MERIDEN — First lady Dr. Jill Biden will visit Benjamin Franklin Elementary School on Wednesday and the city will be a bit spruced up for her.
That tidbit, the first detail of Biden’s trip released since the visit was announced on Thursday, was in City Manager Timothy Coon’s verbal report to the City Council on Monday night.
It is Biden’s “first official visit” as first lady since President Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, Coon said.
“This city has been working with federal agencies to ensure a safe and secure visit to Meriden,” Coon said Monday. “The city also has been embarked in a little spring cleaning consisting of street and sidewalk cleaning, pothole patching and litter removal in the area so that we present our best space for the visit."
Biden’s destination adds credence to speculation that her visit will celebrate Meriden resident Miguel Cardona’s appointment as U.S. Secretary of Education. The purposes and details of visits from White House occupants are typically kept under wraps until a day or two before their occurrence, and the U.S. Senate voted 64 to 33 on Monday to confirm Cardona to that position. Cardona previously served as a fourth-grade teacher, principal and an assistant superintendent for Meriden Public Schools before he was appointed Commissioner of Education by Gov. Ned Lamont in August 2019.
Cardona is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.
Speculation about Biden’s plans has included that she might announce plans for the reduction or elimination of public school pandemic restrictions or make some other large national policy declaration. President Joe Biden has announced plans to resume in-classroom learning sometime in May, likely to be Cardona’s primary task through at least his first year as the nation’s top educator.
John Barry, Franklin, Casimir Pulaski and Roger Sherman are the four Meriden public schools that have won national blue ribbon for excellence awards from the U.S. Department of Education.
The number of previous first lady visits to Meriden is unknown, but presidents have visited Meriden 13 times, with George Washington being the first and one-term President Jimmy Carter (1976-1980) the most recent.
The owners of Gallery 53 are hoping that Biden’s itinerary takes her by their arts enclave at 53 Colony St. A former teaching colleague of Cardona’s, Chris Webster, hung a sign welcoming Biden and congratulating Cardona in front of the gallery this weekend.
“I was an art teacher,” said Webster, who retired from Lincoln Middle School in 2011, after 35 years at Lincoln and Maloney High School. “We always did signs to commemorate things [in school], even if they are a bit crude.”
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