A Democrat seeking election to the Board of Education on Tuesday night described New Canaan as “a large community with a ton of tiny communities within it.”
For Lauren Connollly Nussbaum and her husband Matt, town residents for 10 years whose three daughters—ages 8, 10 and 13—attend South and Saxe Middle Schools, those communities include one in special education that they’ve found “remarkable and humbling,” she said during the Democratic Caucus, held at Town Hall.
Other communities “may be in the sports world, in a house of worship, that may be in the Beautification League,” Connolly Nussbaum told 75-plus Democrats in attendance .
She continued: “Wherever people in New Canaan are, we are building communities. And that is what I want to do on the Board of Education. Continue to build community and include everyone.”
Connolly Nussbaum added, “I feel ready. I feel nervous. I feel excited. And I hope that I can earn your vote in the coming months. I do want to say that in watching and attending those [Board of Education] meetings, I’ve witnessed excellence, a deep commitment and pride on behalf of our BOE members in this group, on behalf of our superintendent, our admin and teachers. They have such a pride and love and passion for what they do. And I would like to join that work. I will listen. I’ll learn. I’ll collaborate with anyone. I can work with anyone. Anyone.”
She added, “Except sometimes my 13-year-old daughter,” drawing laughter from the room.
“But I want to work with everyone to prepare our students for the world ahead,” she continued. “I want to prioritize the students, support the teachers and admin, and I want to partner with parents. We absolutely have to have parental involvement in our schools to make it all work.”
Connolly Nussbaum was one of several candidates for various elected offices who earned a unanimous voice vote endorsement from the local Democratic party. The party-backed slate is as follows:
Democratic Slate 2023
First Selectman Amy Murphy Carroll
Board of Education Josh Kaye (2-year term)
Lauren Connolly Nussbaum
Town Council Janet Fonss
Board of Assessment Appeals John Matz
Constable Jordan Cerbone
In putting up three candidates for the Board of Ed, the Democrats are positioning themselves to pick up as many as two seats on the elected body. Republicans currently hold a 6-3 majority on the school board. This November, there are four four-year terms up for election (three of them currently held by Republicans), as well as a two-year term (also held by a Republican).
Two-term incumbent Brendan Hayes, who has served in the past as Board of Ed chair and vice chair, is seeking a third term. In accepting his nomination Hayes said that New Canaan is “blessed to have an amazing administration and school system that’s been built, really, over decades.”
“They make our job on the Board of Ed incredibly easy,” Hayes said. “At the same time, we really need to support them. We need to support the teachers. I think we’ve done that really over the last eight years and going back further than that. I think it’s super important that we continue—we, the Board of Ed, have really focused on doing what’s best for the kids, regardless of the situation. Regardless of outside influences. We’ve changed school start times, which was incredibly unpopular as we moved forward with it. But we felt like we had to evaluate the issue, make the decision as to what to do. And lo and behold, people are happy with the school start times. So we need to continue to focus on that and really avoid—and unfortunately I think this has crept in a little bit over the last couple of years—avoid sort of outside agendas that don’t necessarily line up with what is best for kids. That’s what I’ll continue to do. I know that’s what Lauren and others on our side will continue to do. And I frankly think most people are there, but we really have to fight for that and make sure that we don’t lose focus on our kids.”
Josh Kaye, who currently sits on the New Canaan Ethics Board, is seeking a two-year term on the Board of Ed.
Kaye was not in attendance at the Caucus. In nominating him, Susan Edmands—an incumbent constable seeking re-election this fall—said that Kaye is an “accomplished lawyer” who made “an incredible impression” on the Democratic Town Committee’s Nominating Committee when he was interviewed for the Ethics Board appointment.
“He was serving as a law clerk in a District Court in the Southern District of New York, and he learned from the judge for whom he was clerking that the question to always ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ ” Edmands said. “And he adopted that, and he now applies that to most of the things he does in his life. Josh is also a very involved dad in New Canaan. I’ve heard from his friends that he goes to every birthday party. Anything if the kids are there, Josh is there. And he’s there to watch the kids and be with the kids. He’s also there to talk to the parents and see what issues they have. And that’s a trait that I think will serve him well on the Board of Education.”
Selectman Kathleen Corbet nominated Amy Murphy Carroll for the town’s highest elected office, first selectman. Corbet noted that Murphy Carroll has 30-plus years of professional experience in municipal finance and “nearly 10 years of serving on our town’s Board of Finance and several building committees.”
“And she has combined all that as a working mom of four children while also being an active volunteer in our town,” Corbet said. “So I have just one word for that. It’s ‘wow.’ But, as I prepared my remarks for Amy’s nomination, I thought perhaps that one word was not enough.”
Corbet said she reached out to Republican and Democratic members of municipal bodies where Murphy Carroll has served, asking them to describe her, and received feedback from five members of each major party who variously called her “insightful,” “prepared,” “inquisitive, “smart,” “thoughtful,” “inquisitive,” “incisive,” “analytical,” “brave” and “fearless.”
The Caucus was moderated by DTC Chair Christina Fagerstal. In addition to Corbet, several municipal officials could be seen at the Caucus, including school Board of Ed members Penny Rashin and Erica Schwedel, Fire Commissioner Beth Jones, Inland Wetlands Commissioner Angela Jameson, Housing Authority Board member Bernard Simpkin, finance board member Colm Dobbyn and Audit Committee member Rob Fryer.
It’s unclear who Murphy Carroll will face in the general election. There are three Republicans vying for party backing at the GOP Caucus on July 25.
Here’s the full text of Murphy Carroll’s own address to the party, made by way of accepting Corbet’s nomination as candidate for first selectman:
“My name’s Amy Murphy Carroll. I’ve lived in town for 27 years with my husband John and our four kids. All of our four kids call this their hometown and went all the way through New Canaan Public Schools. So I’ve been here 27 years and even to this day, I drive around town, an dI go, ‘I can’t believe I live here. This place is so amazing.’ Yeah, it’s beautiful. It has great facilities and terrific schools. But what really is the soul of this town is people. And I’m forever amazed at the smarts, the talent, the interest, the passion, the willingness of people to devote their time to this town. And it makes it all that much better than just the buildings and the administration.
“So, I have been sitting on the Board of Finance in town government for 10 years, and what’s great about that is, at this point, I really know the budget process. I know the town’s finances. I know our capital needs, I know how our pensions work. And in the role of the Board of Finance, you get to meet people from all of the departments in town government. And on the other commissions. So I have the luxury of really getting to know people, and I do really try to work with people in a very non-partisan way.
“I don’t really care what you are if you’re working to do the job. But where I’m sitting in the Board of Finance, I’ve done a lot of work trying to stay out of the paper as much as possible, and now I have to get in the paper as much as possible. But it’s gotten me very uncomfortable with the tone in our government.
“There’s this discourse and there’s bringing the negativity of all the absolute nonsense and garbage in the national level into this town. And we don’t need it. And I think that’s caused me to raise my hand and stop being on the bench and step up and say, ‘I’m happy to run for first selectman and maybe we can turn a page to a better New Canaan.’
“One, I really do believe it’s one New Canaan. And we’re way better together. So, you know, from this first selectman’s office, we’ve seen this concentration of power and a lack of transparency, which doesn’t serve us well. You can have the very, very best idea in the world, but you throw it out to people like a done deal in this town? Are you kidding me? We have really smart people. They want to make sure they understand something. And then, you know, it’s insular. There’s not enough diversity in terms of the people in town government. Less than 40% of the people are in the same party as the first selectman. We have a huge group of unaffiliated people, and man are they talented. So I don’t think we should leave that talent on the sideline. I think we should bring it into the town.
“So what I think I can bring to the first selectman position is first of all, I’m ready to do the job. I know what’s going on. I have a 30 year municipal finance background, I know the people. It’s a big job, you’ve got to hit it day one, right?
“But the real hallmarks and the things I really want to focus on, and I mean this sincerely, I want it to be open, transparent and inclusive. A lack of transparency doesn’t help us. It certainly doesn’t save us money. And we have the most amazing people in this town, and they have the right to weigh in. And guess what? If we listen to them, we may get to better solutions than if we didn’t listen to them. And then, to get there and have openness, we really need to prioritize civility. Right? So, among all of us working together, that nonsense outside of town, we don’t need it. Like, forget it. We don’t need it. We need to work together. We need to agree to disagree. We need to realize that we have amazing, amazing people working in this town. That school administration is incredible. Our teachers are amazing. They’re our partners, and we have to work with them.
“So, that’s the type of town I want to live in. I want to live in an open town. Everyone’s involved. Government reflects the electorate. And we can agree to disagree. We don’t have to be disagreeable, and we move forward. So, if you agree with me that this is the way to go, I hope that you’ll support this effort to change who’s in the first selctman’s position and support the campaign. And you can find us at amyncfirst.com. Thank you.”