office, “but not my first time serving in leadership roles in the City and our community.”

Gonzalez previously served on the boards overseeing the Beat The Street Community Center and the Curtis Home, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility that now serves adults only, but had long served children in the foster care system. Gonzalez is also an active member of the Knights of Columbus Silver City Council No. 2 and a lifelong parishioner at St. Joseph Church. 

Gonzalez, 54, and his wife Carolina have three children — 18, 16 and 10 years old. Gonzalez, a product of Meriden Public Schools, is a 1986 graduate of Platt High School. He obtained a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Charter Oak State College. 

Gonzalez is a tax preparer and consultant, registered with the Internal Review Service. He said the opportunity to serve on the board came with Ouellet departing. 

“Being a lifelong Meriden resident, business owner and active community member, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to serve,” Gonzalez said, adding his priorities over the upcoming months are to “get acquainted with” the board, Meriden school administrators, teachers, staff and school communities.

“School safety is my number one concern. Our students, staff and community need to know that their schools are a safe environment where learning can happen in a positive, safe building for all,” Gonzalez said.

He identified expanding college and career opportunities, the district’s relationship with technical schools, increasing the involvement of minority families in the school system and student accountability as areas of focus. 

“I want the community to know that I am a Meriden guy through and through, I believe in our city and its positive future. I believe that Meriden's best days are yet to come, and it starts with an incredible education. I want to make sure that our students and staff have the tools in place to get the job done,” Gonzalez stated. 

Gonzalez’s appointment will be voted on by the council on Monday. That night will also include the city’s inaugural ceremony, when Mayor Kevin Scarpati, alongside the city councilors and Board of Education members who prevailed in November’s citywide elections, will be sworn in for the new term.

Board President Robert Kosienski Jr. and others spoke highly of Gonzalez’s attributes. 

“Elmer was highly recommended by several members of the community,” Kosienski said, describing him as sincere and enthusiastic about Meriden as a whole. 

Kosienski said that during interviews with Republican Party officials, Gonzalez made constant references to the city — the faith-based community, the education system, athletics and the business community.

“It seemed that every direction that we talked about, he was about to bring it back to the community,” Kosienski said. 

Sean McDonald, chairman of the RTC, echoed Kosienski’s remarks, describing Gonzalez as “proactive” in the community and in the school system.

“We were looking for people that were relatable, that had an active interest in the Board of Education and had children in the school system,” McDonald said, when asked about the qualifications RTC leadership were looking for. 

As a Latino resident, Gonzalez’s addition to the board, whose membership is largely white, improves its diversity. The board had not had a Latino or Hispanic representative since Democrat Marisol Estrada stepped down in late 2020. 

While the board’s demographics have been slow to shift, the Meriden Public Schools student population continues to grow more diverse in terms of its racial and ethnic makeup. According to state reported enrollment figures, as of Oct. 1, 2,014 students — less than one-quarter of the district’s overall population of 8,118 students — identified as white. Meanwhile, 4,727 students, more than 58%, identified as Hispanic or Latino. Another 868 students identified as Black. Asian students and those who reported two or more races accounted for another 495 students.

McDonald stressed the importance of ensuring the board’s deliberations are centered on education and what’s best for Meriden Public Schools students — unencumbered by political disagreements.

“We’re focusing on the children’s education,” McDonald said. “It’s not about politics within the Board of Education. It’s never been about politics. Never. It’s about the children.”

Ouellet, the outgoing board member, also was effusive in his praise for Gonzalez. Ouellet said Gonzalez brings a “different perspective” to the board, adding it is important to have Hispanic voices on the board. Ouellet described his successor as “polished”, “well-spoken and a “huge family man.”

“Elmer — he dresses the part. He acts the part,” Ouellet said, stressing the importance of ensuring the board’s membership is representative of the entire community.

“...Elmer is going to be a great addition to the Board of Education,” McDonald said. “He’s going to work well with all of the members that sit on the board. He’s eager to start.”



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