MERIDEN — The Board of Education elected officers for the new term this week, most notably choosing longtime member Robert Kosienski Jr. as the board’s new president.
Kosienski, unanimously elected, will be the first Republican to helm the board in decades, replacing Democrat Mark Hughes, who didn’t seek re-election.
“I look forward to doing some great things in the future with a great team,” said Kosienski, who has served 28 years and is entering his ninth term.
Last month, Republicans won a 6-3 majority on the board, gaining the majority for the first time since 1991 and opening the door for Kosienski, one of the longest-serving school board members in the state, to become president.
“I started here at 20 years old and I’ve been honored to hold many leadership positions and chairmanships, but, obviously, this is the biggest one. I do not want to screw it up,” Kosienski told other board members in prepared remarks at this week’s meeting. “I want to let you know publicly, that if you need me, I’m here.”
Board members also unanimously elected Republican Kim Carbone-Pandiani as vice president, Democrat Steven O’Donnell as secretary, and Republican Allan Pronovost as treasurer.
The board this week also approved committee assignments for four standing subcommittees — finance, curriculum, policy, and contracts.
O’Donnell will chair the board’s Contracts Committee and Democrat Marisol Estrada was chosen to chair the Policy Committee. Pronovost will chair finance, while Carbone-Pandiani will chair curriculum.
Kosienski said the fact that two chair positions went to Democrats, despite the Republican majority, sends a message to the public that “this is not about politics, it’s about working together.”Future of middle schools
The board this week also voted to form a new ad hoc committee, the Middle School Enrollment Ad Hoc committee. The group will look at the district’s enrollments at Washington and Lincoln middle schools and how those facilities could better serve students.
“The buildings aren’t big enough to meet the enrollments and offer the kind of curriculum we want to offer in 2020,” Kosienski said.
Assistant School Superintendent Mike Grove said the district expects total enrollment between the city’s three middle schools — Washington, Lincoln, and Edison magnet school — to reach the highest it’s been in 10 years, jumping from 2,182 students this year to a projected enrollment next year of 2,247.
Kosienski added the schools aren’t designed for the kind of technology used in today’s classes.
“English is not just English anymore, it’s English with a laptop and a smartboard and interactive pieces of curriculum, and that goes for other subjects, too,” Kosienski said. “It’s not your classroom of the 1950s.”
One solution the committee will explore, Kosienski said, is taking back the Edison Middle School building, which the city owns but leases to ACES, the regional education cooperative that operates Edison.
The ad hoc committee is comprised of Kosienski, Carbone-Pandiani, fellow school board Republicans Ray Ouellet and Rebecca Wronski, School Superintendent Mark Benigni, teachers’ union president Lauren Mancini-Averitt, administrators’ union president Lysette Torres, Lincoln Middle School Principal John Kuckel, Washington Middle School Principal Dan Corsetti, Director for Teaching and Innovation Barbara Haeffner and district Fine Arts Coordinator Brian Cyr.