Government Schools

West Hartford Board of Education Holds Swearing In, Elects New Leadership

Board of Education members (from left): Shannon Marimón, Jason Gagnon, LaToya Fernandez Yagaloff, Clare Taylor Neseralla, Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, Gayle Harris, Ethan Goldman. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Board of Education welcomed new members and elected a chair, vice chair, and financial examiners Tuesday night.

By Ronni Newton

Newly-elected members of the West Hartford Board of Education were sworn in Tuesday night and departing members were celebrated along with the election of leadership and naming of committee members for the upcoming term.

Democrats Shannon Marimón and LaToya Fernandez Yagaloff, and Republican Ethan Goldman – who all won seats for four-year terms in November – were sworn in Tuesday night by Town Clerk Leon Davidoff. Democrat Jason Gagnon, who was elected to fill the remaining two years of a vacancy, was also sworn in by Davidoff.

Newly-elected Board of Education members were sworn in Tuesday night by Town Clerk Leon Davidoff, and include (from left): LaToya Fernandez Yagaloff, Shannon Marimón, Jason Gagnon, and Ethan Goldman. Photo credit; Ronni Newton

Democrat Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, who was nominated by fellow Democrat Clare Taylor Neseralla, will remain as chair with the unanimous approval of the rest of the Board.

Marimón was unanimously elected to serve as vice chair, and Neseralla will be secretary.

Each party has a financial examiner, and Neseralla will remain in that role for the Democrats while Goldman will continue in the position of financial examiner for the Republicans.

Members of the Policy Committee were also named Tuesday, and they include Democrats Marimón and Yagaloff, and Republican Gayle Harris.

Ari Steinberg, who had served as vice chair of the Board for the past year, completed her four-year term and decided not to seek re-election. Renée Kamauf, who was appointed in December 2022 to fill the position left vacant when Deb Polun joined the Town Council, did also did not run for election in November. Both were praised by fellow Board members for their service and contributions.

“Your understanding of the mental health crisis the students are under is unsurpassed,” Neseralla said of Steinberg, who is a clinical program manager at the Institute of Living.

Goldman said that even before he began serving with Steinberg, “you were considered a legend and a superstar in my house” by his wife and daughter, who knew her from the fitness classes she taught and their mutual connection to Wellesley College. “We didn’t always agree but I appreciate the value you led to the overall conversation,” he said.

Harris said while Kamauf is quiet and she didn’t know her very well, “I did notice that when you do speak up you speak with wisdom and you say things that resonate.” She said Kamauf joined the Board amid the search for a new superintendent, and was a valuable voice in that process.

“You’re moving on but not away,” said Thomas-Farquharson, who expressed remorse that both Steinberg and Kamauf were leaving the Board.

Kamauf was appointed in the middle of a term, and jumped right in, Thomas Farquharson said. “You walk the talk and yes, you may be quiet at times, but that silence can be deafening.”

To Steinberg, Thomas-Farquharson said, “It’s been quite a journey over the past four years,” thinking about when things were “more normal,” followed by the challenges of the pandemic and social justice issues. “What I respect about you is that even when those things were happening, you were still focused on where the north star is,” she said, adding that she appreciates what Steinberg does not just for the children in West Hartford but also for all of Connecticut.

Steinberg thanked everyone for their kind words and said she is extremely proud of the work the Board has done over the past four years. “I’ve really enjoyed working with each of you,” she said, especially thanking Thomas-Farquharson “for guiding us with grit and grace, regardless of the challenges and adversity that we faced. Your leadership and friendship is something that I will always hold dear.”

“Thank you as well for the kind words,” said Kamauf to her colleagues for putting their trust in her, adding thanks to her family. “I love West Hartford, and I’ve loved serving on the Board,” she said.

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