NORWALK, Conn. – Opinions vary on the appointment of an interim superintendent for Norwalk Public Schools. But two key leaders, who are usually at odds, agreed: Tony Dadonna is a good choice.
"He has a familiarity with the district, the players, the people, the programs, the protocol, you know – the whole culture of what goes on or sometimes doesn't go on," Bruce Mellion, president of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers, said of Dadonna, who is currently the assistant superintendent.
"He knows who the players are in town," said Jack Chiaramonte, Board of Education chairman. "He works with the board very well. To go out and hire someone else would be ridiculous."
Dadonna was named interim superintendent in a 7-2 vote Tuesday in a Board of Education meeting that Mellion said was "as ugly and nasty as we've seen in a long time." Board members Sue Haynie and Mike Barbis wanted to review other resumes, Chiaramonte said.
Haynie said by email she would support Dadonna, even though she feels a "status quo mindset" led to the vote.
Dadonna would be in charge for "up to about six months," Chiaramonte said.
There was a sense of urgency involved in the choice, Mellion said. "They needed an interim superintendent who they could put in place quickly, who really knew the district and could keep it moving forward seamlessly and that's why I believe that they selected Tony," he said.
Chiaramonte has since heard accusations that Dadonna is "in cahoots" with "certain people," that he is "buddy, buddy" with the unions and "Sal Corda's man."
Nothing could be further from the truth, Chiaramonte said. Dadonna and Corda, the superintendent before Marks, were "diametrically opposed," he said.
"He always had to respect the superintendent that he works for," Chiaramonte said. "They prevented Tony from doing a lot of things, of holding people accountable."
Dadonna and the board discussed the issue, Chiaramonte said. He thinks that Dadonna will be much more effective than "a retiree looking for a paycheck," a person who wouldn't work late and who would start from scratch. "He has been the utility man who basically has held this district together at many points," Chiaramonte said, referring to previous periods without a superintendent.
Dadonna is "a person who has always thought for himself," Mellion said. "Placeholders, interim superintendents who don't know the districts, really don't do anything. Tony has the potential to do more because he knows more."