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Norwalk School Board Appoints Connelly Interim Superintendent

James Connelly has been selected to serve as interim superintendent of Norwalk schools while the board of education searches for a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Manuel Rivera.
James Connelly has been selected to serve as interim superintendent of Norwalk schools while the board of education searches for a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Manuel Rivera. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Norwalk Public Schools

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Board of Education has appointed James A. Connelly as the interim superintendent of schools to take over from current Superintendent Manuel Rivera, who is leaving his position at the end of January.

The school board approved Connelly’s appointment at its meeting Tuesday night, with six board members in favor, none opposed and two abstaining. If Connelly’s appointment is approved by the state commissioner of education, as expected, he would begin his duties on Jan. 19.

Connelly was superintendent of the Bridgeport schools from 1981 to 2000. He has also served as director of pupil personnel at Berlin Public Schools, and as a special education teacher in Ridgefield, Greenwich and Fairfield. He has experience as an interim superintendent in several districts, including Naugatuck, Oxford, Montville, Putnam, Region 16, Woodbridge and Killingly. He currently works with the New England School Development Council on executive search planning and management.

Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said that the choice was between Connelly and another candidate he did not want to name. Lyons described the other candidate as a “visionary with a tremendous record of experience at innovative management at his school system,” and said Connelly is a “more hands-on, get-things-done type person.”

“Both of the candidates who were brought to us were absolutely outstanding. I would say that they were interestingly different candidates,” Lyons said. It was a close call between the two, but ultimately the board decided on Connelly because of his extensive experience as an interim superintendent, Lyons said.

“He has gotten comfortable with the idea of going into school districts that are in a transitional period and picking up the ball and continuing to run with it. And I think that experience of his on doing that on multiple occasions, at least in my own case, was part of the reason for the slight preference that I ended up with for this candidate,” Lyons said.

If his appointment is approved by the state commissioner, the school board would vote at its Jan. 6 meeting on a contract for Connelly, with a goal of having him start Jan. 19.

That would give him a two-week overlap of working with Rivera, who is leaving on Jan. 31 to take the position as superintendent of New London schools.

The school board is also beginning its search for a permanent replacement for Rivera. At its meeting on Dec. 2 the school board approved a request for proposals for consultants to help in the search. The board has received four responses to the RFP, and will vote on a consulting firm at a special meeting Friday.

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