Page 47 - Wallingford Magazine Holiday 2020 Issue 30
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Baptist Academy, it still occupies that site to this present day. These school closings would mark the last without con- troversy. In June 1978, a Record-Journal article led town resi- dents to believe the June 1978 Board of Education meeting would include a vote to close one or two schools. Specula- tion grew that the BOE was going to close both Robert Earley
and Pond Hill Schools.
The June, 1978 BOE meeting drew a crowd of over 500
rowdy and boisterous residents in opposition to the school closings. However, Board Chairman Charles Kingsland started off the meeting with an announcement that no school closings were going to be voted upon. The crowd was stunned and became silent. While the BOE did vote not to close a school that year, the crowd was so stunned it failed to realize that the vote also included wording to study the rec- ommendations of the School Enrollment Study Committee on school closings.
Fast forward a year later, the Board voted 6-3 in June 1979 to close Robert Earley Junior High in the fall. Republican James Millar, along with Democratic BOE members, Roger Rivers, Charles Kingsland, George Mazzaferro, Hugh Hayden, and Timothy Riordan voted to close, while Republicans Jo- seph Cretella, James Annis, and Robert Beaumont opposed. There was no longer a capacity need for Robert Earley. In ad- dition, $150,000 per year in BOE budget funds could be saved by the closing.
There were strong emotions, accusations, and frustra- tions regarding this decision. Paul Picard, Wallingford Educa- tion Association president, stated the decision was purely political due to the then Mayor Rocco Vumbaco’s desire to turn Robert Earley into a town hall. In a Record Journal arti- cle, Roger Rivers was quoted as saying in an emotional tone, “If I vote to close the school, it’s not going to be because one person says I don’t have any guts, or another says its politi- cal, or another says its bravery... I have fought the same battle uptown for the last seven years [over BOE budget funding]... I am convinced now that consolidation is the only way to go.”
With such an emotionally charged environment, the BOE decided not to go ahead with a vote to change school grade assignments. They had planned at that meeting to change middle schools from a 6th to 8th grade to a 7th to 8th grade format, moving 6th graders back to elementary schools.
While the Robert Earley closure was a controversial de- cision, it was mild compared the decision to close Parker Farms in 1983
The declining west side enrollment elementary num- bers supported the need to close one west side elementary school, but which one. The central school system office ad- ministration prepared an analysis listing the pro and cons, costs, etc. for closing one of the three west side schools: Parker Farms, Yalesville, or Highland.
Reviewing 1983 BOE meeting minutes up to May 26, it appeared that the Yalesville school would be closed. Its age, its proximity to the then busy Route 68, and other document- ed metrics all supported closing Yalesville. On May 24, 1983,
acting Superintendent Vincent Inglese issued his recom- mendation to close Yalesville school due to its limited capac- ity, higher costs for improvement, and safety concerns. But the BOE vote on May 26, disregarded his recommendation, and voted 5-4 to close Parker Farms.
James Annis, at the time a Republican BOE member and chair of the BOE finance committee, shared his thoughts in a Record Journal article years later, “The BOE finance com- mittee recommended to the BOE to close Yalesville. Yet when the final vote was cast on May 26,1983, Parker Farms was the school voted to close by a 5-4 vote. It was a very political time. Democrats and Republicans voted against each other just to destroy each other.”
The west side community was shocked and upset with this decision. Legal appeals were made to the State of Con- necticut Board of Education. Every legal attempt was ex- hausted to reverse this decision.BOE minutes depicted the west side community push back.
 BOE Meeting Date
  Key activity supported by BOE minutes
BOE approval for closing one elementary school in Sep- tember 1983
BOE approval to close Parker Farms School by 5-4 vote
BOE response to public written questions
Court action allows Parker Farms to close
BOE approval vote to turn Parker Farms over to town
BOE public hearing on closing Parker Farms
BOE responds to written complaints that BOE did not an- swer public questions at 8/15/1983 public hearing
       But the push back and legal challenges failed, and the Parker Farms school closed in the fall 1983.
The town’s charter then included provisions that publicly elected officials could be recalled in a special election recall vote. No minimum number of voters was needed to make the vote official; a simple majority of those voting could recall an elected official from office.
Parker Farms parents rallied through the summer and fall, securing over 2,400 signatures for the recall. It was to be the first election recall in Wallingford’s and Connecticut’s his- tory. The recall election was established for January 27, 1984.
The recall election targeted only three of the five of the board members who voted to close the school. Mary Fritz had resigned the BOE to take a seat in the State Legislature. Joseph Manfreda was no longer on the BOE since he lost his November 1983 re-election bid. Charles Andre lost his posi- tion by 129 votes, and George Mazzaferro lost by 75 votes. Only Barbara Sibley retained her position by 69 votes.
The town council then appointed Andrew Bravo and Roger Appell to fill the two vacated seats. In 1985, the State of Connecticut Superior Court ruled that both Bravo and Appell were to be removed from their BOE positions and replaced

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