Story and Photographs By John Murray
Republican Charles Stango has been mentioned by mayor-elect Neil O’Leary as a strong candidate to serve as the next president of the Waterbury Board of Education. O’Leary, a Democrat, said he is unfazed about crossing political lines to find the right individual to help move Waterbury forward. “I don’t care about political party so much as who can get get the job done,” O’Leary told the Observer on Saturday. “Charles Stango is the elder statesmen on the board right now and I think he would do an excellent job as board president.”
Pat Hayes, a Democrat, is the current board president, and has openly stated he wants to continue in the leadership position. O’Leary and Hayes have banged heads over the past two years, and O’Leary sharply criticized Hayes during an editorial board discussion with the Republican-American newspaper in October, and was surprised to find his comments about Hayes on the front page of the daily newspaper. O’Leary immediately clarified his statements and apologized to Hayes.
O’Leary, who envisions himself playing an active role as the ex-officio leader of the Board of Education, said his biggest issue with Pat Hayes was the combative stance he often took with members of the public speaking before the board. “He should be listening to the people’s opinions,” O’Leary said, “not trying to win an argument.”
Body language has been described as a critical form of communication, and if one examines the photograph of O’Leary and Hayes shaking hands at the Democratic Convention at the AOH in July, one could reasonably conclude there is an undeniable tension between the two men.
During a contentious board meeting in August, Hayes sparred with Jimmie Griffin, right, and other members of the public over the hiring of Dr. Kathleen Ouellette as the new Superintendent of Schools in Waterbury. When it was Hayes’ turn to explain why he supported Dr. Oullette, and not Dr. Portia Bonner, fifty members of the black community walked out in protest. If Hayes persists in his goal of remaining board president it will come down to a vote on December 1st, with Charles Stango as his likely opponent.