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DANBURY Ex-chairman rejoins school board

November 15, 2018

DANBURY — Former school board chairman Ralph Pietrafesa is rejoining the board just over a year after he fell short in his re-election bid.

He was appointed by the current school board to fill the seat vacated by fellow Republican Richard Hawley, who resigned last month amid growing demands on his work travel schedule.

Although it wasn’t the return to the board he originally imagined when he ran in last year’s election, Pietrafesa was thrilled to take the new seat just in time for the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday night.

“I think there’s a great group of people and we’re at a point now where we could do a lot more than we’ve done in the past. I think I fit in fantastic to that spot ... It’s a passion, you join to do what’s right for the city of Danbury.”

Pietrafesa won the seat over Pomperaug High School English teacher and Danbury resident Maegan Bollin.

Vacancies on the school board are customarily filled by the recommendation of the same party as the member who left the seat, but they still are open to any application and Bollin had hoped to inject a current teacher’s perspective to the board, she said.

Although current board members praised Bollin for applying, they agreed Pietrafesa’s endorsement from the Republican Town Committee and recent experience on the board gave him an edge over the educator.

Bollin told board members “it was an honor just to interview with you” and Pietrafesa also encouraged her to consider pursuing a seat next year in an aside after the vote.

With Pietrafesa’s appointment, two of the board’s 11 members actually lost in last year’s at-large election.

Pietrafesa and fellow Republican Emanuela Palmares found themselves just short in the race in which the candidates who receive the most votes are elected to the open seats.

But the election took an unusual twist when Democrat Jeanne Grandieri declined to take the seat she won so she could keep her new job with the district, which state law would have prohibited.

The remaining board members — split 5-5 between Democrats and Republicans — spent months bickering over her replacement until eventually selecting Palmares in January.

“I was the chairman during all of that,” Pietrafesa said. “But I’ll tell you what, one of the big reasons I want to come back is because this is such a great group of people.”

Pietrafesa was the next highest vote-getter after Palmares and will complete Hawley’s term through next November, current Chairman Pat Johnston said.

“It was a very interesting conversation that we had here, and both of you are highly qualified for the position,” Johnston said. “We certainly hope you will maintain interest in serving. It’s less than a year ’til the next election.”

zach.murdock@hearstmediact.com

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